With managed services growing in prominence, more IT retailers are targeting businesses rather than just consumers – including bigger players like Amazon and John Lewis who have both outlined new B2B initiatives. We ask the PCR Retail Advisory Board if they’re going after SMBs and how they’re targetting them…
"Business customers are key to Ebuyer’s growth plans. Their average spend is higher than consumers so their cost to manage – and therefore profitability – is significantly higher. Currently, our business customers account for approximately 50 per cent of our revenue; much of our B2B growth comes from consumers entering the workplace and realising their current IT provider is more expensive and more difficult to deal with than Ebuyer.
“Ebuyer’s core IT product range is attractive to businesses who are attracted by our prices.
“Increasingly, businesses are taking advantage of our low price culture to use Ebuyer for their office supplies range too, which adds incremental, more frequent sales and promotes our brand values more regularly.
“B2B customers also expect a better service level to match their increased spend. They expect more detailed product knowledge and specific pre-sales advice, which is why we have added a team of solutions specialists and conduct regular training in the general sales team to keep their knowledge up to date. IT equipment is often business critical to the customer so they expect us to be flexible and responsive; we have recently purchased our own delivery vehicles so we can ship mission criticalitems to customers same day if necessary.”
Phil Bates, Head of B2B Sales, Ebuyer
”Targeting businesses was the next logical step for growing our brand in the local area. We have the technical expertise to advise businesses on how to run their computer systems effectively and how to grow their IT structure so that the business can thrive off of the back of it. So for us, it was a completely untapped market that we didn’t have to make massive inroads in to see relatively big comebacks and good growth.
“With our business customers, they have my mobile number and can call me any time of the day. They know that we’re there for them, whereas with your consumers they’re quite happy to be told: ‘It’s going to be two or three days before we can get round to resolving this problem for you.’ So the service level of agreement that goes with business customers and what they expect for what they pay, is completely different.
“But at the same time there are so many opportunities with businesses that you don’t get with home customers, so it’s a balance.”
Craig Hume, Director, Utopia Computers
"Something we’re concentrating on very much in the next year is educating our retail customers about what we do for businesses, and our business customers about some of the retail services we offer. We look after quite a few big businesses that have hundreds of employees, who are potentially retail customers but don’t know about the things we can offer. So as a staff member they could get a 20 per cent discount on repairs, like a loyalty card scheme, which we feel could potentially grab us 300 or 400 new retail customers quite easily.
“We’re forever getting business customers coming to us that previously used us as retail customers, but didn’t know about what we can also offer to businesses. So we’re now going to focus a lot more on cross-pollination of the two groups.”
Chris Innes, MD, Micro Plus Computers
”We sell to businesses more than ever before, essentially this is due to trying to maintain growth within our business. Although a complete different skillset is required, we felt this is important if we were to maintain business growth.
“At the moment, we only offer a small amount of but we are looking to increase this over the coming number of months and years. Currently we offer standard installs of most IT (PC, laptop, print, projection, server, network maintenance, AV, as well as cloud backup).
“One of the main differences when selling to SMBs is in the style of product needed, and businesses operate or think in a slightly different manner. Price is not always the key factor when selling into businesses which is nice, but the correct solution is. More and more, price is a big part of the retail buying decision.”
Steven Lightfoot Jnr, Partner, Pudsey Computers