While many tech providers are knuckling down and focusing on business fundamentals as they look beyond the pandemic, IT reseller Acquire has taken the opportunity to change some of the ways it does business.
“The lockdown gave us a unique ability to stop and think about our business direction,” Acquire director and co-founder Kelly Raines told Reseller News. “So our strategy has changed.
“There are a lot of new opportunities for Acquire, particularly as an online...business, we have had a lot of customers, partners, vendors and distributors coming to us to help rationalise operational spending.
“We also looked internally and have been working hard on moving from a sales, marketing, accounts, development team to a customer relationship team. So, having one large cohesive unit with the customer as the focus,” he added.
The new changes in outlook and strategy come off the back of almost two decades of dynamic development within the company.
Launched in 2001 by Raines and fellow director Simon Scott, Acquire came to market with a procurement-as-a-service business model, with which organisations could utilise the company's systems to improve their procurement activities.
Since then, the company has gone on to launch in Australia in 2002 as AcquireIT, build out a marketing division specialising in digital marketing, develop and manage the HP Shopping website for NZ and, in 2017, work with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) on its marketplace.
With somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 business customers, Acquire now has a bird’s eye view of how the market has reacted to the disruptions thrown up by COVID-19 and is adapting its approach accordingly.
“Customers that were in a strong position coming into March have and will continue to spend,” Raines said. “We are trying to go deeper into those customers’ spend in the short term, so as a result we have seen an increase in spending.
“Other customers, particularly in those reliant on, or in, tourism have cut back dramatically,” he added.
Clearly, whether a business is doing well or not is very industry-specific, from Raines’ perspective.
While some are continuing to go well with business actually increasing, the changes that were forced on the market during lockdown have become the new norm, and the businesses that adapted quickly will continue to go well and come out of this in a fairly strong position. But that won’t be the case for everyone.
“A lot of the others who can’t adapt will continue to have financial struggles and many will fold,” Raines said. “If they are trying to keep their heads above water, but not looking for ways to stop drowning, then they will drown.”
The company has also introduced some new and innovative ideas that it has been developing through the lockdown period, according to Raines, with some starting to take-off.
A key initiative involves several different forms of the company’s procurement-as-a-service offering, while new marketing and sales strategies are on the cards.
Despite the changes, however, this new norm is creating a lot of opportunities, according to Raines, who expects cashed-up businesses to continue thriving, either through partnering or through acquisition, and by focusing on the future rather than the recent past.
The areas that are lighting a fire under the industry at present, from Raines’ perspective, continue to be around the implications of the move to work from home scenarios for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
This means that things like notebooks, headsets, cloud-based software and security solutions are among the top items of interest, along with others.
“We also think there will be an upsurge in ergonomic office equipment and printers as staff start encountering issues in those areas from home,” Raines said. “Also, a lot of companies are re-strategising, and IT is usually at the forefront of those ideas.
While the immediate-term outlook, over the next three to six months, is likely to continue seeing the work from home trend have a strong influence on the industry, in the mid- to long-term, Raines hopes Acquire’s partnering efforts will strengthen relationships with new and existing customers for ongoing business success.
“There will be a settling in period to this new norm,” Raines said. “Projects that were put on hold are now being re-looked at as they were key to business continuity or growth, and financial flexibility has never been so cost effective.
“So, our focus is on understanding what our customers need and adapting to those changing needs,” he added.
Partnerships take precedence
The longer-term outlook for the industry is likely to hinge heavily on how well those in the channel can partner with each other, complementing each others’ strengths and offsetting the weaknesses — a factor that plays well to Acquire’s modus operandi.
“I think it’s about understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are and focusing on partnering better so that you maximise profitability in your business,” he said. “Although it sounds like Acquire is trying to expand, our new initiatives are nearly 20 years old.
“At this time there will be more companies looking at their partnerships, rationalising costs and efficiencies, and that fits into our model,” Raines said. “Also, some partners and competitors are going through redundancies, and we are a viable solution for those staff.”
When it comes to choosing which customers to focus on at present, Raines is taking a somewhat pragmatic approach which involves both retention and acquisition without too much of a trade-off in terms of resources between the two options.
“Some customers may not be around in 12 months, and those customers will leave a hole in our business,” Raines said. “So we need to have a focus on acquisition.
“Acquisition would normally be a long process of six to 12 months of work. But we are seeing customers arrive and start buying, which leads me to believe that some competitors aren’t doing so well with customer retention.
“As already mentioned we have changed the way we are working and therefore how we are trying to acquire and retain customers. Otherwise it would be difficult to do both without adding operational costs, which we don’t want to do.
“Partnering better will also be key to both going forward, hence our renewed focus on PaaS [procurement-as-a-service] and marketing and how we do both,” he said.
Reseller News Advance is a centralised editorial resource designed to help partners access forward-looking content as the New Zealand market attempts to reposition for growth.