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A call to mobilise

Helen French
A call to mobilise

As mobile firms such as Nokia and Three make serious advances to IT retailers and resellers, it’s time to investigate the benefits of going mobile.

You only have to glance in the windows of phone shops these days to see that they stock laptops and tablets as well as the more obvious handsets. Anything that’s mobile, whether or not it can take calls, seems to be up for grabs. As more of these companies try to pinch a share of the computing market, is it time for IT retailers and resellers to pick up the phone?

It’s worth considering that smartphones are essentially computers in a smaller form. Some consumers might expect those in the computer industry to advise on, sell and even repair or trouble-shoot mobile phones. By ignoring the sector, you may be ignoring customers who’d much prefer to go to you for all their technology-related needs than see the average Joe selling contracts in the nearest O2 shop.

This is just as important at the B2B end of the channel, where you might find competitors claiming to have a stake in every sector.

Stephen O’Brien, managing director of IT reseller Pure Data Solutions, comments: “It’s such a huge market, with great opportunities. The way people do business has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Mobility and accessibility is essential to most IT users nowadays. It’s another opportunity to maximise your client spend.”

O’Brien says PDS offers a wide range of mobile devices, and that working closely with manufacturers helps sales: “We have strong direct relationships with the likes of Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Acer, and Fujitsu, so we are strongly supported in our own marketing initiatives to the end user. Nine per cent of our sales are from the mobile device category.”

Boosting business
As we revealed last month, Nokia is working closely with distributors Micro-P and Ingram Micro in an effort to drive business into IT.

Ingram says it is very much committed to helping resellers reach that market. MD Matthew Sanderson explains: “We believe that Ingram Micro can provide new routes to market for Nokia at a time when resellers are increasingly engaging in mobility solutions. With our wide breadth of market coverage we can work together with Nokia to create new opportunities with resellers who are looking to take advantage of this growing segment.

“The Ingram Micro Mobility Team sits within our Software & Mobility Business Unit, recognising that a solution sale consists of devices, applications and services.

“A VAR who is already the trusted advisor for IT solutions can drive new revenue helping customers through business mobile transformation. This might be responding to a pain point such as allowing employees to use any device securely in the workplace or managing and monitoring mobile usage.

“Proactively resellers can help end customers create a more productive and competitive workforce through mobility; just a few examples would be business intelligence on the move, unifying communications and accessing cost efficient cloud solutions.”

Buying group Brigantia also has its eye on mobile for resellers, after signing an exclusive agreement with Fidelity that allows its members to access the full range of mobile, telecoms, VoIP, backup and cloud services currently available through its Anvil billing platform. Iain Shaw says: “The beauty of this agreement is that Brigantia members maintain ownership of their most valuable asset – their business customer relationships. It’s very different to resellers simply selling network mobile deals.

“The key benefit of the scheme is that our members own the customer and we buy the handsets out of the deal, any loss is offset against on-going income, but there is no claw-back as we have effectively paid ourselves – plus our Partners For Success partners have lodged the bond on our members’ behalf, which offers surety against deals.”

The Brigantia Fidelity offer currently covers O2 (business mobile 1-20 handsets), BE (broadband), Gamma (telecoms), Voicenet (VOIP) and Techgate (backup), with other cloud services being added over the coming months.

Simple sales
Micro-P is launching a 360 Mobile Solutions network (powered by Three), alongside its Nokia offering, hoping to entice retailers into exploring the sector. Simon Woodman, mobile director, comments: “The 360 mobile solutions network allows us to create bespoke bundles of airtime and handset offerings that are unique to the mobile marketplace and will make it easier for IT retailers to take the mobile proposition to market.”

The 360 Mobile Solutions offer airtime tariffs from100 to 600 minutes per month (including texts and data allowances) and Micro-P says it will have handset bundles for all levels of consumer requirements addressing price points from under £100 (retail) for a handset and 12 month pre-paid contract.

Mike Buley, Micro-P retail sales director, says: “We believe this will address an area of the market between Pay As You Go and Contract which is an area currently not attractive to consumers and hasn't been traditionally attractive to IT retailers.

“Simplifying the mobile handset and tariff market is key to the success of IT retailers taking the mobile proposition into their market and Micro-P has invested infrastructure and resource into this exciting field to ensure we are the exclusive UK distributor able to offer such a package.”

Is it right for you?
Going into mobile won’t be right for everyone. More than that – sometimes selling something for the wrong reasons can be bad for business.

Frank Seldevig, from independent retailer YourITstudio, says: “It’s not something I would do as I don’t have a personal interest in it. I only sell things that I understand and I don’t understand mobile phones. I don’t think they compete with real towers.

“But I think some IT retailers will try to do it. Some places just sell anything. But in the long run the only thing you can survive on in this climate is giving good service. If they sell anything and don’t care about the customer they will go bust. You want someone who will understand the technology and the industry. Independent phone shops that offer repairs might be good.”

Seldevig is not particularly concerned about phone shops encroaching on the computing sector. “I don’t worry about people taking business from me. There’s a huge market out there for all sorts of things. If I focus on what I do, providing core services and doing it well, then I will survive.”

Perhaps that’s the key thought to take away from this. If you like and understand phones, and feel it would complement your existing service, it’s worth considering seriously – particularly for resellers who might want to expand their offering to businesses. If it’s not right for you, don’t be afraid to ignore the call.

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Tags: Consumer Electronics, smartphones, nokia, mobile, three

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