Lenovo PC Plus: A Trend Driving Channel Sales

Lenovo North American channel chief Chris Frey

Lenovo North American channel chief Chris Frey

The PC market is in freefall, as 2013 sales are expected to decline by as much as 11 percent as users and businesses continue to embrace tablets and smartphones. The exception to this trend is Lenovo, which posted solid growth resulting from its Lenovo PC Plus strategy, which builds sales around future-proofing user purchases for the touch-enabled world.

Lenovo is at the forefront of convertible, business tablets and all-in-one PCs that leverage touch-interface capabilities, particularly those running Microsoft Windows 8. While the Windows 8 user experience has been less than stellar and truncating sales for many PC manufacturers, Lenovo sees touch devices of all kinds as future proofing for the eventuality of a touch-driven computing world.

“Windows 8 has garnered attention in the market, but our strategy is to show some lift in touch devices and all-in-one PCs,” says Chris Frey, vice president of North America commercial channels and SMB at Lenovo, in an interview with Channelnomics. “Sometime in the next three years, [users] will want touch. What we offer is purchase protection because sometime in the next three years, they’re going to want to touch the device.”

Lenovo calls this strategy “PC Plus,” a concept that promotes the ideals of having touch-oriented devices that serve different or multiple purposes. All-in-one and convertible PCs, such as the recently introduce Helix tablet/laptop, are examples of PC Plus. Lenovo believes the forthcoming end of life for Windows XP and continued acceptance of touch as an interface mechanism will make PC Plus a winning strategy for it and partners, Frey says.

So far, it seems to be working. Lenovo last week announced stellar earnings. The China-based company posted $34 billion in global revenue, with Americas revenue climbing 29 percent to $1.9 billion. Its North America commercial business – driven mostly by the channel – grew 10.1 percent, a continuation of eight consecutive quarters of double digit growth. Frey says more than $1 billion of Lenovo’s North America revenue flows through the channel.

More impressive is how Lenovo continues to attract partners to its ranks. Frey says Lenovo’s North America channel saw a 30 percent increase in new partners, and a record number of active resellers. While Lenovo is branching out into servers and storage through partnerships with EMC, and its smartphone business is expanding rapidly in China, the primary product sold in North America remains PCs.

“We want to continue to grow the base of the PC business,” Frey says. “We need to make sure we get transference of the customer and the market.”

This isn’t to say the traditional PC market is entirely dead. Frey says demand for conventional desktop PCs is expanding rapidly. “The traditional commercial desktop is exploding and business partners should not miss this. There’s an opportunity that has been building up for a few years here,” he says.

What’s really making the difference in the Lenovo channel? Frey says it’s about predictability and enablement. Lenovo, he says, has built its channel around ensuring partners are independent and profitable, and they know how Lenovo will act in any given situation. That’s probably part of it; the other part is partners are recommending Lenovo machines over competitors.

A channel truism is customers will accept the recommendations of their solution providers nine out of 10 times. Why? Because they have experience that tells them the solution provider understands their needs and isn’t looking to just make a sale. As a result, when solution providers recommend Lenovo products, customers buy.

Frey believes this is critical to Lenovo’s current and future success. Trends like consumerization and BYOD are creating device confusion. Complicating matters is the number of devices available in market, each providing a different user experience. No longer can the IT decision-maker simply buy in bulk and satisfy all end-users’ requirements, Frey says. It’s up to the solution provider to deliver guidance and recommendations.

If Lenovo is able to maintain its focus and enable partners, it will likely continue its growth streak as servers, storage and smartphones become available in North American and other geographies. As Frey explained, Lenovo isn’t trying to race to success; reaching its goals is about maintaining steady progression.