Monday, June 24, 2013

Staples Thinks Ahead to September--and Beyond

The first official day of summer was Friday, June 21st--the day school let out for the season in my home state.
Screen shot dated June 24, 2013
The very next day, local Staples stores began putting up back-to-school displays. If you visit Staples during July, you can get a jump on the new school season by stocking up on pens, markers, binders, paper, or--hopefully--a new tablet or laptop computer. Staples wants you to think of it first when you think of school supplies.

It's all part of the comprehensive marketing plan set out by Staples. The chain has been slimming down by shuttering low-performing units, chosen on a store-by-store basis. "If we feel like the store’s profitability is good enough and even with risk for the next few years, it’s fine. We renew on a very short-term basis and we’ve been successful in doing so," says the president of the US chain.

Also, Staples is testing multichannel options to accommodate customers' changing buying behavior. Its new omnichannel units are smaller than the typical Staples and feature in-store kiosks (like the unit above) that deliver an "endless aisles shopping experience," meaning every product is available online at the click of a mouse. In 2013, Staples will open 45 such stores, optimized for on-site, online, and mobile shopping. "It’s very clear to us that mobile is the future," observes the head of global e-commerce. In tandem with this multichannel approach, free overnight delivery helps Staples compete with its online rivals and makes shopping more convenient.

Now that Office Max and Office Depot plan to merge, Staples will face stronger competition on the retail level. At the same time, online goods and services are starting to eat into the company's product lines. To be where the social action is, Staples is active on Facebook (726,000 likes), Twitter (255,000 followers), YouTube, and LinkedIn. Of course it has its own iPhone and Android apps, as well.

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