How many office products are around your room, desk or cubicle? If you consider the full spectrum of items that fall under the “OP” umbrella — from cleaning supplies to toner and ink — your count is likely double digits.
That’s just a tiny fraction of the options available to office product (OP) buyers in our highly digital world. OP buyers have virtually every purchase at their fingertips thanks to dealers’ recent prioritization of e-commerce solutions, as well as Amazon’s entry into B2B marketplaces.
But an interest in a wider variety of easily-accessible products is just the tip of the iceberg of what OP dealers must account for today. In addition to vast purchasing desires beyond core categories, the fundamental profile and behaviors of OP buyers now skew younger and toward digital. Dealer consolidation is also a new norm for enterprises, meaning OP buyers are more often purchasing across geographies and with diverse needs in mind.
Finally, OP buyers have greater expectations around price transparency and product information. Seamless digital experiences elsewhere drive these mindsets, and today’s OP buyers desire B2B purchasing improvements that factor in B2C conveniences.
Three trends modern OP dealers cannot ignore
You’re not alone as an OP stakeholder if you struggle to make digital work for your company. You’re also not alone if you’re unsure how to solve that problem. Digitization was a common concern at our most recent OP CoreLab conference — a gathering of top OP customers — and how to address industry changes is top of mind for many decision makers.
Consider these top industry trends and strategies to navigate them:
- Boosted efficiencies across the supply chain
Growth through acquisition creates a greater need for consolidated distribution networks. In particular, inbound freight consolidation (i.e., how products get from suppliers to distribution centers) proves an operational challenge for OP dealers. Consolidated shipment opportunities efficiently move many disparate products in a profitable, time-sensitive manner. OP dealers cannot settle for fulfillment strategies that lack supplier benefits like the ability to trace transfers and boost accountability for on-time deliveries.
2. Focused growth in key markets
Rather than engage many markets all at once, OP dealers have learned it’s better to focus on key audiences. Intentional investments and category expansions give you the best chance to earn business and loyalty in your target vertical markets. Vertical markets such as government, education, enterprise business, healthcare and more offer dealers unique avenues to capture market share from competitors and larger retailers, but they demand focused effort and resources.
3. Enhanced, deep supplier relationships
Today’s OP buyers have very high expectations for their digital experiences, as well as for the relationships they can build with suppliers. In the B2C world, new channels such as social media and technologies like mobile help brands develop personal, always-on connections with consumers. To match this standard, OP dealers must invest in data-driven opportunities and analytic capabilities. Learning more about customers makes it easier to upgrade offerings and empower stronger supplier-buyer relationships.
Whether you already feel these industry trends or see them as hurdles on the horizon, now is the time to embrace e-commerce solutions. Contact your Essendant Account Manager or an Essendant representative to strategize how your company can adapt to the needs of modern OP buyers and thrive digitally.
By Harry Dochelli, President of Office and Facilities, Essendant