Research: Boiling the frog: revisited preview

OP purchasing in the digital age.


There’s an urban myth which says that if a frog is placed in a saucepan of boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will stay in the saucepan, where it will eventually be cooked to death.

What does that have to do with the business supplies sector, you may rightly ask. Metaphorically-speaking, quite a bit. Back in 2012, Martin Wilde Associates (MWA) and OPI conducted research that tested the extent to which this principle applied to the office products industry. It was driven by two main premises:

  • The adoption of new office technology that kicks over traditional local cultures and working practices worldwide.
  • Office workers aged under 35 – ie those at ease with the digital age – behaving very differently to their senior colleagues and their use of traditional OP items is more likely to be minimal.

These two factors, it was feared, could over time heat up the OP industry ‘saucepan’ so much that the ‘frog’ – meaning demand for conventional OP items – will die. The resulting research report – called Boiling the Frog: The OP Industry’s Guide to Younger Office Workers – charted the changing demand within the office products industry.

As MWA Managing Director Martin Wilde says: “Our original Boiling the Frog report was an outstanding success and a landmark research publication for the office products industry worldwide. Many manufacturers and distributors have since told me that their management teams regarded it as vital foundational market intelligence for their strategic planning processes.

“But of course, time marches on and in the six years since that original study the workplace has changed still further. As such, it is time not only to revisit some of the questions we posed in the original study, but to ask additional questions about workers’ needs and expectations in 2018.”

The new OP buyer

With that in mind, MWA and OPI are in the process of launching a new research study, entitled Boiling the Frog – Revisited. This vital research – based on in-depth telephone interviews with 500 office workers (250 in the US and 250 in the UK), the majority of which will be under 35 – will, as Wilde points out, repeat some of the key elements benchmarked by the last study. But it will also look at the kind of working environment that these employees require and their experience of interacting with, and purchasing from, OP suppliers.

Due for publication in December 2018/January 2019, the report will investigate key topics that will have a major impact on the future of the industry, including:

  • Which OP items are regularly being used in the workplace and for working at home?
  • Which products are being used more – or less – than in 2012?
  • To what extent are product branding and product colour important?
  • Do workers prefer to use eco-friendly products if there is no price difference?
  • To what extent are documents printed out? Under what circumstances?
  • Do workers now share a printer? How has sharing a printer affected usage?
  • Are printer cartridges being sourced under an MPS contract?
  • To what extent are documents filed/stored? Under what circumstances?
  • What written communication methods are used formally and informally to contact those outside a worker’s company?
  • What social networking sites are used for work?
  • How important is it that an employer offers healthy snacks, ‘Barista-style’ coffee, sit/stand workstations, perch seating, monitor arms/risers, ergonomic mice/keyboards, wrist rest pads, multiple screens, social spaces/breakout areas, office plants, natural lighting and the latest technology products?
  • Where are hot drinks sourced from at work?
  • What methods do workers use to select products? Are online product reviews important to their buying decision?
  • Do workers have the opportunity to buy products? If so, where from?
  • Is Amazon being used as a source of OP? If so, do employees use their own Amazon Prime account?
  • What aspects of a supplier’s digital content and website most engage staff?
  • How will the use of OP change in the next five years?

Boiling The Frog: Revisited is priced at £2,950 ($3,800), but a discounted price of only £2,500 is applicable for all orders received before 12 October 2018. For more information, visit