Avenir is building on its small business credentials, chasing IT dealers and persevering with a path to convergence, while other distributors fall back on more traditional strategies.
Since MD Andy Tow started running the business in November 2008, it has begun distributing laptops and pushing the fixed-line channel to dealers.
It has also had the backdrop of a court battle with Vodafone and former MD Tanny Price, as well as losing T-Mobile and Vodafone.
Amid the turmoil, Avenir was selected as an O2 Approved partner, and Tow claims Avenir is O2’s number one distributor in terms of sales, volumes, churn and ARPU.
Mobile: You have recently appointed Ben Price in a new role, what are you hoping to achieve?
Tow: The main thing we are hoping to achieve with Ben Price is to sell into the [fixed-line] comms dealer channel. Comms dealers sell fixed line typically to SME [dealers], as mobile services are increasingly converging. One way to compete is to be involved with mobile, and Ben will be selling mobile and working with O2 on fixed number products.
What is the future of convergence?
Convergence is what we are famous for and what we continue to work on. Our role is to distribute products and we need to be in a position to offer our clients the ability to sell a range of services. We want them to offer the advantage of dealing with one organisation by giving mobile customers the option of selling IT or fixed-line broadband products, and IT customers the chance to sell mobile broadband.
What channels are you looking to expand?
In mobile we are well established, the IT reseller channel is established and the comms dealer channel is embryonic. We are not detracting in any way from mobile, but we are expanding. We have recruited Paul Sandy to develop new business in the mobile arena. Paul’s experience is in mobile and he will very much be looking at the mobile reseller channel.
What is your relationship with network operators like?
Everyone interacts with the networks. We work with O2, Orange and 3 as these operators are the most supportive to the b2b channel, and we specialise entirely in the b2b market. We have been working very hard with 3 as it is taking a concerted approach towards targeting the SME market.
What are the benefits of the new O2 ‘Approved’ scheme?
The iPhone is the headline grabber, but the biggest benefit is the commitment O2 is making to the dealers. It is very easy for an organisation to say it is committed to the dealer channel, but not follow through. The scheme
is a two year agreement, which is quite lengthy. The O2 approved stamp gives massive credibility to the customer and an opportunity for dealers to improve their sales. It also gives them access to exclusive propositions, like the iPhone, and the training and development centre.
Is the scheme attracting interest from dealers?
Undoubtedly. It is an attraction for dealers; 20 have signed up and more are knocking on the door. The initial 20 fulfilled stringent criteria
and we are keen to make it available to others, as long as they also meet the criteria.
What are the biggest challenges for dealers at the moment?
It is tough out there competitively and dealers need to focus on retention. Retention is absolutely critical. We have developed quite a sophisticated computer model that can predict propensity for churn. But, the key thing is the people who interpret the data and then pass it on to dealers to help them improve their business.
What was the thinking behind your new accessories website?
Accessories are a really key area, as they add value to our dealers. We can really help our dealers cross-sell and up-sell, and it is an opportunity for dealers to create a stronger margin. The more services you provide to a customer, the less likely they are to leave. The accessories business is obviously related, we already have a warehouse and logistics team, and whether you are distributing a phone or a phone charger, the principles are the same.
How will distribution change over the next year?
This is the year of consolidation and there will be fewer distributors in the market. It’s important to work closely with network partners, and it is an opportunity for distributors to pin their colours to the mast, as I can only see it becoming tougher.