Mid-year market update: 52 percent of channel partners see increase in IT spending in 2018

AI and VR / AR sales in North America fall short of expectations

AUSTIN, Texas (July 12, 2018) — Extu, a leader in channel marketing solutions for IT partners and global IT brands, today announces the results of a mid-year survey of 363 North American IT channel partners. 52 percent of channel partners currently see an increase in IT spending on the North American market (including hardware, software, services and cloud) compared to last year. These numbers beat the earlier expectations of SME buyers (998 North American buyers surveyed in December 2017 – February 2018); only 37 percent of buyers expected at that time to increase their spending in 2018. Security and IT automation are showing to be the top sellers just as they were in 2017. Sales for emerging technologies like AI and VR / AR, on the other hand, came in at the bottom of all tracked IT verticals with channel optimism for the next 12 months for both categories not being matched by SME adoption intent.

Channel observations exceed earlier IT buyer expectations for 2018

The June survey showed 52 percent of channel partners seeing an increase in IT sales in the North American market. SME buyers, on the other hand, had been significantly less optimistic when asked about 2018 predictions in December 2017 – February 2018. Only 37 percent of buyers expected an increase in their IT spend and 42 percent expected budgets to remain flat. Channel partners observed that end-of-cycle and end-of-life purchases account for most IT spending.

IT spending in 2018: channel partners’ mid-year observations compared to previous buyer expectations for 2018.

IT Channel Partners: June, 2018 IT (SME) Buyers: Dec 2017 –  Feb2018 Variation
Growth 52% 37% +15%
Unchanged 24% 42% -18%
Decline 17% 10% +7%
Undecided 7% 11% -4%

Technology adoption in 2018

Channel partners were asked in June 2018 what adoption of technologies they observed with their SME customers (measured as a percentage of channel partners that reported that their customers were adopting certain categories of technology). For each category a comparison was made between the channel observations in June 2018 with what SME buyers themselves had predicted for 2018 when they were surveyed in December 2017 – February 2018 (measured as a percentage of buyers who reported at that time either to use or an intention to use a given technology category within the next 12 months). The differences may be seen as an indication of changing priorities among SME buyers at the beginning of the year versus what channel partners are actually seeing transpire.

IT Channel Partners IT (SME) Buyers
Security 61% 67%
IT Automation 63% 46%
SDS / Virtual SAN 36% 24%
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 44% 25%
Internet of Things (IoT) 31% 26%
Platform as a Service (Paas) 32% 20%
Software-defined networking (SDN) 23% 24%
3D printing 15% 16%
PC as a service (PCaaS) 27% 17%
Hyperconvergence 30% 15%
Virtual Reality (VR) / Artificial Reality (AR) 15% 13%
Artificial Intelligence (AI) 12% 12%

In 2017, security and IT automation were the top vertical categories on the North American market. The June observations from channel partners show that both vertical categories continue driving the most sales for the time being. At the bottom of the list are the emerging technology categories of VR / AR and AI.

Despite the still very modest current adoption of VR / AR and AI as observed by channel partners in June 2018 these same channel partners have very high expectations for what VR / AR and AI will deliver in the next 12 months. Channel partners expect VR / AR and AI adoption to make a leap forward, with no less than 67% of channel partners reporting they expect their customers to adopt VR / AR in the next 12 months and 71% to adopt AI. These steep expectations were not borne out in the survey of SME buyers earlier in the year.

Adoption of technology (planning to use, next 12 months)

IT Channel Partners IT (SME) Buyers
Virtual Reality (VR) / Artificial Reality (AR) 67% 9%
Artificial Intelligence (AI) 71% 8%

“Still early in the game for AI and VR / AR”

“It’s important to recognize that it’s still early in the game for AI and VR / AR as a channel sales category,” said Michael Heldebrandt, U.S. Country Manager of Extu. “While they continue to lag behind the rest of the IT market categories, there are promising signs indicating that may soon change. For instance, many major brands are investing more in AI and VR / AR product development, which will make it far easier for channel partners to package and sell to their SME customers. Before they can do that, however, the marketing teams of IT brands will have to work closely with channel partners to educate the overall market and ultimately make a compelling case for investing in such emerging technology.”


Insights for this news release were derived from two surveys. Insights on market trends from a channel partner perspective came from an online survey that Extu conducted in June 2018 of 363 of its channel partners (92% based in the U.S. with the remainder based in Canada). Insights on market trends from a IT buyer perspective were sourced from a survey that Extu conducted from December 2017 through February 2018 of 998 North American IT buyers (88% based in the U.S. with the remainder based in Canada).

About Extu

Extu is a platform-enabled marketing solutions provider unlocking the power of the indirect marketing channel and supercharging a brand’s return on investment. Extu offers channel partners hands-off, sophisticated marketing services fully funded by some of the largest brands across the globe. Through a mix of high-quality digital marketing, innovative content, promotions and insights, Extu helps channel partners acquire new clients and engage their existing customers.

The company was founded in 2008 in Sydney, Australia and has operated in the US since 2015, when it opened offices in Austin, TX. Extu serves more than 2,500 channel partners in North America, reaching 3 million IT buyers each month.