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5 things that will never go back to what they used to be, and what this means if you’re a dealer

As the lockdown continues, we’re learning more every day about what’s going to change in our daily lives, businesses and economy. We’re also discovering more about how behaviours are likely to change when we come through this.

It’s still not clear what will happen nationwide, but when it comes to our industry, there are a number of areas where we can confidently predict significant, long-term changes.

Here’s 5 things that will never go back to what they used to be, and what this means if you’re an office supplies dealer.

Premises

From work from home Fridays and flexitime to communal working hubs and hotdesking, modern working methods have been disrupting traditional office life for several years now.

But now that Covid-19 has forced so many people to make the switch to work from home, it’s more likely than ever that this will become a permanent fixture of modern working life.

This is primarily for three reasons. The first is clear – employers will be able to save masses on rent costs, utilities bills and more. Second, employees can do a large proportion of their work from home saving hours and significant cost on the daily commute. And finally, even when the lock-down is over, social distancing is going to be here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). Companies will need to adapt their premises to ensure health and safety of their workers like they never have before.

If you’re a dealer, you’ll need to think about how you’ll efficiently service these newly dispersed customer bases especially given the expected increase in range of locations. You will also need to take your own premises into consideration – will they need adapting? Will your staff have a safe workplace to return to? Or do you need those premises at all?

Buying patterns

Industry experts predict that the significant increase in the volume of online orders seen during the pandemic will continue, as for many people this has now become the norm.

With many SMEs now needing to manage their spend across multiple delivery points, the need for good Cost Centre management and configurable order approval has never been more relevant.

This is great news if you have a website fully set up to handle this demand, but if not then it’s a good idea to start thinking now about the functionality, buying experience and interface that these customers will need.

It’s also predicted that people will go back to supporting local shops and businesses after this is all over, so the importance of local brands is also likely to increase.

For example, before Covid-19 shoppers took for granted that they could get anything and everything from supermarkets.

But as we saw in recent weeks, stockpiling led to shortages, and customers turned to other more local shops to get their essentials and support the local community.

So, the crisis has acted as a catalyst for people to shop locally, support their local businesses and economy.

This new way of buying is likely to disperse into industries such as ours too and could present a huge sales opportunity for dealers who can service the demand when it develops.

As customers source their office & home working supplies with this fresh perspective, you’ll need to consider whether you’re sufficiently set up to make the most of this opportunity.

Technology

From being able to contact friends and family, to ordering groceries and staying up to date, technology has never been more important for maintaining the fabric of our everyday lives.

There’s also never been a faster shift in the way we use it, and it’s no surprise that it’s likely to play such an important role in the short-term survival and long-term success of dealer businesses.

Companies will place even more importance on online presence, Search Engine Optimisation, website functionality and usability.

So – if it wasn’t before – e-commerce will almost certainly become the most important aspect of your business.

Customers will expect the gold standard in online buying experience, and anything below this (i.e. RRP or closed website pricing) will fall by the wayside.

You should be in talks with your e-commerce & website providers to ensure your platform has the functionality, intuitive quality and features to compete for this sales opportunity.

The nationwide technological shift is also likely to lead to continued strain on the internet & telecoms infrastructure. With some parts of the country already struggling to maintain connection, there will be more pressure than ever before to improve this.

Along with this, Tech companies will fast be building new features for their customers, to enable the businesses to adapt to the new world.

A problem which has come out of the woodwork across the UK – and worldwide – is an increase in scams, website hacking and online fraud.

When was the last time you thought about how secure your systems are, and whether you have adequate online protection in the face of rising online crime?

Smaller companies who never thought to consider system security before need to rethink the importance of it.

They must ensure they have adequate security themselves, or work with reliable partners who do to protect their customer data, systems & website while still enabling their employees to work remotely.

Ultimately, strong and secure technology will underpin the long-term health and success of all businesses in the long run. It’ll also ensure that if something on this scale were to happen again, you are better prepared and protected.

Demand

We’ve already seen a big shift in demand for key categories like cleaning, janitorial and PPE.

But it’s likely that this short-term boom is going to translate into more permanent demand patterns as the situation evolves.

From what we’ve seen happen in other European countries, it’s very likely that the ease out of lockdown is going to be drawn out, and social distancing will be in place for months to come.

So, items like facemasks, visors, divider screens for shops and public spaces, cleaning products, hand sanitisers and more are likely to be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

As we mentioned above, the likelihood that more people will break out of traditional working spaces and choose to work remotely or from home is going to be high.

So, the products that they need will be different too, and the mix will swing towards laptops, webcams, home working desks, chairs and monitors.

Now is the time to look at your suppliers and product offering and make the steps to ensure you have the resource, relationships and capacity to accommodate this change in demand long-term.

Another interesting point is around deliveries. You should consider whether demand for desktop (or so called white glove) deliveries will even exist in the future where social distancing and safety will become increasingly important. Your customers might want completely the opposite service, so now might be a good time to rethink the way you service your customers.

Employment

Once life begins to return to a ‘new normal’, it’s highly likely that many self-employed people and sole traders will reassess the liabilities of their position.

A lot of people may opt for more secure jobs in the months and years to come, as a way to ensure financial stability in case something like this were to happen again.

With a potential change to the way your customers work, and who they work for, it’s important for you to continually stay on board with any upcoming changes to your customer base and what this might mean for your business.

Staying in touch regularly with your customers, particularly any who are self-employed or are sole traders, is important.

If these customers decide to have a change of career path or join a larger company, there’s no reason you can’t keep their business if your relationship with them is strong and you’re in the loop.

But to ensure this, you will need the tools and functionalities within your CRM system to be able to keep track of them, what’s going on in their lives, keep touchpoints active and stay on their radar.

Get in touch

We hope this article is helpful in providing you with useful information during this uncertain time.

The team at Office Power are experienced and connected both in our channel and in wider business.

If you’d like to talk about your specific challenges or would like help with the analysis for your business, then please do give me a call or drop me an email – we are here to support the dealer channel.

Chris Armstrong
Commercial Director
Email chris.armstong@officepower.net
Mobile 07789 004 158

2 comments

  1. Esther - May 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Chris
    One little question what is: closed website pricing.
    Really intersting article.

    1. Sabrina Evans - May 5, 2020 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Esther – closed website pricing is where no cost is displayed to the customer, often replaced by POA (Price on application).

      As consumers increasingly engage through the office supplies dealers website accurate pricing is becoming essential – especially when trying to win new customers. Interestingly only 25% of dealers websites are priced at a competitive level; 18% are set to RRP; 16% are priced high (and so will discourage an order or discussion with the dealer) and 41% of dealers websites are “Closed”

      Chris

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