Small and home office (Soho) users should no longer be considered fodder for suppliers? cast offs because they have as much purchasing clout as their larger enterprise cousins.
According to fresh research from IDC, the US Soho market will be worth a thumping $71 billion in 2002 compared to $51 billion last year. Products up for grabs include PC based technologies such as Internet and email services and low end local area network based systems.
The market research firm also believes that the Soho population will continue to grow. By 2002, US small businesses will exceed six million and home offices will top 30 million. Last year, home based businesses totalled 22.2 million, while firms with fewer than 10 employees numbered 5.7 million.
Raymond Boggs, director of IDC?s Soho research programmes, said: "When we first started talking about the Soho market 10 years ago, it seemed an interesting but small market segment. The market was ignored and treated like a third world nation to be fed stale bread, but now it?s a serious part of every vendor?s strategy."
In the US, the market represents almost a quarter of all IT spend.
But Boggs believes vendors have improved their strategies in this sector. Instead of touting cut down versions of their mainstream products, they have begun to create equipment specifically for it. One example of this is Hewlett Packard?s (HP?s) Brio range of PCs.
He continued that vendors such as Dell, Gateway and HP were now designing specific Web pages for smaller organisations. "All the major PC vendors are targeting this market," he said.
But he warned that potential buyers should not be "dazzled by new technology", and they should keep their own objectives in mind. "Users should think about whether the products will enable them to get the job done and look for tangible benefits rather than the speed of the machine," he said.
Suppliers should also work on the customer service element of the sales process. Rather than forcing users to buy the equipment separately, products should be sold as comprehensive systems, with sales and support thrown in.
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