It's logical - if a business has a poor-quality website that lacks features necessary to turn a visit into a value-add experience, then there's not much point trying to develop traffic to that site. It's also logical that, if an investment has been made in a world-class website then, unless there's a parallel strategy to develop traffic, the investment will be wasted.
We've previously explained the importance of the need for independent resellers to close the technology gap, the potential role aftermarket replacement cartridges could play in improving their value proposition, the barriers that have historically prevented them from doing so and, most recently, the structure and strategy underlying a website that are necessary to help build trust with researching buyers.
Now we're going to expand on the importance of content as a requirement for developing sustainable traffic and, in parallel, content that's created to establish the foundation for improving awareness of the reseller's value proposition.
A typical mistake made by resellers in the office products and supplies arena with their websites and their online strategy has been to over-focus on the product catalog and to measure success, or more often failure, by their online transactional volume out of that catalog.
The failure here is to understand that only a small percentage of web traffic is ready to buy at any moment in time. If a reseller persists with "go-for-the-kill" strategies exclusively focused on promoting transactions for products in its catalog, then it fails to cater to the much larger volume of traffic that may be looking for something else at that moment in time.
To develop traffic from a relevant audience there are two major components that must be accommodated within a content strategy:
- Educating the audience
- Establishing trust and demonstrating authority
Let's expand on these two components:
1. Firstly, educating a relevant audience specifically with regards to the office products and equipment industry.
We are part of a very large market - $25 billion spent per year in the United States alone on ink and toner. Probably $150-$200 billion spent annually on all the products typically required to operate an office, including office products, furniture, hardware, software, etc. Not much argument ... this is a large market that's undergoing rapid change as workers go mobile and technology changes the way old-school workflows take place.
There should be no shortage of material for resellers to create relevant content about, and then to target that material at researching buyers who know the old way of doing things is no longer likely to be the best way.
The two largest retail players serving this market are Office Depot and Staples. Between them (excluding recent acquisitions), they have around $25 billion in sales with close to 50% of these sales conducted online. This equates to $12 billion in e-commerce so, there should be no argument with regards to whether or not buyers in the office products and equipment space are willing to conduct their business online because they already are. Between Office Depot and Staples, they have a combined volume of 275,000 unique daily visitors to their websites.
How can a smaller sized independent reseller intercept some of this traffic and start to compete more effectively?
2. Establishing trust and developing authority.
It's not difficult for a reseller to analyze successful sites such as Office Depot and Staples, and it's not too difficult to copy their format to try and replicate their success. However, this is usually where it starts to go wrong.
We're continually advocating the importance of content on a resellers website for the purposes of establishing the trust and developing the authority that's necessary to educate researching buyers. However, larger organizations such as Office Depot, Staples, New Egg, Tiger Direct, Amazon, and Walmart typically don't lead with this type of content, instead favoring their products and their special offers on their home page.
Many independent resellers have formatted their websites with a similar architecture to these larger, competing organizations. However, in doing so they have overlooked the requirements for an educational content plan or to have understood attempts to replicate the strategies and tactics of larger organizations won't work for smaller organizations. In failing to implement strategies for developing the trust and authority necessary for educating the target audience, most of the independent reseller's web strategies are badly flawed.
Large organizations with high traffic volumes have many other factors in their favor which allow their strategies to work. We'll expand on these in future articles that focus on the "science" underlying the development of web-traffic. For now, we'll continue with the importance of content as the independent resellers' foundation for its web strategy.
- There's an absence of content about the industry created with a clear purpose of educating buyers about viable alternatives.
- Internally, there's an awareness of aftermarket cartridge alternatives alongside increasing concerns about the declining market size.
- There’s a focus on the challenging market conditions and there’s intense competition between traditional "brick and mortar" office products resellers and the online marketplaces.
- These circumstances combine to drive prices down and damage the long-term viability of the reseller channel.
- That there’s a $20 billion growth opportunity on the ink and toner underpinning a $150 billion industry is largely misunderstood or ignored.
For the most part, resellers haven’t developed the opportunity to participate in this $20 billion growth opportunity because they haven’t deployed strategies designed to earn the trust of researching buyers which are sufficient to encourage them to seriously consider alternatives. Unfortunately, most independent resellers don't have the digital presence to demonstrate they are experts or that their value proposition deserves close consideration.
Content has not been created with a purpose to specifically educate buyers about the industry and alternative options. Content that demonstrates knowledge, builds authority and establishes trustworthy credentials for doing business with the buyers who collectively spend $20 billion every year on high-priced OEM cartridges.
Resellers have collectively failed to earn their way into the $20 billion growth opportunity because they lack the technology platforms and digital presence to do so. Despite the availability of high-quality cartridge alternatives, most resellers have sat back and allowed the OEMs to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the quality of aftermarket cartridge alternatives.
Unfortunately, creating high-quality content that's strategically targeted at buyers who may be researching long before they're ready to make a buying decision, is not easy. In fact, the requirements are typically overwhelming for independent resellers, especially when they're factored alongside all the other challenges associated with developing web traffic.
- Creating worthwhile content takes time.
- Creating content with a strategic purpose takes even more time.
- Investing time for content and establishing a parallel strategy for developing web traffic requires more time.
- For the most part, independent resellers don't have this time available.
Furthermore, and significantly adding to the time-allocation dilemma, most of the skills required for creating, targeting, and publishing content, and then coordinating this material for the purposes of developing web traffic, are outside the capabilities of the typical independent reseller.
This is not an encouraging combination but it helps explain the underlying failure of smaller independent resellers to develop relevant online traffic for the purpose of acquiring new customers and growing their business in a declining market.
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