After much preening, testing and bated breathing, Hewlett-Packard has launched @ hp online, its latest initiative in the battle for the hearts and minds of the IT-savvy buyer.
Customers will be able to buy PCs, printers, palmtops and consumables from @ hp online with, in most cases, next-day delivery. And according to Rebekah O'Flaherty, HP's commercial channel marketing manager, while the online Web-based sales is the sexy part of the program, it's only half the story.
O'Flaherty claimed that the @ hp online program is designed to match "some" of its customers with the best-fitting HP-authorised reseller. She said that the telesales part of the program will continue to be a funnelling process, which will direct those sales leads to a suitable channel partner or convert it to an immediate sale.
And it's those direct sales that are attracting the concern of HP's existing channel. But O'Flaherty is adamant that this is business that will otherwise go elsewhere than to an HP reseller. The program of both Web and phone-based selling is clearly HP's response to the Dell model, and O'Flaherty claimed it is a response to customer demand. "Twenty per cent of callers to our call centre last year were ready and willing to buy," she said.
"Over the last six months, we've been tracking the leads we've supplied to the channel from the 'one three' calls generated from our advertising and applied closed loop marketing principles to the life of those leads," O'Flaherty said. "And where some value-add has been required, our channel partners have done very well. We are building profiles of our resellers to identify the types of leads best suited to them."
Cautious to avoid the direct-selling tag and obviously sensitive to the suggestion that the program compromises its existing channel, O'Flaherty predicts the online sales will represent only 2 per cent of HP's computer-related sales.
At the official launch last week, O'Flaherty said Australians were being increasingly drawn to the Internet, with two million households expected to be connected by early next year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and further indicating that almost half a million Australians made online purchases in the past 12 months.
The fulfilment of @ hp online sales will initially be exclusively through its biggest reseller, Leading Solutions, although to the customer, the Web site and telesales operation will have a completely HP-only appearance.
In terms of predicting @ hp online's success, O'Flaherty was rather coy but admitted she would consider sales of $20 million in the first year to be something to celebrate, while almost as important as revenues will be measuring customer satisfaction. The satisfaction ratings will include turnaround and post-sales support, she added.
The @ hp online store is at http://www.buy.hp.com.au