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Do VARs need an Online Facelift?

Or maybe, VARs need an entire business facelift? E-channelnews recently did a research about the web presence of more than 100 VARs. These websites were selected randomly from a database of 23,000 across North America.

This research had one simple goal: to determine how “effective” the VARs’ websites are. The following criteria were established:

Appearance
User friendliness
Content
Speed
Security
Transactional enablement
Service variety
Link disconnects
Contact process and completeness
Company profile
Value added items like certifications and customer testimonials

VARs were rated on each category and then summarized into a final score. Only 26% had a good overall rating while 71% had significant shortfalls. Of the 74% who failed the overall average, only 31% scored “good” in at least 3 categories. 6% had a high-score web site.

While VARs often connect their e-commerce platform through a “shop-online” link from their main website, it does not present all services and solutions of the VAR’s business. For example, even as the Ibiz10 interface is good as a web store, it cannot replace a corporate website to clearly showcase the whole spectrum of the VAR’s business.

This research was not done specifically for this news article. In reality, it was done to better gauge the level of potential need in the VAR community. The research was done to support the mission of VAR Office Suite and, in specific, its web solution called ibiz10.

The results of this research made it clear that about 75% of the VARs needed at least a partial facelift for their online presence. 38% needed a complete rebuild of their current web site. These web sites needed to better present Cloud, Managed Services, BYOD, products and other services. VARs need to better present who they are and what they do.

So, what were the biggest deficiencies?

Outdated content and user-unfriendly design was number one. While social media was connected in many, its relevance with the web sites was not clear. There was little to drive one to the other. Services were presented good overall, but lacked big in impact. Less than 30% of the investigated websites referenced Cloud solutions to any significant degree.

Surprisingly, the contact options were lacking in several ways – seems like VARs were more concerned with blocking unwanted spam instead of making it easy for potential prospects to reach them. Less than 10% had some form of live chat.

There was a plan to make an online request to each VAR to test their response time, but it was not carried out. Regardless, this could be a good exercise for the owner of the VAR to measure their company’s response time. Most websites had broken links, but they also simply linked to vendor websites for more information! This is a bad practice simply because it transfers the end-user to another web site where they can browse the “where to buy” section of competitors. Even worse, less than 5% actually had their company listed in the “where to buy” section of the vendors that they linked too!

In over half of the websites reviewed multiple browser support had a formatting issue. Website optimization for mobile devices was even less supported.

The decision was made to publish some of the research findings in this article to sound an alarm to every VAR. Is your website as good as YOU want? Your website should not only showcase the business you have. It should showcase the business you want. Take some time to review your website and explore how it reflects upon the business image.

There is no doubt that your web presence affects the first impressions and buying decisions of your potential customers. As such, this is definitely something that no VAR should ignore!

There are many tools that anyone can leverage to analyze their website to an even greater degree to what was done in this research. However, if the basic findings are already showing the need of significant improvement then it is probably safe to assume that a deeper dive will uncover even more problems.

There are over 40 IT services that are at the top of end-user’s search list. The new front-end of the ibiz10 e-commerce platform was recently redesigned to showcase all of these services. It allows VARs to present managed services and a variety of Cloud solutions with a seamless integration to process transactions. End-users can review, buy, ask for a quote, request services or sign up for Cloud solutions. It also offers VARs a way to automatically up-sell products with services. VARs should review it and consider adapting for their needs. The chances are that it will help most VARs to immediately offer a better web presence to their customers.

The new web redesign is roughly 80% about services and cloud, and 20% products.

 

iBiz10 Home Page

iBiz10 Home Page Sample

Browse the live demo site at http://demo9.secure-shopping-online.com/ecuisp/~demo/lec/plugin/index/framePage_2.jsp?location=../index.jsp

The look and feel of your front-end is important, but your content is just as important.

Increasing over the past five years VARs have been downplaying the wide selection of products in lieu of a narrower cross-section. With a more selected variety of products, VARs can offer a lower-cost support and managed services to their end-users. The increased volume with a smaller number of suppliers also gains them more vendor support.

Today, a typical VAR will generate over 80% of their revenues from under 1,000 SKUs and the bulk comes from under 300 items. More VARs are realizing that it makes less sense to offer 100,000 + product for sale, especially with the after-sale support. Typically, most successful VARs using the ibiz10 e-commerce platform offer less than 5,000 items and even this number may be too high. Less is becoming more on several levels including the one that matters the most – profitability.

This is becoming more important as managed services take deeper root. VARs will need to reduce the variety of brands that they service because under managed service contracts VARs will make more money when they spend less resources servicing products. With fewer brands, they can better streamline the service requirements and reduce costs.

As the product selection narrows, the selection of Cloud solutions widens. There are well over 2,000 Cloud Apps that are currently available. Again, offering too wide of a selection may dilute the profitability and resources of the VAR. The ibiz10 platform offers a solid, but limited variety of Cloud solutions pre-configured for the VAR, but it also allows them to replace any with another provider. The ability for VARs to offer the best solution to meet the needs of their customers is always mission-critical to success.

VARs need to offer a better online “face” for their customers and prospects. This goes beyond the balanced presentation between services and products. Most everyone agrees that a website is the first thing that a potential customer will review before doing business with any company. It simply has to be professional, relevant, up-to-date and practical. Keep in mind that a website should not just showcase the business you have but the business you want.

Since 80% of the cost of a website’s cost is maintenance, the content needs to be easily modified through a CMS (Content Management System). Too often, VARs overlook this important function, which later becomes a hurdle for them to update the content as often as they should. The look and feel needs to reflect your corporate image – include professional video profiles, news and blogs. Most professional website developers can provide you with best-practice ideas.

As with all transactional websites, your clients’ data must be protected. Allowing end-users to quickly and securely purchase items will become a greater value-add that will ultimately gain you more business in the future. Over time, your end-users will want to buy more items from you online as the Mobile revolution continues and dominates the way business is done. Many VARs are already offering e-procurement-as-a-service to help their customers purchase all of their IT products 24/7.

We are in the era of customer-centric business models. VARs need to adapt all of their end-user facing touch points to ensure that they all present the right messages.

VARs also need to optimize their internal business processes to deliver on their services as promised. An online facelift is a good place to start, but do not forget the back-office as well. You need to look great on the outside and the inside!

Do you know how to start? Check out Ibiz10 and the other partners of VAR Office Suite. There are a total of 30 tools to help you become a more successful VAR. Just picking one is a good start. So, do you need an online facelift? You decide! Find out more at www.varofficesuite.com

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