A new report from market research firm Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert), “Western European Conferencing Services Market
,” shows that the conferencing market in Western Europe earned revenues of $1.12 billion in 2008 and will reach $2.31 billion in 2014.
The report finds that, just like in the United States, companies in Western Europe are slashing their travel budgets
in order to cut costs in light of the current economic recession – as well as more extemporaneous factors such as the recent global outbreak of swine flu
and isolated pockets of civil unrest. As an alternative, many of them are adopting audio, Web and videoconferencing services and systems in order to facilitate live meetings with customers, partners and prospects.
Helping boost adoption of conferencing services in Western Europe is the fact that there has been a flood of new conferencing providers, and this in turn has led to increased competition and a flattening in price. In addition, many conferencing providers are adding new features and capabilities to their products that help companies gain new efficiencies and boost employee productivity.
What’s more, many audio, Web and videoconferencing services are now fully web-based -- meaning they can be easily accessed from any computer with Internet access -- and this “high availability” of services has led to increased uptake as well.
"The more mature markets of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom (GFU), the Nordic countries, and the Benelux region are likely to continue exhibiting strong, overall demand for audio and web conferencing," said Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Iwona Petruczynik, in a release. "The markets in Rest of Western Europe (RWE) and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are poised to claim an expanding share of the overall market in revenue terms, creating growth opportunities for service providers, who are looking at expansion opportunities."
But these opportunities won’t come without challenges – the biggest one being whether providers have the network infrastructure in place in order to roll out and then support new conferencing services. Many providers will be putting network upgrades on hold this year, due to the recession -- but this lack of investment could end up hindering their growth. This, in turn, will put them at a disadvantage compared to their competitors who are able to invest in network upgrades.
Adding to the challenge for providers is the fact that each type of service – audio, Web, and video conferencing – is growing at a different pace in each market, due to the fact that demand for each type of service differs from market to market. That means the adoption rate for each type of service could differ greatly from region to region as well. This will make it difficult for service providers to predict demand for their services in order to choose the appropriate level of investment in network architecture.
"Five distinct 'market-regions' exhibit different characteristics, in terms of patterns of overall size, adoption rates and growth potential," Petruczynik said. "Despite those differences, the market is expanding strongly with growth dictated by the increasing need to connect with a dispersed workforce at a time of rising oil prices and financial turmoil."
Although the cost of conferencing services has come down considerably, and the market is expected to grow overall, the report finds that many companies in Western Europe won’t be adopting new services or in-house systems this year simply due to the fact that they’re trying to hold down costs whatever way possible. As the report points out, “limited operating expenditures (OPEX (News - Alert)) is forcing companies to reduce spending on conferencing services, as maintaining them generally requires expensive professional support.”
The fact that most Web-based conferencing services are now true “global” services is a distinct advantage for companies that do business internationally. With today’s Web-based conferencing services, all a user needs is a conference ID, a computer and a high speed connection in order to carry out live, multi-party sessions with any other user, anywhere else in the world.
For example, a U.S.-based company that does business regularly with companies in Western Europe can subscribe to a Web-based conferencing service that all parties can use in order to facilitate live meetings. Companies that utilize international services can save money while at the same time benefitting from the productivity-enhancing features that conferencing services bring. Once a conferencing service has been selected, employees at each company will become familiar with the feature sets and capabilities of that particular service, and new efficiencies will follow.
The Conference Group is a leading U.S.-based provider of audio, Web and video conferencing services, providing toll-free access to its services from approximately 60 different countries. As the company points out, subscribers in Europe get the same features and capabilities as users in the U.S. – such as free recordings, UBlast for large scale dial-outs, and attendance reports following each conference call.
There is an advantage to U.S. companies that get their overseas partners to adopt to, and utilize, the same conferencing system they are using: The users on both ends become familiar with how to use the various features and capabilities of the system, thus companies can eliminate the need for time-consuming user training each time a new system is used for a conference. What’s more, as users become savvy with the system, new efficiencies can be realized.
There is also a huge advantage for providers that launch international services, in that they are able to win larger market share compared to their competitors that only offer service in North America or in a handful of countries.
As the Frost report points out, “service providers entering the emerging markets in the RWE and CEE regions will need to be able to create an appropriate combination of global service platform and technologies with a sensitive approach to the needs of localization. Investments in in-country sales and support and language capabilities will be critical even as companies need to recognize the realities of potentially very different attitudes to commercial agreements.”
"Regardless of how a market region is developed, service providers should focus on a greater integration of the synchronous conferencing technologies of audio, web and video with asynchronous collaboration of workspaces, wikis, and shared databases," Petruczynik concludes. "Such rich collaboration will allow market participants to defend themselves against declining prices."
The report follows on a previous Frost & Sullivan report, “Central and Eastern European Conferencing Services Market,” showing that the conferencing market in Central and Eastern Europe generated $21.67 million in 2008. The report predicts that the conferencing market in these two regions will skyrocket to $217.84 million in 2014.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan