There is no doubt, the digital age has transformed the way businesses interact with their customers forever. Online purchasing is now an expectation, and no business can afford to ignore it. The recent loss of retail giants Toys R Us and Maplin have shaken the consumer retail industry, and are living proof that even the biggest brand names need to keep abreast of changing times in order to survive.
This expectation however, isn’t exclusive to consumer buying behaviours; buyers now expect similar e-commerce experiences when ordering business supplies as when making consumer purchases. Online ordering is rapidly becoming the norm in the B2B sector, a recent survey of 1,500 B2B buyers revealed that 67% place orders for workplace products online.* In comparison, use of a traditional catalogue dropped to just 11% in 2016.*
Equally, this digital revolution has also had an impact on demand for office supplies. As modern businesses have evolved, so too has their demand for paper related products reduced, forcing the Office Supplies Industry into a decline.
Competition in the Industry is also hotting up, with well-established international brands entering the Office Supplies market place, hungry to gain market share, and posing a real threat to the independent dealer. The Office Supplies Industry is going to be forced to change, and Dealers will need to think creatively and ensure they play to their strengths in order to survive in this turbulent marketplace.
In this new world, a dealer’s ability to closely manage relationships with its customers gives a unique competitive edge. The service-driven approach to procurement of office supplies is a unique selling point and offers huge added-value to the end user. The business models of these new larger competitors position all interaction online in order to reduce operating costs and drive down pricing, thus removing customer relationships. Independent dealers need to highlight their relationship management offering and consultative approach to the procurement process as the value add. Face to face account management, telephone customer services and specialists with industry product knowledge are something Dealer world will need to champion in order to set themselves apart from the competition.
Additionally, Independent Dealers are able to offer end users unique, flexible delivery options, with next day delivery and employed, reliable, uniformed drivers who can deliver direct to the end user’s specific requests. This flexible, bespoke approach gives Dealers a unique positioning, in contrast to the competition, whose volume driven, third party, fixed delivery methods simply cannot offer the same level of service.
Expansion into new product sectors allows Independent Dealers to broaden their offering and expand into a larger marketplace, increasing business opportunities. Additionally, stock holding of customers own branded stock allows us to offer a true consolidated approach to procurement of workplace solutions, and provision of additional services such as bespoke workwear, bespoke marketing and print, secure document destructions services and MPS options helps set us apart from the competition.
All of this support, from relationships to flexibility and consolidation fosters loyalty with our customers and allows us to retain a strong position in this changing marketplace. Indeed, 54% of clients working with independent dealers would stay loyal to their dealer even if better pricing was found elsewhere.* So the competition may be able to challenge us on price, but the value add is where our USP lies.
Spicers can help equip you to deal with these new market conditions and retain your competitive edge. By helping you grow into new product sectors we can assist with expanding your business offering, a robust sales and marketing plan helps you develop and enhance your customer relationships long term, and by removing soft costs from within the supply chain we can help your business become more efficient. For more information about how our Partnership programmes can help prepare you for this changing market, please contact your Spicers Account Director.
*From a study by US wholesaler Essendant.