Selling office supplies online can be a great way to boost your business and increase revenues. Once you’ve set up your website and found a manufacturer or wholesaler willing to work with you, you can begin building up your inventory and start selling. However, like any other business, selling office supplies online has both advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of selling online
The expansion of eCommerce is transforming the consumer experience around the world and becoming increasingly integral. This is especially true with office supplies, as business owners find it a better option, both financially and logistically.
Further, the trend of online shopping and the shift in demand towards the home office have accelerated the office supplies sales cycle. According to projections, the global office supplies market will increase in size to over 270 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
So, if you are considering selling office supplies online, here are some advantages of doing so:
1. Low financial cost
Generally, eCommerce businesses cost a lot less to start and run compared to a physical store. If you were to start your physical retail store, you’d likely have to commit a larger amount of funds for renting out and renovating a location, managing the staff, and purchasing the products you hope to sell.
When you create an online store, there’s no need to commit such a large upfront investment. Instead, you can use off-the-shelf eCommerce platforms to set up your store with custom designs at affordable costs. Of course, you’ll incur monthly fees for your subscription, but this will likely be very cheap compared to what it would cost to upkeep a physical location.
In addition, if you’re using the dropshipping model, you’ll never need to worry about storing inventory or shipping. As the products you sell will be shipped directly from your supplier’s warehouse to your customer’s door.
2. Round-the-clock potential income
Unlike physical retail stores, eCommerce stores are always open. This means that you have the potential to generate income 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Think about it – when you sell office supplies online, your customers can shop whenever they want. The choice is in their hands. Your marketing campaigns will be running all day. As a result, they could make a purchase either at 4:00 PM or at 4:00 AM.
Now compare this to physical stores, which are typically open from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. ECommerce entrepreneurs have unlimited time to generate sales advantages.
3. Sell internationally
From the very first day that you launch your eCommerce store, whether you want to sell internationally or domestically, the choice is yours.
One of the many benefits of selling online is you can streamline the shipping process through the dropshipping model and sell anywhere in the world without having to worry about inventory levels or warehouse stock. You only need to manage your product catalog and the relationships with your suppliers. It’s a great way to ensure that your customers receive products as quickly as possible.
4. Increase sales with targeted marketing
Online stores have a huge advantage over brick-and-mortar stores because they can target their marketing messages to specific audiences. The data gleaned from your customers’ shopping behavior can be used to determine who your best customers are and how much they’re spending. This data can help you create new strategies to further engage your customers, including:
- Providing personalized shopping experiences with suggestions based on previous purchases.
- Using social media to connect with customers through tailored content strategy.
- Sending well-timed emails — such as newsletters and special offers — that are tailored to each customer’s interests.
5. You can expand your range of products offered
Most people who sell office supplies online often have an established customer base who come back to them year after year. They usually buy the same types of products and rarely venture outside these products
When you set up an eCommerce store to sell office supplies online, it will give you the chance to expand your product range, as customers buying products from your store will always have an option to buy other products because of the extensive range of products you can offer online.
6. Remarketing possibilities
When you create an office supplies store, remarketing your products is a great way to turn missed opportunities into potential customers. According to a study, remarketing not only reduces cart abandonment by 6.5% but also increases online sales by 20%.
You can target people who abandon their carts. Just send them an email and let them know that the product is still available.
In a physical store, however, this strategy isn’t possible. It would be the equivalent of running after a customer and shouting at them. You cannot expect many customers to turn around and come back in.
7. Scaling your business is quick
Every entrepreneur wants their business to be successful. And when that happens, you want to double down on it. It will eventually become necessary for you to scale up your operations to meet customer demand or you’ll miss out on sales opportunities.
Now, when you’re running a retail store, a lot goes into scaling your business. You’ll need a larger store, more storage space, more products from your suppliers, and more sales staff. It can end up being a lengthy process. And during that time, your business’ growth might stagnate on the flip side.
When you’re running a dropshipping store, your main concern when scaling your business will be making sure that your marketing budget is sufficient and that your ads are optimized all in all. This makes eCommerce a lot easier, which is why selling online generates more profit.
Cons of Selling Online
While there are many advantages to running an eCommerce business, there are also many hurdles that must be overcome before your business is up and running successfully.
1. If your site can’t load, you can’t sell
This is perhaps the worst part about running an eCommerce business. If your site is down, you can’t make any sales. And not only will you miss out on sales during the time that your store was down, but you’ll also damage the reputation of your brand. That’s after you’ve worked so hard to attract potential customers who might never return to make that purchase. So, it’s clear that you’ll need a stable platform to host your store.
If you use a reliable hosting platform, you can rest assured that your store won’t be going down anytime soon, their service will stay up and running – even during peak shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
2. eCommerce is highly competitive
The digital revolution has redefined the retail industry. Niches are much more competitive than physical retail stores. After all, you’re not just competing with stores in the vicinity, you’re competing with all the other online stores in the world. So, you’ll have to ensure that your store stands out. And there are plenty of ways that you can make your store unique:
- You can offer hard-to-find high-quality products.
- Launch engaging marketing campaigns
- You can build relationships with customers with fun social media posts.
- Host virtual meetings and live sessions
- Incorporate influencer marketing strategies to boost your brand.
3. Shipping challenges
When a customer purchases at a physical store, they can take the product home right away and start using it. But when shopping online, a customer might not receive the product quickly, and that could put them off from making a purchase next time. You must be transparent about your shipping times with your customers and let them know when they can expect their packages. That way, they’ll be much more accomodating.
If the shipping process takes a little longer, a great way to counteract this disadvantage would be to offer free shipping with all purchases. If you don’t charge your customers for shipping, they’ll be much more likely to finalize the purchase even if your shipping takes a couple of days.
And the best part — this tactic doesn’t cost anything.
Instead, you can simply incorporate the shipping fees into the price of your products. This way your customers will love your service while you maintain the margins that you need to make a profit.
4. Getting started can be costly
The cost of setting up an eCommerce site can be expensive if you want to build a custom site. You’re either going to need a good web designer or you’ll need to invest in website design software that allows you to customize your web store.
You’ll also then have to host your website with a reliable service provider. If you don’t have experience with web design, the DIY route might be difficult and time-consuming.
5. Security and privacy concerns
Some customers will be hesitant to buy office supplies online because they are concerned about security issues. They may worry that their credit card number will be stolen by an unscrupulous website owner who sells counterfeit products.
To put customers at ease, your website should use an SSL protocol that encrypts the data that passes between your customers’ computers and your web server. This helps to ensure that sensitive information remains confidential.
You may also want to require your customers to register before they can purchase from your site. This way you can track how much each customer has purchased over a while, check their purchase history, and so on. This will help you to detect any suspicious activity in your account, such as someone making multiple purchases for a large number of office supplies at once.
6. Confusing checkout and payment processes
17% of US online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past quarter solely due to the lengthy/complicated checkout process.
The whole point of selling online is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to buy your products. If you can’t afford a custom shopping cart design, use one of the free templates provided by your eCommerce software.
Even if you don’t have many products, keep in mind that some people will shop on the largest screen they have available — their desktop or laptop computer — while others will do all their buying from a smartphone or tablet. Make sure your site works well on every platform.
7. Less Control Over Orders
When customers visit your office supplies store in person, they can see and feel the products before making a purchase decision. However, when you sell online, customers make their purchases based on what is described on the website.
A customer may order an item expecting it to look different than it does in reality or be a different size than what was listed on your website. You may have to handle returns and refunds for these items as well.
Takeaway – weigh the pros and cons before deciding to start selling online
As we all know, selling office supplies online has many advantages over selling in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. It allows you to connect with customers from all over the world and create a reputation that is known by a wider audience than those who can come to your store regularly.
Online retail also has many drawbacks, including issues with fraud and payment security. But regardless, online retail will likely be the future of business, so it’s important to explore both sides of the coin and get started while you figure out if it’s right for you.