Digital Enablement in the Channel is Happening

  • July 16, 2020

The pandemic is nowhere near done. For the channel, there is still a great deal of uncertainty and the collective response is still a work in progress. However, as COVID-19 continues to persist, we’re all getting a bit smarter about how to handle it – shifting budgets, pivoting priorities, leveraging new tools and executing on new digital strategies.


During the most recent ChannelEdge Podcast, Larry Walsh, CEO, Chief Analyst & Founder of The 2112 Group, and I discussed the current state of the channel as it navigates a new normal in a challenging environment that doesn’t have an end in sight.


Within the channel ecosystem and in the context of the pandemic, there seems to be a divide, or as Larry Walsh states, “a tale of two channels.” Many are doing okay – even better than where they were before the pandemic. Unfortunately, the other half are not – forecasting down. This is not at all surprising considering the channel is made up of a variety of organizations, with varying digital capabilities, in a variety of industries.


The truth is, those that were able to pivot and react to the pandemic early have seen success, while those who were already vulnerable became even more exposed to its challenges and have fared much worse. Regardless of which group falls into which, every channel organization has had to make tough decisions – halting investments, decreased professional services, closing retail locations (i.e. Microsoft), shutting down live events and so much more.


One of those tough decisions, which is somewhat of a challenge to me personally, is the indefinite end to live events and good-ole-fashion networking. Many of the relationships I’ve built over the years were fostered over a lunch, cup of coffee or a cocktail. Unfortunately for me, those days are gone for a while. However, Walsh sees this differently. He looks at it as a natural evolution of connections made, and relationships built, through digital channels. It’s generational and it’s working. Millennials and Gen Zers don’t actually want to go to a trade show or a dinner. They want frictionless engagement with digital experiences.


What has resulted from the shift to digital engagement? Budgets that have historically been allocated to in-person marketing, training and enablement are now going digital and the CFO is loving it. The digital transformation in our pandemic world is allowing organizations to make money while saving money, all while creating deeper bonds with our channel partners than ever before. That’s a win-win and most likely will be a permanent change.


This is all great on paper, but who’s actually measuring the success of these digital programs? Plenty of large brands have made promises to the channel and made digital modifications to everything from incentive management to channel enablement and more. When all is said and done, who is mining the data, making sense of that data and then turning it into insights and measurable outcomes that work for the business? This is still a question that many organizations are grappling with.


We all know that digital is the present and the future. For the channel, the pandemic has fast-tracked many of the changes that were already in motion, but were slow to pick up speed. The time is now, the rush is on and it’s up to smart leadership to understand the data that comes from it – providing contextual intelligence they can use to create meaningful and sustainable ROI for marathon ahead of us.


I invite you to listen in on my entire conversation with Larry Walsh on 360insights’ ChannelEdge podcast.

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