How Office Product dealers can diversify and increase sales online during COVID-19

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that businesses need to diversify in order to survive. Stand still at a time when consumer behaviour is changing virtually every day, and you’ll be wiped out. Adapt, and your market share and company value will balloon.

As an office product dealer, being able to navigate these uncharted waters and repivot your business will allow you to increase sales and add new revenue streams to your firm, at a time when your existing clientele will be furloughing staff and limiting their expenditure.

Below, we’ve put together some key strategies to consider in the months ahead…

Open up to consumers

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to reposition your business and open up your brand to consumers. With millions of professionals working from home for the foreseeable future - perhaps even for the next year - you’ll have no trouble in selling your office supplies.

You should, of course, understand the differences between selling to businesses and selling to consumers. Your average B2C customer will only want one of each item - so update your product inventory to remove bulk products and consider updating your product descriptions to appeal to consumers. Share product information in layman’s terms (this desk would fit in a small single bedroom, for example) and think about bundling complementary products to drive sales (you could sell a “work from home pack” with a desk, chair, fan, and stationery).

Your customer service strategy should also change. Ensure agents are monitoring social media channels to respond to enquires (42% of consumers expect a response on social media within 60 minutes) and implement order tracking APIs to reduce emails and calls.

Sell personal protective equipment

With a global shortage of personal proactive equipment and hygiene supplies like sanitizers, it’s unlikely that your suppliers will be honouring new orders, but if you do get hold of PPE supplies, make sure they’re prominently displayed on your site and limit the number of products allowed per order to ensure essentials can be distributed amongst your customers.

As a gesture of goodwill, you could donate one mask or hand gel to a charity or hospital for every product sold. According to KANTAR’s COVID-19 Barometer, 47% of global consumers expect companies to support hospitals during the crisis, and doing your bit whilst delivering supplies to consumers and businesses will work in your favour and support your community.

Focus on furniture

44% of consumers would take a 10% pay cut in order to work from home forever, and Twitter has already introduced a remote working policy, allowing staff to work from home indefinitely. What does that mean for your office supplies business? Whilst the majority of white-collar workers will return to offices in the next few months, the truth is that the business world will be permanently changed by the COVID-19 fallout, and many businesses will look different.

Some companies are cancelling their office leases in favour of remote working, and that will have a lasting impact on the way you do business, reducing your demand and product sales.

Now is the ideal opportunity to position your business as an authority in office furniture and allow consumers to kit out their garages, spare bedrooms and home offices with high-end desks, chairs and other furniture. They’ll not only buy from you now (and bill their bosses) but, provided you deliver a good service, they’ll come back when they upgrade their setup.

Upsell your IT products

Although the vast majority of us have a PC or laptop at home, many professionals don’t have the kit they need to do their jobs properly from home, which was made all the more evident by the overnight rush to home working once lockdown restrictions began on 23 March 2020.

If you’re not already selling IT products like laptops, USB drives, cameras, and hard drives, now is the time to hook into leading IT distributors so that you can resell their merchandise.

Not only is it the perfect addition to your office supplies, but you can enjoy a generous markup of around 10-15% depending on product category, according to data from Inetstart.

Of course, you should note that IT products carry additional risks and responsibilities - you’ll need to be well-versed in technology to deliver effective customer service, or outsource this - and you’ll need to update your returns policy to ensure consumers understand their rights.

Sell on third-party marketplaces

Finally, consider expanding your B2B ecommerce business to third-party marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon. Though you may have been avoiding such sites because of their fees, Amazon’s global sales increased 21% in the first quarter (when the COVID-19 pandemic really began). Consumers prefer to shop from trusted brands when buying products online.

Our B2B ecommerce platform includes multichannel integration, allowing you to expand your reach and list your entire product portfolio on third-party websites, adapt your pricing to accommodate fees, manage your stock and orders centrally, and increase your overall visibility. Gemsuite also includes rich data from leading IT and Office Product Distributors.

Changing your business at the drop of a hat isn’t easy, but it’s necessary in these unusual times. With no end date in sight, finding new ways to shift stock and maintain cash flow will allow your business to thrive - or at least stay above water - in the months ahead. Good luck