I have attended a huge number of tradeshows and events the past several years related to digital signage and digital menu boards. At all these events nearly all the display manufacturers and distributors make the statement:
“We always sell through resellers and never to end users; our resellers are important to us.”
In the past, I have known of a few cases where that simply was not true, but recently I have learned that the last two major orders for digital menu board systems (Burger King and Dairy Queen) have gone directly to a major LCD display supplier with no resellers involved and a third major (Yum Brands) will go direct when and if it places an order.
Does this mean the days of the VARs or resellers are gone? It happened in the hospitality market. Will it happen in the QSR Market, also? It looks to me like it has already happened. The fact that another of the largest and most respected display suppliers has recently hired a sales team to make direct sales calls on large QSRs to better compete with the display supplier that has received the orders mentioned above is further evidence of this.
If the resellers are eliminated is that wrong? It is obviously wrong to say you never sell direct and then do so. However, if you are a VAR what value do you add? Since I am a VAR in those two major markets my opinion may be biased, but I think it is a mistake to eliminate the VARs. When the sales team for the display suppliers is off making other sales, who will provide the ongoing service to the accounts they have sold? Can the display supplier do it? I believe that will be a problem and they will eventually end up with a staff to handle what the VAR's now do, and they will in effect be right back to where it all started.
I recently started a project of organizing a large group of qualified resellers to help them get trained to sell digital menu boards and combine their purchases in order to compete better with the large display supplier that received the major orders. When the display supplier learned of my plan they wielded all the political influence they could muster to kill my plan.
A typical reseller will normally buy where they can get the best deal because the competition is fierce. On large projects they must know who their major competitors are. How good can you feel about sharing your information and getting prices from your strongest competitor? The only way individual VARs can compete in these markets is to organize and combine their purchases and resources. If they don't wake up soon, they will left out of the process in these markets and the same procedure will develop in other markets.
Vertigo Group USA president Scott Sharon has decades of experience in the sign and menu board industry, and nearly another decade in digital signage. He’s a longtime proponent of, and innovator in, expanding the deployment of digital menu boards in QSRs.