This article originally featured in July’s issue of Dealer Support
What is your role within Office Power?
I’m Richard, the Chief Operating Officer for Office Power and the EO-Group. I’ve been with the business since the conception of Office Power and I oversee ongoing operations, customer service, marketing, CX and our product strategy across the group.
In broad terms, how do you believe Office Power enhances dealers’ businesses?
Office Power gives office supplies dealers more confidence and more control of their business through a blend of bespoke technology and a dedicated support team. This powerful combination gives dealers more time and more profit, helping them grow their business prosperously.
With our bespoke and easy-to-use technology dealers can run their entire business from a single platform, monitoring activities in real-time and gaining customer-centric insight to optimise sales. Their branded website strengthens relationships with their customers online.
With a dedicated support team by the dealers’ side and the scale of one of the largest resellers in Europe, Office Power helps dealers find and focus on opportunities and efficiencies that give them confidence to grow and thrive in today’s competitive market.
I’m delighted to say that our dealers outperform the market. With an average gross margin of 40.3%, 14% net growth rate, 13% average net profit increase and a 93% customer satisfaction score they can be confident about their future.
How do you ensure what you supply to dealers is exactly what they need?
We have used over 17 years of experience at Office Power to design the technology that is bespoke and customised to support specifically a dealer type of business model. Our technology is different to others in the marketplace because it is our own, we have built everything from scratch and we continuously evolve.
Office Power has changed a huge amount since its conception. We release new features every single week. In the last year for example we have launched brand new fully responsive websites for all of our dealer partners and introduced new CRM and marketing tools. We have also built some very clever dynamic pricing functionality so that our dealers can offer multi-layered segmented pricing strategies to all their customers, whilst protecting their margins and benchmarking their pricing against industry averages.
All of this development comes from working in partnership with our dealers and coming up with new ideas of how we can improve our technology to help them run their businesses more efficiently and meet their changing business needs.
The theme of this issue of Dealer Support is confidence and clarity – how do you think these things manifest themselves for Office Power?
At the point of joining Office Power, dealers are often having challenges scaling their business as they are having to deal with a lot of operational work, rather than focus on selling, building relationships with their customers, working on strategic plans and growing. When you are in this amount of detail, it can become difficult to see the bigger picture clearly. This is where Office Power comes in. Our system automates a lot of that operational work so that dealers can focus on building and growing their business, and therefore have more confidence and clarity on what the future holds for them. We’re enabling our dealer partners to focus on what they’re good at, while we’re focused on what we’re good at.
What do you believe dealers need to change about the way they operate in order to survive and thrive in 2018?
In order to thrive in 2018 dealers should have a strong multichannel strategy in order to compete online. A fully SEO and mobile optimised e-commerce solution is a must. There is no longer such a thing as a single channel purchasing journey. Customers might have a preferred channel but they no longer interact exclusively through that channel and are often influenced or have researched their purchasing options across channels before buying. In order to compete in the office supplies market, dealers must be able to start a dialogue or transaction on one media and continue it across others, ensuring they have a strong brand presence across all channels.
It is vital to have a low fixed cost model as margins and revenue come under further pressure. Dealers should also focus on strengthening relationships with their customers. After all, that is what differentiates dealers from pure online players. With increasing pressure on pricing, strong relationships will help dealers retain those customers.
Partnering with a third party like Office Power will protect dealers from cash flow and credit issues, removing the risk of bad debt, futureproofing their website, strengthening their multi-channel brand presence and giving them more time for building and strengthening relationships with their customers.
More generally, how do you view the future of the office products industry? What trajectory do you expect it to follow?
The office products industry is continuously changing. Customer expectations change, the online channel is growing with customers expecting everything to be delivered to them there and then. There is more price instability with cost price inflation, sell price deflation, more price visibility for customers online with some businesses racing to the bottom as they compete on price.
Wholesalers are changing too. With wholesalers providing support and added value, whilst sometimes competing with dealers, offering similar services to their end customers. Of course, Amazon Business can’t go without a mention.
Dealer groups are having to change as they struggle to prove their true value. M&A activity is re-shaping the industry, whether out of necessity or ambition. Dealers move into new product categories and offer new services, which means they need flexible technology solutions that will support their changing needs and enable them to integrate with new suppliers and sell new products. Technology has a significant influence on how dealers operate.
Ultimately, I think dealers who are flexible, knowledgeable, scalable, focused and efficient will thrive in the office products industry in the future, no matter how much it changes.
Finally, how do you view the future of Office Power?
We are very excited about the future as we continue to grow and continue to develop and evolve our technology platform. We are partnering with more and more dealers and are thrilled to be helping them gain more confidence and control of their businesses.