In the latest of our ‘Meet the Shortlisters’ series, Richard Wells, head of business sales UK & Ireland at Epson (pictured), explains why sustainability will always be top of their agenda, why partners are so crucial to its success, and why the vendor is so pleased to be shortlisted for a Vendor of the Year Channel Award
Give us a flavour of your business - what verticals/product sets are your sweet spots, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition etc
Epson is a global technology leader dedicated to becoming indispensable to society by driving innovations and exceeding customer expectations in inkjet, visual communications, wearables and robotics. Epson is 100 per cent committed to the channel and continues to grow the businesses across everything from corporate, education and retail, to healthcare, finance, public sector, leisure and hospitality, pro graphics and more.
We have spent the last 20 years leading the industry shift from laser to inkjet printing, and today Epson's inkjet printers use up to 95 per cent less energy than a laser printer, print up 3.5 times faster and require up to 98 per cent less user intervention. Epson is also the world number one projector manufacturer, and not only is our name on one in three school projectors, but we're also developing interactive display solutions with wide scalable projections designed with the business environment in mind.
Epson sets itself aside from the competition by embedding sustainability into every aspect of its product lifecycle, so that our channel partners and their end-users can reduce their carbon footprint without having to compromise on productivity and cost effectiveness, everything you'd expect from a world leading technology manufacturer.
How have you supported your customers during the pandemic? Has it made you change your strategy in any way? If so, how?
During the pandemic, our primary focus has been to support our channel partners. We retained all our employees, furloughing no staff, enabling us to help our channel partners effectively transition to unforeseen change in order to meet their customers' demands. We've helped achieve this via our wide product offering and our sales and support teams; including our end-user team, who are securing immediate and long-term opportunities and are working and closing them together with the channel.
We conducted regular remote training sessions to maintain momentum during the lockdown, and financially supported our channel partners by continuing rebate payments for the April to June period, regardless of target achievement, and revised targets in the following quarter based on the new market situation.
The pandemic has not impacted our strategy of committing to the channel. For our channel to stay healthy, grow, and in some cases survive, there has to be the ability to adapt to the changing working world and our unique and diverse portfolio, supported by a commitment to growing our resellers' businesses.
What has been your company's biggest challenge during 2020 and how did you overcome it? What role did your own teams play in that?
The UK lockdown negatively impacted the demand across many of our B2B product categories and slowed production at some of its manufacturing plants, making it difficult to meet the increased demands for consumer printers while the country worked from home. Many of our resellers had niche product offerings that made it more difficult to adapt to the new market situation, and the inability to go out and have face-to-face discussions with channel partners didn't help.
Our product teams diverted stock from international markets to meet the increased demand as effectively as possible. The channel and distribution sales teams worked together with our partners to better place it's ‘work from home' solutions with their end-users, along with other technologies that supported surging demands amidst new government guidelines. While our cartridge-free EcoTank enabled partners to support the shift from office to home working while maintaining the same messaging of low energy consumption, low total cost of ownership and high reliability, technologies such as our Moverio smart glasses enabled more technical specialists to solve the challenge of conducting remote support. Inkjet colour label printers and signage printers enabled our partners to meet the surge in demand for social distancing signage and labelling requirements, while our education projectors have enabled schools to maximise screen visibility for students at all corners of the classroom as they create more distance between one another.
Epson has been looking onwards and upwards and has not only continued to introduce new products across its product ranges to keep channel partners at the forefront of innovation but has continued taking feedback from all customers and to influence future product roadmaps.
What lessons have you learned from this year?
It's better to collaborate rather than compete with the channel. While Epson has always adhered to this belief, this last year has validated the importance of our solidarity with the channel and has ensured shared success with them in the sectors we supply. This last year has also reinforced the indispensable nature of our product solutions and that we can adapt together with our channel, even in the most challenging of environments, without compromising on our commitment to sustainability.
What has been the highlight of 2020 for your business?
No amount of product or business success, both from ourselves and our channel partners, can be fully commendable without acknowledging the implications this has on the environment. On 27 October we announced we were placed in the top one per cent of technology companies for sustainability by independent assessors EcoVadis. This ‘platinum' rating, which builds on the previous three years of scoring in the top five per cent, is based on an assessment across four themes: the environment, labour and human rights, ethics, and sustainable procurement. This recognition serves as a great benchmark of our inherent commitment to sustainability and gives our customers, be it channel partners or their end-users, the confidence one would expect from a brand leading the industry by example in such a challenging, unpredictable and ecologically sensitive era in history.
What does it mean to you to be recognised for the shortlist/an award?
The CRN Channel Awards recognise and celebrate success in the channel and for Epson this has very much been a shared success story every step of the way. Being shortlisted for the Vendor of the year award is a tremendous honour and it has validated the strategic importance we place in the channel, our commitment to sustainability, and the implications this has for their end-users across different sectors. As this is the second year Epson has been shortlisted for this award, we are giving our channel partners further confidence in the technology and the people they are working with and that couldn't be more important to us.
How do you think the industry will change as a result of Covid-19 and how do you plan to thrive/grow?
The pandemic has shown us just how abrupt things can change and as a result has highlighted the business importance of adaptability and unity in order to see it through the storm.
Based on a recent survey Epson conducted among 4000 working professionals across EMEA, three-quarters (75 per cent) of business decision makers say their organisation's environmental and social impact has become more important due to COVID-19, while more than half (55 per cent) confirmed they are now paying more attention to these targets compared to six months ago.
We will continue to meet these expectations by commercialising sustainability so that the benefit of eco-conscious technology is seen more reassuringly as an umbrella for more profit-based benefits as productivity, cost effectiveness and reliability. This is the message we are driving together with our channel partners and only through collaborative effort can we help educate a wider audience of the benefits of sustainable technology.