Since 1999, Supra ITS has consistently earned the trust of business customers in Canada and around the world. When our company started, businesses would call us for help to find the right products for their technology needs. Hardware sales reps were IT gurus and the only ones who knew how to put all the computer hardware together. Back then, we were called proud value-added resellers (VARs) and we excelled at only one thing: configuring hardware parts.
As the internet evolved and Google started changing the way users accessed product information, our business and our industry started changing rapidly. Suddenly the landscape for consumers and providers became a level playing field.
The Rise of E-Tailers
By the early 2000s, some of the largest IT companies, like CDW, Dell, NewEgg and Amazon were starting to invest in e-commerce portals. These big brands with deep pockets seized upon an exciting, new business opportunity: helping people around the world buy products with the click of a button.
These new e-commerce portals offered customers the convenience of online data for millions of different products from a wide variety of sources – all in a single place. The portals also began to offer increasingly thoughtful, personalized service by tracking data on customers’ browsing habits and shopping history.
The VAR Dilemma
The introduction of e-commerce portals made the customer experience easier and more convenient. Due to the increase in detailed online product data, hardware resellers started to become a commodity. The abundance of accurate, timely product information available online meant customers often knew more about the products they needed than the resellers did. Economies of scale also meant VARs like us could not compete with the big brands and we had to look for new avenues for survival.
As a result, the margins for hardware resellers fell from 20-25% two decades ago to 3-5%. Small players were squeezed out of the market, with some perishing and others choosing to adapt by offering IT services.
Evolution from VAR to MSP
Although sales margins shrank for hardware resellers, a significant market for hardware products remained. Customers still needed the help of IT experts to provide the services in deployments, implementations, migrations and support. As a savvy IT company we saw a new business opportunity: expanding beyond exclusively offering products to adding services, too.
These IT services included helping business customers deploy anything from an operating system, to federation services to email systems to database servers. The most successful companies knew that providing these professional services meant a growing need to offer a personal touch – which was only possible in a virtual experience and led to increased customer loyalty.
Evolving From Professional Services to Managed Services
As business customers started outsourcing IT project services, our relationship with them evolved into longer-term engagements and transformed into managed services, a new trend in the natural evolution of IT services. Managed services deepened customer relationships because a one-time IT project was often followed by ongoing maintenance over subsequent years. The smart IT companies invested in the right tools and technologies to elevate the customer experience to a level at which customers could no longer achieve a similar level of services in-house at a price that MSPs were able to offer.
Evolving From Managed Services to the Cloud
The last 5 years saw a tectonic shift in the way technology is consumed. Virtualization technologies matured quickly and opened a new platform of computing called “cloud.” After a decade in managed services, the big technology e-tailers and vendors felt threatened by the cloud evolution, as onsite equipment requirements started shrinking.
With cloud services, business customers could use IT services on demand and scale according to their business requirements. Customers no longer needed their own in-house servers. The capital expenditure (CAPEX) model of computing rapidly started changing to the operating expenditure (OPEX) model of utility – saving customers time and space, and mitigating business risks.
The 25-Year Lifecycle
Since the ‘90s, this IT lifecycle has evolved from a focus on hardware to professional services to managed services to cloud services. Today professional services are virtual and the cloud is fast becoming a commodity. The big e-tailers are adapting fast, and partnering with IT powerhouses like Microsoft, Amazon and Google to offer cloud services through virtual data centres.
In part, the big e-tailers’ success is due to their deep insights into what people buy based on detailed purchase histories and a continuous source of new leads that bring new customers to their e-commerce portals. Their reach is wide and deep, driven by content on hundreds of thousands of technology products. This product content attracts customers to their e-commerce portals, keeps their brand top of mind, makes customers more likely to eventually use their cloud services. Managed services are also becoming virtual – and now managed service providers must adapt to this new shift to remain relevant and avoid history repeating itself.
For the average IT company, it’s hard to compete with these massive brands whose competitive advantage includes tremendous volumes of customer intelligence. Smaller companies can’t start up their own e-commerce portals, as the initiative is cost prohibitive, and complex to design, implement and manage.
Being in the midst of this industry change ourselves, we built ConnectMaze, an e-commerce portal specifically for professional service and managed service providers. We originally built ConnectMaze for ourselves to retain and grow our MSP practice through indirect yet highly effective marketing to bring new logos and additional revenue, and lead the client transition to managed services encompassing cloud.
How ConnectMaze Can Help You
By offering extensive volumes of IT product content, ConnectMaze’s integrated e-commerce portal attracts significant web traffic. The ConnectMaze solution is integrated out of box with ConnectWise to bring the customer and product information right into your CRM. A new stream of customers and revenue creates a consistent pipeline for managed service providers. As a fully-integrated solution, ConnectMaze lets you can handle invoicing through ConnectMaze itself, ConnectWise or your accounting system.
Focus on growing your business with more marketing muscle: A proven source of lead generation, the high-traffic ConnectMaze e-commerce portal helps you showcase the whole IT Lifecycle experience and maximize the lifetime value per customer.
- Easy, integrated processes: ConnectMaze integrates with your CRM, accounting, shipping and project management software, including SAP, SalesForce, ERP systems and ConnectWise. Also, all key product distributers’ data is already integrated into this e-commerce portal, so you automatically receive accurate, real-time product and inventory data to serve your customers.
- Trusted product data: The content available through ConnectWise is provided from Etilize, the world’s leading supplier of e-commerce product data. This valuable data is part of the solution as a SaaS service.
- Efficient, accurate data management: Streamline your marketing and CRM efforts through our automated processes. Enter your product or service information only once to eliminate manual data errors and duplication of effort.
- Cost-effectiveness and speed: Why reinvent the wheel by trying to build your own e-commerce portal to attract and serve customers? ConnectMaze already attracts significant web traffic and customers across the entire IT Lifecycle for a fraction of the cost to do it yourself. We’ll help you customize your offering and go live within 4 weeks.
Grow your business with ConnectMaze to boost your brand awareness, lead generation and lifetime value per customer. Get started with ConnectMaze today!
Sign up for a free proof of concept or call Supra ITS at 905.696.8300 for a quick demo.