Channel Marketer Report


Channel Leaders Have More Options For Program-Supporting Solutions, Forrester Reports

Channel practitioners have an expanded list of channel program solutions from which to choose. According to a recent review by Jay McBain, Principal Analyst of Channels, Partnerships & Ecosystems at Forrester, the number of companies offering channel program boosting solutions ticked up significantly to 159.

Forrester’s previous review of the universe of channel technology solutions – released in late 2018 – listed 106 brands. In 2017, the list included 83 companies across eight operational categories.

Forrester’s latest report describes technologies that channel-focused companies can use “to plan with, find, recruit, onboard, develop, enable, incentivize, co-sell with, co-market with, manage, measure, and report on partners.” The technology is becoming “increasingly critical to a brands’ ability to win, serve, and retain their customers and partners,” McBain wrote in his recent post. The market for these solutions is fast growing, with 59% of companies increasing their investments in them.

Jay McBain, Forrester Principal Analyst Global Channels

Jay McBain, Principal Analyst of Channels, Partnerships & Ecosystems, Forrester

According to the Forrester Tech Tide: Channel Software, Q2 2020, because only 50% of companies report that they are currently utilizing channel software for their indirect sales, the software market could double in the next few years.

Shifting Partner Landscape

According to McBain, the rapidly shifting partner landscape is limiting the ability of channel leaders and B2B marketers to succeed with manual, human-centric processes and reliance on spreadsheets to manage their partner programs. “With the trifurcation of partners into influencer, transactional, and retention categories,” wrote McBain, “managing a plethora of concurrent activities without sufficient automation is no longer possible. To accelerate performance of their partnerships, alliances, and channel ecosystems, companies are evaluating and adopting a range of contributing technologies.”

Forrester’s report takes a deep dive into seven channel program technologies, based on feedback from customers, vendors, and industry experts on on what companies are investing in, experimenting with, maintaining, and divesting from. The categories include:

  • Partner relationship management
  • Through-channel marketing automation
  • Channel learning and readiness
  • Channel incentives management
  • Channel data management
  • Channel financials, pricing, and inventory
  • Channel ecosystem management

Channel ecosystem management represents a new category in Forrester’s list of channel solution. The technology helps companies manage the influence, transaction, and retention channels across the entire customer buying journey. McBain wrote that these solutions “support attribution for partner business models such as alliances, affinity, affiliates, advocates, ambassadors, integrators, consultants, shadow channels, super-connectors, and digital influencers as well as multiparty, multi-partner orchestration of complex partner ecosystems.”

McBain commented that the number of transactional and non-transactional partners comprising these new ecosystems will grow exponentially over the next five years, making it even more critical to streamline processes for finding, onboarding, training and incentivizing them.

“The future of channel partner programs and ecosystems will be anchored on automation, flexibility, scalability, and self-service,” he wrote. “The effective use of technology tools is no longer optional — ecosystems don’t run on spreadsheets!”