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office supplies 101

office supplies

Remember the dream of the paperless office? It never quite happened, but there's no doubt digital technology has reduced the need for certain office supplies. Yet the category is still growing. Read on to see how your e-commerce business can take advantage.

why supplies lack demand

Offices in developed nations are using less paper and going digital. But nevertheless, business is growing elsewhere. The global office supplies sector is predicted to grow at 2.6% between now and 2023, driven by developing regions, such as Asia-Pacific, as well as technological product innovation in the market as a whole.


Paper products account for nearly 50% of the market. Despite the continuing digitization of processes, the paperless office still seems a way off, as paper is only set to see an estimated 2% drop in sales by 2022 – suggesting the future of the paper industry isn't as bleak as first predicted.


TIP: There's a place for paper, but you may have to look further afield to find it.

50%

of the market

Paper products account for nearly 50% of the market. Despite the continuing digitization of processes, the paperless office still seems a way off, as paper is only set to see an estimated 2% drop in sales by 2022 – suggesting the future of the paper industry isn't as bleak as first predicted.


TIP: There's a place for paper, but you may have to look further afield to find it.

Premium paper's unique appeal

To fill the gap being left by the reduction in paper sales, you need to go upmarket. In our online world, high quality printed products offer an irresistible novelty. Bought for both the workplace and personal use, items such as notepads and pens are no longer marketed as simply tools, but lifestyle and even luxury items, while also serving a nostalgic sentiment surrounding school days.

Premium paper's unique appeal

To fill the gap being left by the reduction in paper sales, you need to go upmarket. In our online world, high quality printed products offer an irresistible novelty. Bought for both the workplace and personal use, items such as notepads and pens are no longer marketed as simply tools, but lifestyle and even luxury items, while also serving a nostalgic sentiment surrounding school days.

Just look at the popularity of bullet journals – the minimalist-yet-visual way to organize your life through a series of coded symbols. Your customers still love paper products.

This enthusiasm is matched by the 82% of British startups that continue to use traditional paper supplies regularly, with only 1% going completely digital.

TIP: The past and the future both have their place in the present – look for trending product searches to refine your offering to customers.

CREATIVE CAMPAIGNS

With certain office supplies becoming less essential, companies must be creative with both their products and campaigns. Australian chain Officeworks uses six social media accounts to engage their audience, amassing a 49,000-strong Instagram following in the process. Typically, they use these channels to showcase their personal and office stationery products as items that fit seamlessly into the life of any fashionable consumer, on the platforms favored by millennials and Gen Z. We recently looked into ways of reaching the growing population of Chinese millennials who, according to studies, are the most active users on social platforms in the world.

By comparison, Office Depot add a touch of comedy to the supplies market by relaunching their famous app-based 'Elf Yourself' campaign every Christmas. Such marketing moves add brand character to a sector that could sometimes be seen as dry and boring.

TIP: You don't have to take yourself too seriously, as long as you treat your product range with respect.

online suppliers
Like most industries, the office supplies sector is migrating online, with 9.7% of stationery purchases coming from e-commerce. A multichannel approach is essential, as online-only businesses have stolen a march on traditional bricks and mortar retailers. Amazon Business, as a subdivision of the global web giant, services more than half of the FTSE 100 for their office supplies, allowing users to browse over 250 million competitively priced items. It has had the same devastating effect on its traditional competition as the main brand had on local bookstores, growing from a US$1bn business to US$10bn in two years.
TIP: Make sure your online presence is felt – and you're set up to sell to whoever needs your product.

A PERSONAL TOUCH

In a bid to differentiate themselves from bigger businesses, some companies are embracing the personalization trend sweeping the industry. Used for office events and the increasingly popular practice of corporate gifts, technological advances have allowed personalization of office stationery and supplies to be brought to the mainstream – so, how can you take advantage of the demand for personalized stationery and products?

Item 1

See it to believe it

Personalized items are a great way to build brand loyalty among employees and customers. A tangible, physical expression of your customers' companies is also a great way for them to gain exposure – and if the quality's high, they'll be used again and again.


TIP: Help your customers put their name out there, and they'll help do the same with yours.

Item 2

Know where to go

The customization area is expected to drive growth in the European market over the next five years, where Germany currently leads with a 26% market share. Meanwhile, a 3.1% annual growth rate (CAGR) is anticipated to 2022 for traditional stationery supplies across the continent, reaffirming faith in the slowly shifting space.


TIP: Make sure you're set up to ship quickly, wherever your customers are.

Item 3

The future of tradition

While digital flexes its muscles, traditional business cards and other stationery can give your customers a professional, trustworthy appearance – elevating the business in the eyes of the consumer.


TIP: Just because it's new, doesn't mean it's better.

In a bid to differentiate themselves from bigger businesses, some companies are embracing the personalization trend sweeping the industry. Used for office events and the increasingly popular practice of corporate gifts, technological advances have allowed personalization of office stationery and supplies to be brought to the mainstream – so, how can you take advantage of the demand for personalized stationery and products?

Pen
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