Evidence of a second COVID-19 wave and the ongoing challenges facing Canada’s economy is visible in the millions of dollars transacted through Ingram Micro’s financing programs, according to Bill Brandel.
“At first, it wasn’t taken advantage of,” Brandel, senior vice-president and country chief executive for Canada at Ingram Micro, said during a recent interview. “But we’ve had millions of dollars transacted through our program. Many partners early on tapped out their credit so we had to get real creative to support them financially as they got an influx of business. We couldn’t tell our partners no.”
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During the Ingram Micro ONE Experience global virtual conference earlier this month, Brandel, and recently appointed director of marketing in Canada, Jennifer Villers, also pointed to what they’re calling a “different kind of scramble,” referring to the latest buying patterns which resemble the purchasing activity they witnessed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At first, customers were desperately trying to get their hands on laptops and printers to get a remote workforce up and running, the two explained. Now, the start of school combined with the looming holidays is creating another rush. Data centre refreshes and long-term project-based business solution sales are still being negatively impacted, Brandel explained.
The recent Ingram Micro’s “ONE” event combined all of Ingram Micro’s series of regional events into one, a sign of unity that took a much more serious toll as an unpredictable economy lingers and lockdown measures across North America continue. More than 20,000 attendees tuned in this year from across 74 countries to hear 270 speakers across 140 broadcast sessions.
“The whole world is faced with the same challenge,” Villers said.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Ingram Micros of the world is the rapid rise of retail e-commerce during COVID. Prior to 2020, Statistics Canada says retail e-commerce sales had risen steadily, with the proportion of online sales rising from 2.4 per cent in 2016 to 4 per cent in 2019. The month of April this year highlights the peak of the COVID-19 impact, with the proportion of retail e-commerce sales jumping from 3.8 per cent in April 2019 to a record high of 11.4 per cent in April 2020. In May, as the Canadian retail environment allowed for more in-store purchases, the proportion of retail e-commerce sales was 10 per cent.
Forrester last year predicted that 17 per cent B2B purchases would flow through e-commerce marketplaces by 2023. That projection has been dialled back to the year 2021, putting an enormous strain on traditional distributors according to Jay McBain, principal analyst of channels, partnerships and ecosystems.
“They’re facing a lot of headwind,” McBain said in a previous interview.
Brandel acknowledged the digital muscle on display by Canadian retailers, but said he isn’t worried about the impact on Ingram Micro.
“We’ve built for this for some time,” he said, pointing out how the distributor was often helping retailers make the sudden pivot to online when the pandemic started. “I was very proud to be there and watch how many retailers responded and pivoted their business.
“And when we look at that, we see a greater opportunity.”
New resources for partners
Ingram Micro used the opportunity during the ONE conference to unveil the launch of a new online training portal that is designed to mirror the company’s global training program, making training resources available for partners globally online.
The new training resource, IngramMicroTraining.com, is live now and currently only available for partners in U.S., Canada, and Latam.