Chromebooks, PCs Help Drive Growth in the B2B Channel Market

Over the last four years, B2B channel revenue has added $6.5 billion in sales, and Chromebook unit volume increased 125 percent in 2014, NPD found.

npd and B2B channel

Business-to-business (B2B) channel revenue increased for the third consecutive year in the United States, growing almost 5 percent in 2014 to more than $62 billion, according to The NPD Group's Distributor and Reseller Tracking Services.

Personal computers, the highest revenue growth category, brought nearly $11 billion into the B2B market, fueled by strong sales of Chromebooks and build-to-order (BTO) PCs.

Over the last four years, B2B channel revenue has added $6.5 billion in sales, and Chromebook unit volume increased 125 percent in 2014, with nearly half of all sales (42 percent) occurring from June to August—a strong indicator of Chromebooks' strength in the education markets.

"Chromebooks have been strong for the past couple of years," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group, told eWEEK. "It is a combination of factors, but primary ones include very low acquisition price, growing demand and funding in U.S. K-12 institutions for student electronic devices, Google support by offering very low management fees, Chrome's ease of use and ability to be a multiuser platform, student and faculty familiarity with the Chrome browser, and Google tools like Gmail and Google Docs."

In 2014, more than 2.7 million BTO desktops and notebooks were sold through B2B channels, up 28 percent from 2013.

Desktop sales continued impressive gains, growing 6 percent on top of the 9 percent increase from 2013.Windows notebook revenue increased 6 percent as the average selling price (ASP) jumped $34 to $918, but unit sales were only up 2 percent.

In addition, PCs, the largest B2B product category in 2014, grew 14 percent from 2013, while networking hardware saw its second consecutive 6 percent revenue gain as a result of strength in security appliances.

Component sales rose 15 percent on memory and processor sales volume strength, software sales fell by 3 percent, and printer consumables dropped by 4 percent.

Overall, the top five product categories grew 5.3 percent to more than $37 billion in 2014.

"PC sales will have another good year in 2015," Baker said. "Ongoing replacement volumes for upgrades that have been deferred over the past few years, mostly due to economic factors, and then Windows 10 release in late 2015 will provide a more business-friendly OS to drive further new purchases, setting the stage for what will likely be a strong 2016 as well."

The top three brands—HP, Cisco and Lenovo—generated more than $23.5 billion and grew sales dollars by 7 percent, considerably more than the overall market.

Dell and Intel both saw their sales exceed $1 billion for the first time and delivered more than 25 percent revenue growth.

The report noted that seven of the 11 brands that saw sales exceed $1 billion saw positive growth in 2014, and only one, IBM, has a negative four-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for sales through the IT channel.

Baker also noted that revenue growth this year in the B2B channel market is likely to stay pretty similar to the last couple of years, around 5-6 percent.