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The proliferation of app stores and online marketplaces has created a significant challenge for solution providers across the channel. With increased regularity, organizations are now purchasing both software and hardware in a way that bypasses the indirect channel.

Sophos, a provider of endpoint management software, is now providing a way for solution providers to recoup some of that lost opportunity via an expansion of its channel program.

The Sophos Cloud Security Provider program now rewards partners that register a deal that’s transacted via an app store or online marketplace run by a third-party such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). When a purchase is made via those channels, Sophos will correlate that transaction against its deal registration database to make sure partners are compensated, according to Kendra Krause, vice president of Global Channel. “We want to make that process as frictionless as possible,” she said.

Krause said that even though Sophos is a 100 percent channel company, it’s apparent that app stores and online marketplaces have emerged as an alternative form of distribution in the channel.

Sophos has set up two levels of rebates for the program. The Professional level essentially compensates the partner with a 10 percent rebate for being an agent acting on behalf of Sophos. The Expert level provides a 20 percent rebate to those partners that provide additional post-sales support.

Diana Krakora, president of PartnerPath, a consulting firm that specializes in developing channel programs, said the one big remaining challenge is getting customers to alert solution providers that they made a purchase through an online marketplace. “A lot of the time, the customer never tells the partner,” she pointed out.

The partner needs to make sure the relationship with the customer is tight enough that they can participate in a deal registration program in the first place,  Krakora added.

Of course, solution providers can create their own online marketplaces or rely on traditional distributors to provide a backend e-commerce service that a solution provider can brand. But most solution providers do not have the marketing resources of an AWS or a Microsoft to promote their online marketplace.

Because of that issue, more IT vendors are going to have to put more time and effort into finding a way to make their channel partners a more natural extension of online transactions—regardless of where those transactions occur.