A focus on supply chain management, automation, and remote business practices - the best areas for channel growth


Paul Flannery, VP of International Channel Sales at ERP company, Epicor, shares his predictions for channel businesses for 2022.

Business culture and society changed overnight in March 2020 due to the pandemic but what has become clear is that things won’t revert to how they were before. In fact, we’re now seeing trends in how the channel and their customers operate further evolve as the pandemic approaches its second year.

Below I explore four key trends that I believe will shape the channel sector in the coming year. Businesses that can effectively adapt to this environment will have ample opportunity to grow, after 18 months of operating in survival mode.

Onshoring and nearshoring

The pandemic kickstarted supply chain issues around the world due to local public health guidelines and lockdowns which meant local supply chains proved to be more resilient than their global counterparts. While immediate changes were made by channel partners and their customers to ensure business processes kept running smoothly, the reality is that many supplier arrangements are contracted as multi-year deals. We therefore expect that many organisations will continue to renegotiate aspects of their supply chains over the next 12 months.

Channel partners who are looking to increase their resilience and grow their businesses should look to local areas and markets for a new customer base that they may not have worked with in the pre-pandemic, globalised environment where price meant everything.

Re-engineering the supply chain

Following the trend of nearshoring (bringing your supply chain physically closer to your business), there are further changes expected as businesses adjust their operations.

Businesses in the manufacturing, automotive and construction sectors have worked on a ‘right order, first time’ basis for decades but now they must be more pragmatic and understand what product they can get and when they can get it.

Expectations have had to change, and we expect to see an increase in demand for technology that enables this two-way communication. Similarly, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), the computerised systems used in manufacturing to track and document the transformation of raw materials to finished goods, have never been more important and we expect the global market for MES will grow by approximately 15-17% through to 2024.

Channel businesses should take note of this cultural shift, as partners that can provide an open dialogue with their customers on an ongoing basis, not just at point-of-order, will become increasingly valuable.

Automation as the enabler to remote working

The pandemic acted as an accelerator for many trends and automation is one such example. With businesses unable to get as many workers as they needed into offices and onto factory floors due to lockdowns and social distancing, they began to turn to automation. This digital transformation of business processes is affecting everything from being able to send out invoices remotely, to remote implementation, and access and diagnostics for software and machinery. All these technologies rely on a cloud-first strategy.

End-customers are now determined to maintain business continuity by increasing their agility and resilience to future events. This may mean people have to work remotely from home which is also important to ensure they can retain valuable staff, who want to improve their quality of life.

We expect cloud-first solutions will continue to sell well in 2022, as every sector in the economy digitises to maintain competitive edge.

Investing in discovery

Interestingly, the pandemic hasn’t resulted in everything moving from people-focused to technology-focused. When channel businesses had to begin working from home in March 2020 and could no longer meet in-person with their customers, they realised that selling in virtual meetings (which are typically shorter) required a different approach.

We now see channel businesses investing more time in the discovery phase of a new deal. This means that when they get into the virtual room with their prospect, they know more about that businesses’ challenges, pain points, opportunities, and even the personal motivations of the people they’re meeting. This is resulting in better win-rates for channel partners, showing that the up-front investment is worthwhile.

While we do expect more challenges to the business environment in 2022, the green shoots of recovery are already showing, and the acceleration of digital transformation has resulted in a booming market for technology sales in select areas.

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