Hewlett Packard is entering the e-business arena with a hybrid programme that uses its brand strength to court customers while still relying on the channel to fulfil orders.
The reseller referral system, which enables users to order products and services by price and location, is part of HP's new European e-business strategy and includes three Web sites aimed at specific customer groups.
For top enterprise customers, Electronic Solutions Now provides a secure site giving access to specialised HP information, tools and services.
HP Commerce Center is aimed at small and medium-sized companies and enables customers to select and buy products and services from HP resellers.
HP Expo, currently a consumer information only site, is to be developed into an ecommerce site that will also be fulfilled by HP's channel.
While the introduction of these new programmes will create a more direct relationship between HP and its customers, the company is at pains to point out that this will not threaten the existence of HP's 72,000 European channel partners.
"HP's new business strategy will not mean the death of the middle man," said Per Hogberg, HP's European e-business programme manager.
"To make e-business as successful as possible will mean a change in the roles and responsibilities between HP and its partners," he said.
The company also announced that it intended to double its European channel partners' Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) from the current rate of 20 per cent to 40 per cent.
Work on this is scheduled to begin next February.
Neil McCarthy, marketing manager for Basilica - one of HP's most active UK resellers - said he welcomed the move and saw no problems in the short term with the new arrangements.
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