You may be surprised to learn that the overall market for ink and toner in the United States is around $25 billion dollars and that over 80% of this spend is on OEM brand products such as Hewlett Packard, Brother, Samsung, etc. You may also be surprised to learn that 80% of the overall spend takes place through companies such as Office Depot and Staples.
Ink and toner is only a part of what businesses need to run their offices and the overall market is much bigger when paper, general office supplies, breakroom and janitorial products are all added in. Then, of top all of these items are the printers, copiers, multi-function devices, and office furniture, etc. The list is almost endless!
When we looked at the offering from the major resellers we could see the choice for their customers is restricted to what they offer. We realized there are many high-quality, alternative options available at lower prices than those often made available through the major retailers such as Office Depot and Staples. So, we started to investigate how we could craft our value proposition to allow our customers to select from a much wider selection of options.
We connected to a platform, into which is aggregated data from the leading office products manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors. We pay a subscription for the services provided by the Platform provider that enables us to present a vast catalog of products fully integrated with this website.
The data feed we subscribe to contains more than 100,000 office products and supplies items, which we can select from according to our requirements. We’re provided setup options for selecting vendors by brand and by product according to its characteristics, and then utilizing automation for processing customer orders.
The Manufacturers and Distributors
Data feeds are electronically transmitted to the platform by each of the manufacturers and distributors. The data includes product images, specifications, characteristics, short and long descriptions etc. For every vendor we have an account with, and have made a decision to do business with, then our costs flow straight through the system into our admin portal. We also have visibility with regards to how much inventory is available and where it’s located.
Think for a moment of how much time and effort (and therefore cost) would be incurred for us to independently manage such a vast catalog of products! We would have to have a small army maintaining the catalog and that cost would have to be built into our sell prices.
Massive amounts of data are flowing into and out of the Platform every minute of every day. However, data without intelligence is of little use to anyone.
This is where the Providers perform a vital value-add role by connecting a variety of additional services to complement the platform services, including website development, educational and content services, software apps for remote device management and auto-fulfillment functions, along with various tools for price list management and customer proposal applications.
Business and end-user customers are able to access products via our web portal that’s directly connected to the Platform. We manage our customers prices by way of standard price lists and custom pricing as and when necessary.
Because we have real-time visibility to the inventory in each of the Distribution Centers connected to the platform we no longer have to carry inventory of the products we offer for sale. Not only does this save us inventory carrying costs and risk of obsolescence (reducing our cost) it also means we have access to a far wider product selection.
This, in turn, enhances the value proposition and our customer experience in a manner that simply cannot be obtained from outside the platform.
The Platform Benefits
Once consumers, manufacturers and providers are connected via the Platform, then the value and the data exchange starts to take place.
The value exchange occurs when customers use a portal (like this website) to fulfill a product requirement usually based on a proposal made by a reseller like us.
Data feedback occurs with every transaction and (for example) as consumer product reviews are obtained and utilized for providing intelligence to customers for further refining their product selection criteria.
This use of Platform technology facilitates the transformation of a traditional buying process replacing the formerly common practice of resellers stocking products obtained from a primary vendor. This “old-school” practice forced resellers to sell customers what they had in stock, which may not have represented the best overall value proposition to its customer had a wider selection of products been available for consideration.
Our Value Proposition
In joining this ecosystem we've extracted cost from our business model and we've gained access to almost every brand and product style that's consumed in the office. So, unlike the big-box superstores such as Office Depot and Staples, we're able to offer our customers a much wider choice of products and access to potentially significant savings.