Ricoh broadens the appeal of its communication products portfolio
Ricoh is an established technology brand famous for its copiers and print devices, but there is much more to the company than that. Recently, it has been expanding into other areas, such as projectors, interactive whiteboards and videoconferencing solutions, giving technology resellers new opportunities to add value and generate additional revenue from hardware sales and cloud services. To find out more about Ricoh’s offering in this space, Technology Reseller spoke to Keith Howell, Business Generation Director for the Indirect Channel at Ricoh UK.
Technology Reseller (TR): Ricoh is well known for its copiers, but perhaps less famous for its projectors and whiteboards. What are you trying to achieve with these products. Is it just a case of selling more hardware?
Keith Howell (KH): While we can supply someone with a videoconferencing system, projector or whiteboard in isolation, we very much see these technologies as working together so that we can help the customer connect and collaborate more easily. Our VC can work with our interactive projector and our interactive whiteboards, so you could collaborate on a document using a whiteboard and people on multiple remote sites could use videoconferencing to look at not just the document, but also the people and communicate more effectively while working on a document.
It’s very joined up from that point of view. But it is also totally scalable, depending on what the customer wants. If the customer just wants to connect a couple of whiteboards and collaborate on a document, using their telephone system to talk through what is being done, they can do that. Or, if a customer has invested in videoconferencing or sees the benefit of moving to VC to eliminate travel costs and increase productivity, we can supply a videoconferencing system. Our system will work Ricoh to Ricoh and with other videoconferencing systems, so customers get the full benefits of remote collaboration.
TR: How long have you been active in the videoconferencing market?
KH: We have been doing videoconferencing for about three years, but we recently launched a new solution that has interoperability with other systems, so it is now really starting to take off. If a customer or business they deal with has invested in a Polycom or a Cisco system, for example, our VC system will link into that, making it easy for them to collaborate with their customers and suppliers as well.
TR: You’ve also been expanding your interactive whiteboard offering. Are they a growing part of your business?
KH: Yes; we’ve now got three models and are about to launch a fourth. Our first interactive whiteboard was a 55-inch model. Based on customer feedback, we then introduced 65-inch and 84-inch models, and the new one we are about to launch is a 22-inch interactive whiteboard. The feedback from customers is that they want flexibility in terms of where and when they can use this technology. A corporate customer might have larger meeting rooms where they might want to wall-mount a whiteboard as a permanent fixture. They may also have other collaboration areas, hubs and smaller meeting rooms, where something like a 22in model would fit better.
That flexibility of approach also applies to larger whiteboards, where we offer the option of wall-mounting or a stand that you can wheel from one meeting room to another, and to our videoconferencing system. The camera and videoconferencing technology are incorporated in one unit that you can move from room to room. Connect it to the network and you are up and running – there’s nothing else you need to do. Potentially you could even use it at your desk. And we have an app for tablets, iPads and mobile devices that a mobile or remote worker can use to join in.
In this way, we embrace new working practices like remote working, home working and increased mobility. The other key driver in the current financial climate is to reduce costs and on our website we have a savings calculator, so if people are travelling to one location, by car or train or plane, you can input their journey details and it will calculate the cost savings you would make by deploying Ricoh technology – and give you a carbon saving as well.
TR: Are you developing a different channel to sell these solutions?
KH: Yes, we are. We’ve got three main routes to market. One is our direct sales force – the corporate, government channel. The second is via our OA partners who currently sell our Managed Print Service (MPS) offering. Our communications offering is to do with collaboration, information and documents, improving productivity and cost savings, which isn’t wildly different to what our OA partners currently do with MPS – it’s just a question of upskilling them, giving them the tools and understanding so they can also sell our communication services portfolio. Thirdly, we are looking at IT resellers and specialist AV partners, which is a new route to market for Ricoh. That’s something we are starting to develop now.
TR: How do you select which IT resellers and AV partners to work with?
KH: We evaluate each partner and assess their appetite to move into this area, their capabilities and their commitment. The potential reach is to 150 of Ricoh’s OA partners – the ones best set up for solutions sales – and our initial ambition is to work actively with around 25 or 30 IT /AV partners.
TR: Is the market opening up for resellers that might not have considered vidoconferencing before?
KH: This kind of technology has been around for a number of year, but historically it’s been very costly – it’s required a lot of specialist resource in terms of selling and installation and a lot of investment from the end customer to finance the capital cost of the equipment. The technology we have now has a lower cost and more flexibility, so the customer doesn’t need to have a fixed infrastructure, such as a videoconferencing room. This is opening up the market.
TR: Can you give me some idea of the scale of the savings on offer.
KH: It depends on the specification, but you are talking about tens of thousands of pounds worth of savings if a customer with an older legacy system gets to the point of renewal. The key thing for us, though, is to reach customers that don’t yet have this type of technology. For them, it’s more about the ongoing savings versus the traditional method of collaborating, which involves costly travel and a reduction in productivity. This is a brilliant opportunity for the SME marketplace, where historically these things would have been out of reach from a cost, technology and infrastructure perspective.
TR: What are the key benefits to IT resellers in taking on Ricoh’s communication solutions?
KH: Firstly, it gives them the ability to partner with one of the leading office technology providers – IT resellers can get a lot of leverage from the strength of our brand. Then, from a product point of view, the technology we have developed sits quite uniquely in the market place. The other key thing for IT resellers and OA partners is that they get an annuity stream from selling 24 x 7 airtime contracts. A customer who buys VC hardware for their meeting room will also buy a quarterly or annual airtime contract for each concurrent user, giving unlimited airtime and no additional charges however much they use the system.
TR: And for existing OA dealers, your communication portfolio presumably adds another string to their bow and more opportunity to embed themselves with customers.
KH: Yes, absolutely. The MPS marketplace is becoming more and more commoditised and there has been a land grab to move customers from a basic click contract to an all-embracing MPS offering. For us, the next step is to link in communication services to broaden the gains that we can make for customers in terms of cost-savings and productivity and to make our partners more ‘sticky’ with customers and able to capture more business.