Seven trends for the South African channel in 2021

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As we near the end of what has proved to be a chaotic 2020, it is already time to think about the year ahead. One company that has done so is local technology distributor Rectron, having weighed in with what it views as the key trends for the South African channel in 2021.

To that end managing director at Rectron, Spencer Chen, has looked at seven trends in particular that will shape the channel market in the coming year.

As we look ahead to 2021, the lessons learned from the country’s national lockdown in a bid to flatten the curve of Covid-19, will undoubtedly shape the trends of the coming year,” says the Rectron MD.

“What many businesses have learned the hard way is that ensuring infrastructure has been upgraded and optimised to accommodate for new ways of working is no longer a nice to have,” he explains. 

What to take note of

This bring us to the first trend – digital transformation – which has been highlighted for a number of years now, but the pandemic and lockdown have seemingly intensified the rate at which companies have rolled out their strategies.

As an industry we can definitely expect to see continued momentum and focus on public cloud solutions. For the channel, this means the need to upskill around cloud to stay relevant,” notes Chen. 

Next is the hybrid workplace. Here we’ve already seen how the pandemic has made remote working the new normal, and when the lockdown finally ends, Chen believes a hybrid approach to the workplace will likely come to the fore.

For some businesses, Covid-19 has illuminated operating costs that could be cut with many looking to downsize office space and adopt a more hybrid working approach. Others are eager to fire up operations to full capacity. Either way, we cannot expect a one size fits all model which means the channel needs to adapt accordingly,” says the MD.

“In terms of hardware, we have seen some interesting trends. Working from home has certainly brought about a change in what people are buying. The most obvious being a surge in demand on audio and videoconferencing solutions,” he adds. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chen says that 2021 will bring continued supply chain pressure, with a lack of certainty around manufacturing, meaning many operations are hoarding as much inventory as possible, which consequently leads to shortages for others.

As such, while new devices and solutions are still being developed and unveiled, getting into the hands of end users will still prove a problem next year.

We are seeing worldwide shortages across various tech hardware, ranging from devices to headsets and webcams. What has been interesting is to see as the market moves to alternate options, which will have a longer lasting impact, for example, the recent uptake on AMD,” Chen points out. 

The next trend highlighted is that of the country’s recession, and the impact this will have across many industries, including the South African channel.

With many South Africans losing their jobs, or simply not having enough disposable income for consumer tech at the moment, a similar trend will develop in the business sector, with upgrading usurping replacing for the majority, in Chen’s view.

While people and businesses are sweating their assets, the market is also starting to see a shift towards components upgrades on existing assets, such as upgrading to solid state drives, which will help to get the performance required in the short term,” he says. 

“However, there is an opportunity for the channel to provide smart hardware as a service or financed solutions,” Chen posits. 

Another trend he has noted has already been playing out during the course of the pandemic and lockdown – cybersecurity – and this shows no signs of changing in 2021. It is smaller businesses and SMEs in particular that will suffer in this regard, as they simply do not have the budget or expertise to deal with such issues.

“We are seeing cyber security attacks grow each year with an exponential increase in breaches as cyber criminals take advantage of the past few months. However, small businesses are the most vulnerable, since many have not implemented adequate measures to prevent and respond to attacks,” Chen continues.

A staple for South Africans to contend with over the past decade or so, is energy and power solutions. To that end, the country’s power utility is still far from adequately equipped to deal with demands, and as a result many businesses are looking for viable alternatives to keep the lights on.

The threat of load shedding, or Eskom’s new ‘load reduction’ means that organisations and consumers will continue to experience hours without power. Until the situation improves, people will continue to need alternative power solutions leading to a high demand in the UPS space. Inverter solutions and the various applications for power security is still growing and we are seeing more and more solutions entering the market,” says Chen. 

Lastly, and rather interestingly, the final trend that the Rectron unpacks is home entertainment.

While many South Africans don’t have disposable income, being cooped up in the house means that entertainment services and gaming is on the rise, and solutions/products geared towards aiding this is what the South African channel should be acutely aware of.

“With people around the world being stuck at home, or being discouraged from going out, there’s been an increased demand for entertainment at home. Countries around the world have seen an uptake on entertainment subscription services,” says Chen.

“In line with this trend, demand on gaming devices will continue to grow as people look for alternate ways to stay entertained at home,” he concludes. 

With 2021 set to bring with it many challenges, according to the Rectron MD, there is still an opportunity for savvy channel operators to thrive, provided they can identify and react to trends as they emerge.

[Image – Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.