Ingram banks on emerging technologies

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Ingram Micro is counting on emerging technologies to spur growth for the next few years.

The US$22 billion distributor is planning to jump on the RFID, point of sale, AIDC, digital home and digital signage bandwagons in 2005, as well as focus on new vertical markets such as manufacturing and retail.

Solution providers said they count on Ingram to lead them in the right direction.

"We look to them to help us figure out which technologies we should be moving on. There's so many out there, we need them to help us know which ones are the best fit for our companies and which will bring us the best ROI," said Greg Starr, president of SEE-Comm, a solution provider in Texas.

Ingram helped SEE-Comm enter the surveillance business, and Starr said he is interested in selling POS solutions with Ingram's guidance.

To fuel growth in the new areas of focus, Ingram plans to provide a more cohesive marketing message to solution providers, said Greg Spierkel, president of Ingram. For the first time, the distributor plans to have its sales, marketing and category management teams work together with solution providers, he said.

In addition, Ingram plans to work with manufacturers earlier in product life cycles to develop stronger channel programs for those products, for example, that target solution providers and not end users. Ingram also plans to adopt a scaled-price strategy for services such as advertising, financial, human resources, marketing and sales tools that are offered to solution providers.

The new strategy will better prepare Ingram's solution provider customers to offer new technologies and lead to more cohesive communication between all parties in the supply chain, Spierkel said. "Vendors are trying to be more efficient with targeted programs with customers. To get there, there are a number of things we have to do better for the channel," he said. 

Ingram has added its first field marketing reps and plans to significantly grow the number of those positions in 2005 to complement its field-sales force, said Brian Wiser, senior vice president of US sales and marketing at Ingram.

Jane Cage, owner of Heartland Technologies, a solution provider, said Ingram's strategy will help her business.

"They've become more strategic in what they do, and they are appealing to us in ways that are important to us," Cage said.

Next month, Ingram plans to bring several vendor representatives to Heartland Technologies to detail the vendors' plans for 2005, which will help the solution provider to plan its own year, Cage said. "If we can understand their marketing and sales strategies, we can align in ways that make sense for all of us."

Ingram also bettered Wall Street expectations for revenue and net income for the third quarter ended October 2. The distributor earned US$77.3 million, or 49 cents per share, on US$6.02 billion in revenue, which compares with net income of US$81.2 million, 53 cents per share, on US$5.21 billion in sales for the year-ago quarter. 

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