It’s been said that the pandemic has simply accelerated trends already in motion. That’s certainly true with digital transformation, with some thought leaders saying that two years of change is happening in as few as two months. More obvious examples are working from home, eCommerce, digital marketing, and event management; but
Digital Transformation has dramatically affected channel relationships and processes too.
Almost every industry is morphing to an “as-a-service” business model based upon digital interactions. But eBusiness/eCommerce has not taken work away from channel partners (there has been no “dis-intermediation”). No, the channel has become even more influential and advocational for all businesses. However, channel partners are now more likely to live off revenues earned from the buyers, than from the manufacturer they now, only occasionally, represent. Plus, in addition to resellers or distributors, we now have channel players called affiliates, referrers, associations, commerce content publishers, communities, groups, ambassadors.
Most importantly, the whole relationship is now primarily based upon digital interactions and depends less on partner account managers on the street.
My 2019 research report on this topic was titled Channel Marketing and Enablement – intended to cover all marketing processes where a manufacturer or vendor distributes products and services through partner organizations as their indirect channel. Channel marketing is a form of brand content management; where programs, promotions and leads are managed both down and up the channel (also called Local/Distributed Marketing or Through-Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA)). Channel Enablement are processes around the partner relationship itself: recruitment, registration and classification, contractual details, information exchange, and more (usually labelled Partner Relationship Management (PRM)).
In today’s world, I do not think that traditional PRM or TCMA is enough for any company that is working, marketing, and selling in a true digital manner. Most manufacturers have a channel software stack consisting of many parts; perhaps a TCMA system, plus a PRM, and usually other software tools that the PRM does not cover. With smaller volumes and, more-or-less, manual channel management, this was less problematic.
In a more digital business world, with higher volumes of transactions, transaction types, partners, and partner types, companies will want a more comprehensive and, more importantly, fully integrated platform for Partner Management Automation. So that is how I approached my 2021 research into the new world of channel management in a digital market.
Our 2019 report had already highlighted many vendors preferring to stick to their traditional offering of just a PRM platform or just TCMA: they were happy to do “business as usual” and find clients who wanted the same. With the digital transformation of channel management, many of those vendors will now run out of addressable clients. They may even lose much of their installed base as they, their customers, transform their channels. My call, after seeing the interviews with 1500 business practitioners and talking to the vendors:
The PMA vendor landscape will leave pure-play PRM or TCMA behind.
Our research even shows that probably only three of them are equipped to cover the even-wider requirements of PMA in a cloud-based, digital, eCommerce-dominated world with a much-more complex ecosystem of partnerships.
Who is in the PMA Vendor Landscape?
Within the fifteen vendors scored by the 1,500 survey participants, these vendors ended up in the Market Leaders category, having both their Strategy and Execution score of over 4 out of 5:
- CHANNEL MECHANICS, COMPUTER MARKET RESEARCH, IMPACT.COM, IMPARTNER, and ZIFT SOLUTIONS.
The full list was completed by these vendors: BRANDMAKER, CHANNELEXPERTS, CHANNELTIVITY, MAGENTRIX, SALESFORCE, SPROUTLOUD, ORACLE, and WEBINFINITY.
We plan to publish the report later in October. Contact me if you’d like to hear more about this research.
Always keeping you informed! Peter