While monitors still make up 70 per cent of their business, falling prices has also led ViewSonic Canada to scale back its retail business and put more emphasis on the B2B market.
ViewSonic has posted strong results for its first quarter of 2017 – its first full quarter since it reversed an earlier decision to have Canada report to the U.S. by vertical rather than have direct Canadian management in Canada. The company is building on that success with new hires, to provide more feet on the street to work with ViewSonic’s Canadian channel partners.
ViewSonic had a separate Canadian operation for most of the last decade. However, when long-time Canadian country manager Collen Browne was promoted in 2009 to Director of North American Channel and Enterprise, the model by which Canada was managed changed, with Canada and the U.S. both being managed jointly.
“At that point we were rolled up into a North American structure in terms of verticals,” said Deidre Deacon, an 18 year ViewSonic veteran who was appointed ViewSonic Canada’s General Manager when the structure was changed last fall. “Now we have gone back to running ViewSonic Canada separately.”
Deacon said the change in structure has had both programmatic and personnel advantages.
“It allows us to develop own our programs instead of Canadianizing ones that were designed US-centric,” she said. “We have also been able to grow our team.”
Before, they had two people based in Toronto and one in Montreal.
“We have just hired one person who will be focused on the financial sector and education markets, giving us more feet on the street,” Deacon said. We will also be hiring another person in the summer who will be based in western Canada.”
The first quarter of 2017 was the first under the new organization, and the results were strong.
“We were up 15 per cent over Q4 of 2016 in terms of units shipped across all categories,” Deacon said. “That’s in everything, not just in digital signage, which did well, but monitors and projectors as well. We also got a good piece of the government spend in Q1, and it was the first time we have seen active engagement from some departments about details of our product roadmaps.”
Monitor prices have been falling for years, but monitors still make up 70 per cent of ViewSonic Canada’s business.
“We took share with monitors last quarter,” Deacon said. “When it’s 70 per cent of your business, it’s good to see it grow, even tough prices continue to erode. We supplemented that with the solutions, diving further into projectors and large format displays. Our ViewBoard interactive flat panels have been a big focus in education and business markets. We have also developed all sorts of markets for our displays you wouldn’t think of, like funeral homes. There’s a lot there beyond airports and restaurants.”
ViewSonic has been touting its ViewBoard family, which let users write, highlight, edit, and transform documents and images on the screen in real time. Their market has, to date, been more limited in Canada than in the U.S., however.
“These interactive flat panels are strong in K 12 in the U.S., but not in Canada yet because of budget constraints,” Deacon said. “We do sell them to education buyers, but to private schools and higher education.”
The price erosion in the monitor market also led ViewSonic Canada to rethink the elements of its channel strategy. ViewSonic has always sold entirely through channel partners, but they have multiple channels. These include the VAR channel, but also DMRs, where they have a large presence, with CDW being their biggest account in the country. They also have an e-tail presence, including Amazon, and had a broad retail presence. Lower monitor prices have, however, led them to reduce their retail business significantly.
“We made a choice, because of the price erosion, to focus on the B2B channel,” Deacon said. “We still have a retail presence, but we pulled out of Costco and a majority of retail outlets, although we are still in London Drugs and Best Buy.”
They have approximately 2400 active reseller partners in Canada.
“The growth of the large format display market has really helped our reseller partners,” Deacon stated. “Many customers getting into digital signage have never bought from the reseller channel before. We are trying to bring those two worlds together, because the customers don’t know who any of these folks are.”