Office supplies are used by millions of people every day, regardless of whether they work in an office or not. The most common office supplies are notepads, pens, and calendars, all of which are essential items in anyone’s life.
One of the great things about office supplies is that they’re always in demand, which means there’s a lot of scope in starting an office supplies business. You can provide businesses with a seamless shopping experience. Using eCommerce software it is possible to create a comprehensive online store that can match the quality of the biggest retailers.
No doubt, office supplies is a profitable niche. But some factors impact this business too. Who is your target market? How big is it? Are you focussing on recyclable or reused materials? And a bunch of other factors that contribute to the branding and marketing strategies of an office supplies business.
All of these questions shed light on what is required to start an online business. And depending on the answers, your eCommerce journey gets a direction. Your job is to ensure that the answers stick to industry-specific standards.
For example, if you plan to start an online office supplies business, you need specific answers that can help you succeed. This blog helps you find those answers. As a first step, let’s learn what an online office supplies store is?
What is an Office Supplies Store?
A place to sell office supplies. Simple! Sometimes, these stores are also called “stationery stores”. But the range of products that they offer is not limited to items like pens, pencils, paper, markers only.
In these stores, the product catalog includes printers, cartridges, office furniture, etc. In the last few years, there is a major shift from brick-and-mortar stores to eCommerce.
Pandemic has also contributed to the growth of eCommerce in a big way. With people working and studying from home they need office supplies at home. Every COVID wave forces people to stay home and they prefer ordering items online.
Moving on with the information about online office supplies stores.
Types of Office Supplies You Can Sell Online
If you sell office supplies, you can generally keep two types of items on hand:
1. One-time purchases such as furniture that may need replacement later on
2. Items that need frequent replenishment, such as ink cartridges
For example, a client that buys a dozen printers will also need to buy ink cartridges continuously, and later, as the company grows, it may order more printers. So, to sustain your client’s business, you need to sell both printers (one-time purchase) as well as ink cartridges (Frequently bought items).
The point is to understand your customers here. In addition to permanent equipment, they expect you to sell refills as well. This is how you build an ROI-driven system where customers come back to your store after their initial purchases. As a result, you create an actively engaged customer base that will stick around with you for a long time.
Here’s a quick list of all the equipment you can serve as an office supplies business:
- Various writing implements (pencils, highlighters, etc.)
- Electronics and computers
- Notepads, sticky notes, and notebooks
- Report covers and 3-ring binders
- A dry-erase board, markers, and erasers
- Laser pointers
- Scheduling and planning tools (calendars, planners, etc.).
- Office blotters
- Dividers, folders, and labels
- Paper clips, rubber bands, glue, tape, etc.
- Paper cutters and scissors
- The stapler and staples
- A variety of paper (loose-leaf, copy paper, printer paper, etc.)
- Ink cartridges for printers
- USB flash drives, DVDs, etc.
- Envelopes, bubble wrap, etc. for mailing supplies
- Bulldog clamps, pushpins, and thumbtacks
- Workplace furniture
3 Things To Keep in Mind Before Starting Your Office Supply Store
How to build an online store? Many aspects go into creating a sustainable eCommerce business. It takes a keen understanding of your competition and market to be successful. Otherwise, you waste time and money.
So, to help you set the right direction, we have rounded up a list of the three most important things you need to know before starting an online office supply store:
eCommerce Platform – The Right Choice
Simply put, if you don’t have an eCommerce platform, it’s impossible to compete in the market.
So, which eCommerce platform should you go for? The one that shows up on the top of Google search results? No, choosing a B2B eCommerce platform is not as straightforward as it may seem.
The best eCommerce platform is one that delivers your goals and objectives, not the popular one.
These goals can be simple, like increasing revenue, lowering customer acquisition costs, rebranding, creating a market presence, etc. Or they could be complex, like catalog management, third-party integrations, eProcurement, etc. The right eCommerce platform takes away all your worries.
The eCommerce platform with online store builder is an easy and quick start to sell office supplies online.
Plus, you don’t need any coding knowledge. For new small businesses, it is an easy way to get their foot in the door and gain market experience.
So if you want to open an eCommerce store and sell office supplies, go for a platform that provides ready templates, responsive design, inbuilt marketing features, smooth third-party integrations, and white-labeling solutions too.
An office supplies store handles a huge catalog by the number of products and their variations involved. An eCommerce platform that allows you to integrate distributor catalogs and provides catalog management services is a boon for those who are planning to start their online office supplies store.
WorksLeader provides all of this and much more to office supplies sellers.
How big is your eCommerce business’s market?
What are the socio-economic, geographic, and internal characteristics of your ideal customers?
If you can’t come up with the perfect answer to these questions, don’t worry. You’re not alone!
A successful go-to-market strategy starts with eCommerce market research, yet so many businesses fail to do it and end up paying for it later. The reason is businesses don’t devote much time to market research. Because research takes time, they skip ahead.
But it’s the research that sets you apart from the competition. It helps you find that sweet spot you were looking for in your business idea. Market research involves a three-step process:
i) Industry Analysis
Are you aware of any trends in businesses that sell office supplies online? Are companies keen on the traditional setup or planning a shift to eCommerce? What are the ongoing and recurring costs for starting an online office supplies business?
Industry analysis involves these questions. It helps you learn about the ins and outs of your industry. You can identify which internal and external forces are driving your company’s growth and profitability. As a result, you make informed market and business decisions.
ii) Customer Behavior Research
You have a solid understanding of your industry’s size, trends, and prospects. What’s next? Customer research.
It’s time to do some digging on the socioeconomic, geographic, and internal makeup of your ideal customers. You can use surveys, customer reports, and social media insights to build customer profiles of people more likely to buy your product.
Customer research allows you to understand what customers want. You get to know your customers as individuals – what they like, where they spend time, what motivates them, how much they earn, etc. Your brand must grow along with your customers. With time, their preferences will change and that’s where customer research will help you adapt. The more you work with customers, the improved your marketing decisions will be in the future.
iii) Research Your Competitors
Having no competition sounds satisfying as a business owner, right? CEO and startup founder Chris Meyers breaks it down very well.
“The absence of competition in any given market segment is a clear and straightforward path to success.”
Entrepreneurs who don’t have competition should be wary. Rather than being a strength, a lack of competition in your market can be indicative of serious weakness.”
The current eCommerce climate is such that it’s impossible to exist without competitors. There are now more than 25 million eCommerce businesses operating, with more being created every day. Researching your competitors, therefore, becomes an essential part of building any type of eCommerce store.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Who is the clear dominant player in the space?
- How many competitors are there in your market?
- Do they have any weaknesses? What are they?
- What’s their biggest strength?
Once you get a solid understanding of these four questions above, you can put the knowledge into effect:
a) You can create a list of ideas that would serve your clients better than the competition. Here you can think of how you can improve the customer experience on your eCommerce website.
b) You can study the gaps in your competitor’s businesses. Analyzing those gaps, you can work on expanding the benefits of your service to compel the customers to switch preferences and use your products.
That’s market research at its best!
Creating a Branding Strategy
If I was told to write about that “One” thing any business needs to know before starting an eCommerce business, it would be branding.
Today’s consumerist culture counts branding as a primary objective for any business. Because business today is more than a buyer-seller relationship. Branding is about weaving stories and creating connections with customers. Customers are the driving force for all businesses. Branding acts like a gel between your company and customers. It creates repeat and happy buyers who love to shop from your store.
As Damien Coughlan, Forbes Council Member rightly puts it.
“It is far cheaper to retain existing customers than find new ones. Over time, your customers will become your best marketing resource.”
With new competitors sprouting every day in the e-commerce business, a customer-friendly branding strategy is a must-have to stand out from the competition. Because branding helps your business compete on quality instead of price.
So, how do you go about building a branding strategy for your online office supplies store? Here are the key steps:
i) Define your Voice
Here you identify what voice will suit your audience. You can use customer behavior insights to discover what communication tactic will prompt customers to take immediate action.
ii) Make It About Benefits, Not Features
66% of customers agree that a transparent branding strategy attracts them to make a buying decision.
Whether you’re a multi-millionaire unicorn or a startup of modest means, as long as you put the customer first instead of yourself, you’ll succeed. This means always try to talk about benefits that your customers will enjoy rather than dry-pitching features about YOU.
iii) Create a Visual Impact
Adding visual elements makes your brand memorable. Since your customers don’t have the luxury of an in-store experience, you need to make the buying process as approachable as possible.
This is only possible by integrating visual assets in your branding. These include website design, font, typography, logo, ad designs as well as packaging and delivery experience. When all these elements work together in harmony, it becomes easy for a brand to stay top-of-mind with your customers.
Building An eCommerce Store — A Healthy Challenge
There you have it.
You may wonder whether there is anything else to consider before starting to sell office supplies online.
Yes, there’s plenty. You need to think about the legal processes, funding, operation logistics, customer management, and many more.
But when it comes to creating an online office supply store or any type of eCommerce store, these three things above come first. You need a solid understanding of the market, a B2B eCommerce platform tailored to meet your goals, and a definitive branding strategy to create a loyal customer base.
eCommerce is bittersweet – exciting but challenging in its way. You’ll learn a lot about finding a product, evaluating its viability, making it, creating an online store, and marketing to new customers. While the process may seem like solving a head-scratcher, the results are rewarding.