The past year has seen Datalogic Mobile put in place an enhanced channel support strategy that has not only seen the company survive the recent global economic downturn but also thrive as a business. IT Reseller spoke with Datalogic Mobile CEO Gian Paolo Fedrigo to find out more about the rationale behind the strategy and some of the resultant benefits.
At this time last year, at the height of the global economic lull, the name of the game for Datalogic Mobile was to go back to basics. The company focused on its core business in the proven vertical industry sectors retail and warehousing and put more emphasis on field service, providing state-of-the-art auto ID solutions for these sectors. To this end, the company substantially increased its spending and resources in research & development. "While we were manufacturing existing solutions at the operational end of the business we were also substantially increasing our R&D activity," explained Datalogic's Gian Paolo Fedrigo. "And we have continued to increase our R&D spend this year."
Fedrigo cited the recently launched Elf next-generation professional PDA as one of the fruits of the company's enhanced R&D regime. "The development and launch of Elf has been very important for us for a number of reasons; one being the fact that it has opened up major sales growth opportunity within the sales force automation market," he said. "However, launching new products was just a part of our strategy. End customers are now more discerning and demanding than ever before, and as a 100 per cent channel focused organisation we want to ensure that our VAR network is able to secure high sales levels and profitability through the incentives Datalogic Mobile and our distributor partners offer. Therefore, it was top priority for us is to be open and listen to our VARs. People will tell you what they want and help you determine which path to take."
Keeping this in mind, Datalogic Mobile has also enhanced its channel partner business model by introducing a number of highly beneficial online tools and resources. "First, we have ensured that VARs have 24/7 access to our support services through a fully automated online facility, foregoing the need of human interaction when it doesn't provide added value," said Fedrigo. He also pointed out that Datalogic Mobile has recently introduced a fully automated online ordering system so VARs can place orders around the clock, outside normal office hours.
In addition to these online sales and support enhancements, Datalogic Mobile has also bolstered its care and maintenance programme (Ease of Care) so that it can be more easily managed and deployed by the company's channel partner network. "Our partners can now resell and manage this programme easier than ever before and make good margins through doing so," said Fedrigo. "And our VARs know that they can always rely on our full back-up support for the programme whenever required."
From a knowledge management perspective, Fedrigo explained that Datalogic Mobile has ensured that a broad source of information and support is now more readily available directly from Datalogic Mobile's expert engineering team. "We are now facilitating and encouraging a greater level of direct communication between our engineers and VAR partners through our Tekforum blog, which provides product how-to answers, tricks of the trade, the latest technical solutions and much more, all accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," he said. "In this way we have set out to simplify how our VARs can access the type of knowledge and advice they need in order to serve their end customers in the best and most efficient manner possible."
Datalogic Mobile has also become more fast and flexible to face the challenges of an unpredictable market. The company has reacted to market changes quickly and adeptly, as shown by its results in the first half of the year. Datalogic Mobile enjoyed 36 per cent growth, compared to the same period of last year. This can be attributed mainly to its core channel business. However, there were a couple of big sales as well. Two shining examples of the company's recent success have been major contract wins with Carrefour and a major global furniture retailer. "We are delighted by this level of increasing success as a business, partly because at the end of last year many companies suffered due to supply chain constraints that resulted in many components being hard to source," explained Fedrigo. "We were among the first to resolve this problem, giving us and our partners the means to move forward."
As regards the current market climate Fedrigo reflected that although there are no empirical signals as to whether certain markets are on an undisputed road to recovery, he has observed that the richest economies have shown important signs of improvement; particularly the UK, France, Germany. He added that although there was much uncertainty in Russia and emerging countries in Eastern Europe last year, these territories are now showing steady evidence of improved sales growth. Similarly, he points out that in Spain, Italy and the Nordic and Benelux countries, there is a comparable story to be told. In terms of specific verticals that shine out as having enjoyed most economic improvement, Fedrigo considers that much of the retail sector would now appear to be spending the money on auto ID solutions that it had previously kept frozen in order to see how the economy was going to pan out.
In conclusion, Gian Paolo Fedrigo stressed that all the recent enhancements to Datalogic Mobile's product line, the level of ongoing R&D and the company's 100 per cent channel focus and support, ensure the company is able to continue to enhance its relationship with partners; helping them to improve their business and bottom line profitability. He added that Datalogic Mobile also wants to ensure it has more of an open dialogue with its partners so that it is in the best possible position to fully understand their solution and support requirements; as well as become fully conversant with the current needs of the partners' end customer base. "We are continually striving to become even faster and more flexible in order to make Datalogic Mobile a company that is always easier to do business with."