Axon spreads wider net

IT supplier Axon has opened up its Quality Direct online procurement service to small and medium-sized businesses.

IT supplier Axon has opened up its Quality Direct online procurement service to small and medium-sized businesses.

Until now the internet-based service, which sells the products Axon stocks to BMW, Ministries of Education and Social Development, Foodstuffs, ASB Bank, PDL Industries, Genesis Power and Tower Insurance among others, has focused on enterprise-sized companies. Axon is relaunching the four-year-old service as QD and beginning to target companies with 20 to 100 IT users.

The website, www.qd.net.nz, has been revamped and features tailored to the small-business market include the ability to pay by credit card and different product categorisation.

New users of the service can also look forward to online order tracking and support. BMW, which has used Quality Direct for three years, says the system allows BMW to track estimated times of arrival for products, according to IS manager Gillian Fairhurst, while support calls can be made by going into the online system rather than waiting around on the phone.

Axon managing director Matt Kenealey says in the SMB market “[that] you’re usually dealing with fewer people in the purchase cycle and it’s also geared to greater volumes”.

QD general manager John Hayson, formerly of Renaissance’s Conduit e-business division, says the estimated 50,000 small and medium-sized businesses — as compared to about 1000 in the enterprise sector — want the same service as large companies.

However, their IT infrastructures are relatively simple and they don’t want or need the same level of relationship management that large customers want, he says. Because of Axon’s relationship with IT vendors and suppliers, it will be able to give small and medium-sized businesses IT procurement information that previously they haven’t be able to get, Hayson says.

He says whereas the 100-plus user enterprise market has become highly competitive, the 20- to 100-seat “commercial” market is poorly serviced by a patchwork of second-tier resellers with limited service and lack of nationwide support. He adds that QD is not aiming at the consumer or home office market.

“We don’t see one or two major competitors, rather a myriad from the Dick Smiths at the low end to Computerland at the higher end.”

Other low-end IT e-procurement businesses include Acquire and Supplyzone, which ceased trading in March and is now looking for a buyer, but Hayson believes many others don’t come from as strong an organisational background as Axon.

“You need to have the resources to maintain development and work with customers, and you have to have relationships with the major vendors to provide information customers want.

“In it’s own way this market isn’t difficult to service. They want the same level of engagement, service and support. The challenge is reach and being able to serve them cost effectively.”

Axon’s Quality Direct division has 15 staff, mainly in sales and support.

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