Opportunities abound



Online shopping and eProcurement are increasingly gaining importance with regard to companies’ sales. So what are the challenges that lie ahead for manufacturers and dealers in the online business?
It’s clear that the internet will continue to rise in importance as a sales channel for stationery and office supplies. I believe the key task now is to offer solutions tailored to specific target groups. This can include opening web stores and using password-protected systems, as well as introducing electronic catalogues for major corporations that use eProcurement solutions.
One of the biggest challenges is to improve web-based ordering systems. The success of these systems depends on the quality of their content. And with many product catalogues, I see significant room for improvement.
Manufacturers must provide better support for their retail partners. And what’s more, initiatives for standardising product-data exchange, such are the OP industry norm in Germany, need to be pursued at international level.
As far as retailers are concerned, there are big opportunities here with regard to online sales. There are still very few online B2C stores for stationery and office supplies. Retailers looking to expand in the B2C space should look at the opportunities available via Amazon.
In the US, Amazon has joined forces with Office Depot, developing and implementing an online shop-in-shop concept. This type of partnership also offers similar opportunities in other countries, such as the Amazon Merchant@Programme in Germany.
In the B2B space, platforms like Mercateo.com are becoming more popular alongside eProcurement systems at major corporations.
Manufacturers and retailers need to be aware of the growing potential of selling online. It will become even more crucial for brands to establish a strong presence on the web and to focus on end users’ needs.
In addition, I suggest that manufacturers deliver value-added via their retailers’ web stores. This will enable them to secure their customer bases and build brand loyalty.
Some German companies are already doing this. Paper specialist Sigel, for example, has established a Christmas-themed shop-in-shop, Christmas World.
Innovative logistics technologies will also become more popular and it will be possible to combine faster delivery with lower inventory levels.
As the internet continues to play an even more important role in the sale of office supplies, make the end users your top priority. They decide when, where and how they buy. You must ensure that your products are available via the systems, platforms and portals they use.