Some office supplies such as printer paper and ink are purchased regularly. Consumers are increasingly finding online shops for office supplies for this purpose. However, office supplies also include ergonomic office chairs and laptop stands. Especially with the current culture of working from home, these are also items that are no longer only purchased by companies, but also by consumers.
This article discusses the challenges that an online store in this industry can face. Practical tips are also offered on how to deal with this in the most effective way. It focuses on a specific element that is particularly relevant to this industry, and presents an idea to improve its sustainability impact. In addition, some practical examples are given for illustration.
Online stores that sell office supplies face specific challenges when it comes to converting visitors due to the wide range of products they offer and the segments within the target group.
- Commodity: Office supplies are often viewed as a so-called 'commodity' product, meaning that customers are more likely to make purchasing decisions based on price rather than brand loyalty or other factors. Therefore, online stores must find ways to differentiate themselves from competitors and provide value-added services or products to differentiate themselves.
- Specifications: Another challenge is the need for clear and detailed product descriptions, as many office supplies have technical specifications and applications that customers may not fully understand. Online stores must provide comprehensive and easy-to-understand information to help customers make informed purchasing decisions.
- B2B and B2C: Some office supplies online stores focus primarily on business customers, or B2B, while others focus on individual consumers (B2C). These two groups may have different needs and priorities when it comes to purchasing office supplies, which can make it challenging to create an office supplies online store that effectively targets both segments. Showing prices including or excluding VAT in the shopping cart can also be an additional challenge.
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The suggestions below are aimed at web shops that offer office supplies and can contribute to improving conversion. However, it is important to realize that not all tips are suitable for every webshop, because webshops can differ greatly from each other, for example in digital maturity, budgets and staff. The competitive landscape also differs per webshop. It is therefore recommended to first validate these suggestions before implementing them on the webshop. This is best done through A/B testing. If this is not possible, user research can be a good alternative.
- Have product bundles: Consider bundling related products, such as black and color ink for the same printer or multiple laptop stands of the same type, and offering them at a discounted price. This can make it easier for customers to buy everything they need in one place.
- Highlight sustainable products: Many companies are interested in reducing their impact on the environment, so highlight the sustainability of products on your website. This can help attract environmentally conscious customers and improve their brand reputation. Research shows that 24% of consumers see the "inability to easily find sustainable products" as a barrier to purchasing them.
- Offer trial: Office supplies can be a significant investment, especially for businesses. Therefore, consider making it possible for products to be tried out. In some cases this can be done through a showroom, but if this is not an option, an appropriate shipping/return policy can also provide a solution. In this way, potential customers experience less risk of making a major bad purchase, which will probably increase the chance of a conversion.
- Ship quickly and reliably: Office supplies are often needed urgently, so provide fast and reliable shipping options to meet your customers' needs. Consider offering 'express' shipping options for customers who need their products extra quickly.
Office supplies are sold to both companies and private individuals. Business buyers are used to seeing prices excluding VAT, while private individuals are used to prices including VAT. As a webshop, you therefore have to come up with a way to show visitors the method they prefer. For example, there are websites that immediately display a pop-up when you visit the website asking whether you are purchasing as a company or as a private individual. Another alternative that is regularly presented is to show a slider (often somewhere in the header of the website) that allows visitors to switch between inclusive and exclusive VAT.
Recycling in all kinds of forms plays an important role in office supplies. There are now manufacturers such as Leitz who indicate that they are convinced that the best way to reduce the impact on the environment is to supply high-quality products with a long lifespan. They also now supply certain product lines based on recycled materials and strive to limit packaging where possible and use materials responsibly. Supplier OfficeCenter has developed its own label Easy on the Planet. To receive the 'Easy on the Planet' label, a product must meet various requirements. For example, the supplier must agree to our code of conduct and certain certificates must be checked, such as FSC certification for printing paper. Other manufacturers such as Staples work with a 'Free tech take back' program and offer the option to recycle ink and toner.
- Staples: This party keeps track of which products customers regularly purchase in one order. By offering those products as bundles directly on the product pages, you save visitors a step. This has the advantage for them that they can complete their order faster and for the company this may result in a higher average order value.
- Raja: This is an example of how sustainable products can be marked. For example, it is stated here that the product is 'made from renewable raw materials' and is also 'recyclable'. Visitors who are looking for sustainable options for themselves or their company can easily determine which products are available.
- OfficeCenter: This webshop makes it possible to directly view the current delivery times. This way, you as a customer have more clarity about when the ordered office supplies will be available to you.
- MultiRatio: For items such as desks and chairs, it can be difficult to determine online whether they will be suitable. This party therefore offers the opportunity to try these products in their extensive showroom. Although this option is obviously not possible for every webshop, it can help to convince customers (presumably large companies in particular).