Key Channel Trends for 2024: Personalization, Data, and Value-Added Services

By Jamil King, Director of U.S. Mobility Channel, Panasonic Connect North America

A 2021 Gartner survey found that 64% of executives believe the ongoing talent shortage is the most significant barrier to adopting new technologies. And that sentiment remains true today. In a recent meeting with more than 100 channel partners, this issue consistently emerged in our discussions. The challenge persists for their customers, who grapple with a constrained labor market lacking in essential IT skills and experience to keep up with the pace of today’s technological innovation.

Given the current landscape, organizations are prioritizing IT projects that offer cost control and automation for improved efficiency rather than those that take longer to deliver returns. So, even though IT spending is expected to increase by 8% in 2024, business leaders are focused on investing in solutions and services that mitigate staffing shortages and foster sustainable technological advancement.

Based on these trends, channel partners can go above and beyond for their customers in three ways in 2024:

  • Personalizing their sales experience
  • Bolstering data-driven insights
  • Offering value-added services.

Personalize customer relationships to mitigate sales fatigue

The average American is exposed to between 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. We see targeted ads on social media, streaming platforms, and in even more unconventional places like rideshare apps and vehicles and airline in-flight TVs. But nearly 90% of American consumers find these targeted ads intrusive and annoying, and this ad fatigue bleeds into the enterprise space as well. IT leaders are customers, and 84% of customers say being treated like a person rather than a sales target is critical to winning their business. Additionally, McKinsey research shows that personalization in sales increases revenue by 10% to 15%.

Channel partners can address this issue by offering authentic personalization in their sales experience. This type of personalization isn’t just about knowing your customer. It’s about placing them at the center of your message. It’s less about presenting your product and more about what the customer is trying to achieve. It’s positioning yourself as your customer’s trusted advisor in reaching their business goals.

First, channel partners need to understand how a customer prefers to communicate. Do they like to meet in person? Do they prefer email or phone calls? Find what works best for them, make note of it, and personalize how you interact with them. Then, understand their unique business goals. Once you have their ear, build trust by knowing more than just the topline issues in their industry. Know the specific challenges their organization is up against, what IT solutions they’ve already tried, and where they see the organization’s digital infrastructure in three to five years. Finally, offer the right product or service to meet these needs and ask for their feedback. Adaptability shows that you’re more focused on finding the right fit for their organization than on a quick sale.

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Use data to stay ahead of market trends and customer needs

Part of the personalization process includes gathering and analyzing data. Channel partners who use data in their sales journey can be more agile as market conditions or customer needs change. For example, partners can analyze sales data to identify their most effective strategies or adjust promotions and marketing campaigns that aren’t garnering top results. And by combining customer data with predictive analytics, channel partners can identify buying patterns and trends. For example, if customers tend to revamp their IT infrastructure at the same time every year, partners can share that sales spike with vendors to ensure ample supply to meet demand.

But with so much data potentially available, the challenge becomes identifying and analyzing the best and most relevant data for your needs. According to Gartner, poor-quality data can cost businesses $15 million annually. That’s where tools like up-to-date, digitally accessible partner portals come into play. These portals give channel partners the latest product and customer information to ensure they have the most relevant data to understand the organizations they are selling to and how they can meet their technology needs. Easy access to accurate and relevant data helps channel partners enhance their processes to benefit both customers and internal sales goals.

Offer services that support immediate, specialized staffing needs

Gartner predicts the IT services market will reach approximately $1.55 trillion worldwide in 2024. That’s up more than 10% from 2023. While the device market is also expected to increase by 5% in 2024, reaching $722 billion, channel partners must adapt and offer additional services that meet pressing customer needs, like staffing shortages.

The two primary service offerings that can help meet this need are staff augmentation and last mile deployment. It takes roughly 41 days and $1,400 to onboard a new employee. And most organizations won’t break even or reap the benefits of that new hire for at least six months. For IT teams already tightening budgets and struggling to find qualified candidates, bringing on a new, full-time team member isn’t feasible or cost-efficient. Especially when IT teams often need an extra employee only for a specific project or period. Staff augmentation services offer a flexible way to fill talent gaps with qualified and trained candidates without locking customers into high-priced contracts. Customers can work with their channel partners to secure contract staff with a specific, proven skill set. These contract staff can help complete projects without a company going through a hiring and on-boarding process.

One area where our customers might require additional support is last-mile deployment, a phase that can be resource-intensive and time-consuming. It encompasses tasks like retrieving old devices, unboxing new products, waste management, software updates, and redistributing solutions to end-users. In such a critical period, the contribution of additional IT expertise — particularly those skilled in planning and managing deployments — can significantly impact business objectives or key technology milestones.

Equip IT teams for future technological innovation

The channel partners who build off personalized relationships, use data to inform sales initiatives, and adapt to offer additional staffing services will stand out amongst their competitors in 2024. They offer the best product — a next-level customer experience — that plays a crucial role in pushing the IT sector beyond current challenges and into the next phase of technological innovation.

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American ConsumersBusinesseschannel partners.customer needscustomer prefersdatadigital infrastructureDirector of U.S. Mobility Channelfuture technological innovationGartnerGuest AuthorsIT projectsIT teamsJamil KingKey Channel Trendsmarket trendsMcKinsey researchongoing talent shortagePanasonic Connect North AmericapersonalizationPersonalize customer relationshipspoor-quality datasales experiencesales fatiguestaff augmentationValue-Added Servies