Office Supplies was one of the most affected industries by the pandemic. Until the pandemic hit, everything was going well, but suddenly for them, everything changed overnight. People started working from home, and industries shifted their working style to match the remote working environment. Michael Scott did not have it easy being the Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin, is all I’m saying.
However, research states that the dip in office supplies sales, although aggravated by the pandemic, is not recent.
The industry started to decline as early as 2005, and the rate of decline climbed to 6% by 2020 – IBISWorld
A few challenges still exist in the sector that needs to be addressed as a priority.
- Unforeseen Demand Spike & Dip – A serious challenge in the office supplies industry is inconsistency in demand. There may be some months when the products perform very well, while others will be down.
- Complementary Products – Most office supplies products are consumables and interdependent. For example, print paper sales depend on printer ink, binders, folders, pins, etc. If paper sales are affected, the demand for complementary products will also fall down.
- Cost-effective Tech Alternatives – The pandemic catapulted digital transformation, and people turned to digital alternatives for everything ranging from invoices to proof of delivery documents. Cost-effective SaaS products penetrated the market and proved to be a one-time investment for lifetime value. This also affected the overall sales of office supplies.
Richard “Rick” Morgan has been a salesman all his life. Not an ordinary salesman, but an office supplies salesman. A true blue Texan, Rick had been doing office supplies sales from the early 80s when there was a boom in demand for office supplies until today. The current set of problems that he is facing is different. He needs to improve the sales of office supplies, including but not limited to printers, printer ink, furniture, including office chairs. And he is forced to do it at a time when the pandemic has reimagined working practice for the entire world.
Diving Deeper into the World of Sales Insights
Rick needs to have end-to-end visibility into how the sales have happened over the past few years to develop a counter strategy to improve office supplies sales. For that, he turns to Kea, where he can access insights instantaneously.
Scenario – 1: Rick wanted to understand which product has the lowest sales in and around Houston. He asks the question to Kea and gets the answer as Hoover Replacement Belt for Vaccum cleaners. Trying to analyze deeper, he understands that it was because of the last two years that regular cleaning in and around office spaces has not happened. Thus, the replacement belt sales have gone down.
Counter Strategy: Rick knows that many small and medium organizations cannot keep employees working from home forever. He also knows that they’re targeting a hybrid working policy which will surely bring back employees. More employees mean more janitors will be working on regular cleaning of the office premises. Thus, the replacement belt sale will surely improve, but to entice these organizations to buy earlier, he comes up with a 30% flat off early bird offer. The move resulted in 70% clearing of existing Hoover replacement belt stock in 3 weeks’ time.
Scenario – 2: Rick wanted to improve the overall office supplies by a target of 20% up from the existing sale volumes. For that, he needed to understand who was his top 5 customers and plan to send them some off-season gifts with a trial packet of the most recent office stationery. It was a practice that was nonexistent before, but times were changing, and Rick wanted to keep on inspiring continued loyalty from these purchase heads.
Counter Strategy: Rick’s policies turned into a big hit as these vendors felt no other office suppliers in the state practiced the off-season gifting policy. This also inspired them to become brand evangelists for Rick’s brand products. This, in turn, surely helped Rick slowly but steadily improve sales by 20%, with half of them repeat customers.
Scenario – 3: Rick understood that office chair sales were not happening in Texas. However, the SaaS boost in California and the newer offices being opened in the World’s financial capital – New York- clearly indicate that the requirements are far greater in those two cities. Thus he wanted to compare the chair sales in those two regions to know where to send his remaining stock.
Counter Strategy: Rick knew that chair sales were better in California. But he also did not want to miss out on the opportunity in NY. So he divided his chair stock in a 60-40 mode, with 60% going to California and the rest going to New York. The sales team there was facing a shortage of office chair stocks, and this move within the country helped them satisfy the immediate demand.
Scenario – 4: Understanding what were the Top 5 products being sold in Texas was important for Rick to plan his sales strategy. Surprisingly, office laser printer machines were selling like hotcakes, dominating the office supplies market in Texas. Deeper research revealed this was because all the bounty firms, small law firms, and other such enterprises heavily depend on laser printers. This was cheap, affordable, and can be reused many times. These sectors were also heavily paper-dependent. Thus they preferred these laser printers instead of buying bulk copier machines.
Counter Strategy: Rick set up specialized stalls in these small community mall setups, near motels and other small law firms, to familiarize them with the laser printers they had. It shot up the laser printer sales by 40%, and Rick also went on to create a parallel buyback market from these small firms so that they’re able to return these products for a fair price. There was a booming seconds market also functioning in Texas, which could benefit from this venture.
Kea – Reimagining Data Analytics
Kea helped Rick simplify information access and made them instantaneous. Previously, Rick used to continuously be on the phone with his secretary to get all this information. This time it was different because the dependency on Rick’s secretary was not there, and associated errors could be curbed easily. This event made Rick believe technology could solve major problems while his secretary turned to more value-added tasks such as setting up meetings, etc.
Would you like to have one such Rick in your office supplies sales team? He depended on data to create effective strategies and improve sales in a timely manner. This was possible because of democratizing data access and removing the barrier created by complex technologies.
Want to know more about Kea? How about you get in touch with us, and we will let you feel the real power of Kea with a small demo?