Preparing for Tomorrow’s Channel – The Case for Cloud-based Labeling

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By Paul Vogt, Channel Marketing Director, NiceLabel

90% of today’s enterprises have adopted cloud in some form, yet only 20-40% of their workloads are in the cloud, according to Accenture. Why is this? Virtual communications, customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) are three well known examples of industry sectors that have embraced cloud technology. But the frontier is expanding, as more cloud solutions emerge geared toward entirely new and impactful applications.

This trend has only been expedited in recent months, as COVID-19 has forced trade shows to be cancelled well into 2021 and barred the possibility of many critical in-person meetings. And though the risks and restrictions around in-person meetings will lessen over time, the channel will still need to rely on cloud to streamline their efforts in a world that is increasingly reliant on digital solutions and recurring, service-oriented customer relationships. Simply put, this change is here to stay. 

As I will cover below, the benefits of cloud simply can’t be ignored. On one hand, it can enable channel partners to deliver labeling services and live demos remotely, which greatly increases agility under all circumstances. And on the other hand, it can open entirely new revenue streams that simply change the entire game for the label and print solutions channel community. 

How Resellers are Adapting to the New Circumstances

Prior to the pandemic, resellers in the labeling industry primarily utilized a face-to-face based business model to sell, deliver and support labeling solutions. This has changed rapidly over the past several months, as resellers and customers alike have had to operate and connect in new ways while working remotely. 

Customer collaboration and interaction has been driven online, and resellers have had to adjust by using more and more virtual collaboration tools to demonstrate solutions, host meetings and run pilots. Historically, all of these activities were done onsite via local servers. 

Now, there is a major need and opportunity for many resellers to manage operations both securely and remotely. To do this, the right collaborative sharing tools will need to facilitate processes like running live demos, test printing and designing label solutions, deploying solutions, printing labels and overseeing supplies inventory.

Establishing the right technology ecosystem and practices will be a huge step forward. It will enable end users from any location to try software, and also give virtual access to many different stakeholders, including IT and operations as well as production. Those who tackle this head on can turn remote selling and customer support from a barrier into a competitive advantage. 

Overcoming Fear of Adoption to Remote Solutions

Change always brings hesitancies. With remote, cloud-based labeling solutions, fear of the unknown is often one of the biggest barriers for resellers and their customers. Many end users who have used their current solutions for years and even decades are understandability wary about cloud solutions. Often doubts are expressed about security or concerns are voiced that processes like data storage will become more complex and challenging.

Something we should all remember is that adapting to new ways of work can be difficult. In terms of cloud, though, many processes have shifted with great success. One of these examples includes the CRM tools market, which adopted cloud 15 years ago and saw the rise of solutions like Salesforce, which millions rely on today. 

Another example of cloud is in the finance industry, which must handle extremely sensitive data and has been increasingly embracing cloud-solutions over the past ten years. For labeling, cloud will soon become the expected new norm.

How Cloud can Benefit the Channel Financially 

Shifting to a recurring revenue model is a big benefit for channel partners. This not only ensures income will be available in the next month, but it also frees organizations up from relying on projects and one-offs. 

In the labeling industry, a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution can perform as a virtual collaboration tool that enables channel partners to remotely demo, sell and configure labeling solutions for customers, even when working from home. 

This process can involve collaborating with customers via a screen in real time, designing and approving label templates, printing applications and creating label and forms designs that are accessible via a browser. It can also empower resellers to set up customers to manage their own labeling remotely and help them manage customers’ applications and refill supplies automatically via improved inventory visibility. 

Cloud-based labeling can even enable channel partners to offer additional services to customers. For instance, end users can outsource labeling to a value-added reseller (VAR), creating new streams of revenue that were previously inaccessible. These types of outsourced services can range from validation and compliance to label design, supplies inventory management and application development. There is a whole host of such additional services that end users value highly, and with a SaaS solution in place, the VAR partners are in the ideal position to capitalize. 

The Evolution of the Channel Business Model 

The cloud completely transforms the way channel business is performed. It is helping to meet an increasing demand that is shifting from single purchase capital expenditures to subscription-based models that bill recurring operational expenses. This shift is occurring quickly in countries like the US and UK because of fast cloud adoption, and COVID-19 is only accelerating this process by making cloud and remote capabilities essential. 

Even after the pandemic, channel partners will continually need to become more service oriented, with closer, on-going relations with customers. With a SaaS solution, partners are continually providing operational services instead of simply starting a project, implementing a solution and then moving on to a new engagement. 

Several years ago, a channel partner may have worked with 1,000 customers, and only helped 10 on a regular basis. In the future, it is likely that these same channel partners will have 100 customers that they consistently work for and develop close relationships with. This revolution is a testament to the power of cloud-based solutions, and something all should be considering, sooner rather than later. 

Paul Vogt

Paul Vogt is Marketing Director at NiceLabel, responsible for the company’s channel and alliances development strategies. Prior to NiceLabel, he oversaw global services, channel programs and marketing at one of the leading global industrial printer manufacturers. Paul has over 20 years of AIDC industry and marketing experience across verticals, regions and channels.

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