Brand Loyalty for Notebooks Sliding, Report Says

An IDC survey suggests when it comes to buying notebooks, business owners are becoming less likely to pick a brand and stick with it.

Despite the growth of the notebook market among businesses, survey results from market intelligence firm IDC suggest brand loyalty among midmarket companies continues to wane, especially among small businesses.
According the survey, nearly 30 percent of small firms (fewer than 100 employees) and more than 45 percent of medium-sized businesses (100-999 employees) plan to purchase notebook computers in the next 12 months, but which brands they will purchase may come as a surprise.
The survey also found small to medium-size business (SMB) preferences for different brands continue to shift as vendors update and refine their notebook PC products and promotions. IDC says the availability of new form factors and features, more powerful configurations, and lower prices are changing the competitive landscape.
"The continuing shift from desktop to notebook PCs among SMBs is making effective notebook market strategy all the more important," says IDC's senior research analyst for SMB research, Justin Jaffe. "IDC expects both brand and channel loyalty to become increasingly difficult to sustain, especially among smaller firms. Of course, this also means that the opportunity for vendors to gain share at the expense of competitors will grow."
Among other findings, the survey results show while Dell remains the notebook PC brand owned by the largest percentage of SMBs, the percentage of small firms that own HP-Compaq notebook PCs has increased considerably. The largest percentage of small and medium-sized businesses that plan to buy new notebooks in the next 12 months plan to purchase Dell notebooks. Apple is the brand next most often cited for future acquisition by small businesses and HP-Compaq by medium-sized firms.
"I think that pricing has always been important to this market, but that the availability of financing has become increasingly critical, especially given the considerable roadblocks that many SMBs are facing in terms of accessing credit," Jaffe says. "Those vendors that can use their financial resources to help channel partners and customers mitigate concerns about credit that might delay IT purchases are in a better position than those that can't."
In addition to declining brand loyalty, the results show the overall strength of small business channel loyalty has slipped as well. The total percentage of firms citing plans to buy PCs from the same channels they used in the past 12 months has decreased considerably since IDC's previous survey. The survey found the channel used most often by both small and medium-sized firms for PC purchases is direct response from the manufacturer, with purchasing from manufacturers online more popular than ordering by phone or mail.
Jaffe says he thinks there is a connection between brand loyalty and channel loyalty, and that's why it's important for notebook vendors to be where customers are buying. "The channel used most often by SMBs for PC purchases is direct response from the manufacturer, and Dell's popularity among SMBs is a key factor in this," he says.
IDC expects continued popularity for the manufacturer direct response channel, especially as the challenging economic climate places greater importance on low prices and custom configurability. "That said, small businesses' use of consumer retail outlets has increased considerably, with nearly 40 percent of small firms having purchased PCs from them in the past 12 months," says Jaffe.