Spicers targets end-users for data

Wholesaler's new B2C website aims to give dealers a combined online presence.


Following the relaunch of its partner programme under the name ‘Brilliant’, UK and Ireland wholesaler Spicers has created a B2C transactional website. Called MemoEtc, its aim is "to secure leads for partners, to convert the end-user into an offline traditional customer". 

The Brilliant Partner programme itself is a reincarnation of Synergy, which Spicers’ Business Development Director Simon Wallis was recruited last year to reshape. There are 170 members, though Wallis is re-evaluating the membership criteria. 

MemoEtc is one of the first developments to come out of the new programme. Spicers’ resellers generally don’t have an open-store online presence, and this aims to help them compete with players such as Amazon, Viking and Staples. “The online market continues to grow, and resellers need to take their rightful share of the market,” said Wallis.

Resellers receive leads from MemoEtc in a two-stage process. Firstly, a customer places an order and is asked a number of questions. Then, if the customer is an individual or from a business with five or fewer employees, Spicers makes the delivery (branded MemoEtc) and the profit is ploughed back into marketing the website. If the customer has more than five employees, he or she is asked to ‘opt-in’ to being contacted by a local dealer, who can then try to win the business. If the customer decides to stick with MemoEtc, the dealer shares the profit with Spicers.

Questions answered 

A very thorough Q&A document that was given to dealers provides answers to many questions that might arise, and Wallis convincingly bats off the reoccurring accusation that Spicers is selling direct.

“This originated from a discussion with some of our resellers about what we could do to address the threat and opportunity of online,” he told OPI

“The concept from the outset has been created with the full involvement of about 20 resellers. 

“The integrity comes back to us being completely clear about our objectives. If SOHO businesses use the site, the income will be directly invested back into it. We’re going to report back transparently to our customers to dispel myths about ulterior motives.”

What Spicers won’t provide, at least for now, is SEO/PPC knowledge and pricing information, although the latter would be a challenge, as delivering a competitively priced product offering will require almost constant monitoring. This does beg the question why Spicers has chosen to help resellers get leads to convert online end-users into “offline, traditional customers” rather than target online customers. However, CEO Alan Ball has an answer. 

“There are a lot of stories of dealers trying to get online and it costs them – one I spoke to had spent £100,000 and it wasn’t delivering,” he told OPI. “This is a no-cost solution for Brilliant Partners, and as dealers develop we’ll happily share our experience with them.”

Wallis added: “Some partners might challenge whether you can convert a customer online to a traditional customer. As part of our consultation process it’s become crystal clear that can be done. Some dealers’ websites that haven’t given a return have delivered leads. We need to scale that up by building it into a nationwide coverage.”

Which dealer gets each lead is detailed in the Q&A document, and is based on postcode analysis by a third party called Blue Sheep. However, dealers are called on to “nurture a cooperative culture within the programme, whereby if the local reseller discovers that the consumer already majors with another Spicers partner then the reseller withdraws”. In a tight economy its debateable whether any reseller would be relaxed enough to do this. 

In terms of other Spicers customers, MemoEtc is obviously a new competitor to Euroffice, as well as to soon-to-be-UK-player Shoplet. Ball explained that Chris Collinson, MD of dealer group Superstat which has a similar model and website TheSupermarketOnline.com, was involved in discussions and that Spicers will remain supportive of his model “as it continues to evolve”. 

The two Spicers execs emphasised that MemoEtc is only part of what they plan to roll out for Brilliant partners. Wallis added: “The point is that our competitors are dominant on the first page of Google. We want to address that and it’s not going to be an overnight success, but it’ll give our resellers collectively a presence while continuing to work with other partners.”