In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
The wholesaler merges product data and images with reseller brand assets to advance sales.
United Stationers Inc., a wholesaler of office supplies, office furniture and workplace janitorial products, provides retailers with the marketing collateral that helps them sell.
The wholesaler, with $4.8 billion in sales last year, sells more than 60,000 office products to about 30,000 retailers—from mom-and-pop shops to major multichannel retailers, says Mark Evans, United Stationer’s director of creative content management and publishing. Each retailer has its own marketing requirements and proficiencies, with some requiring minimal assistance from the wholesaler to others that want loads of marketing support in the form of integrated multichannel campaigns that might include e-mail blasts, print catalogs and promotional direct mailers.
United Stationers can create marketing campaigns that support customer retention, new customer acquisition and sales growth around the products it supplies to merchants on the retailers’ behalf. This means the wholesaler has to manage the product information and associated rich media assets, like product photos and videos, for all of its products. It also means it has to manage the brand assets of its resellers, such as their logos, messaging themes and local selling information so it can create marketing collateral that appears custom-made and targeted to retailers’ customers. It also can distribute the marketing campaigns on retailers’ behalf, such as via an e-mail blast to customers.
“If we get 500 resellers saying they want support, I want to create a situation where all those e-mails contain the product information, logos and brand messaging to look like their own,” Evans says. “Some will want to focus on price, while another will want to focus on value or service. We have to think about these selling propositions and create and manage different creative.”
All the data sources—and the sheer quantity of the data—meant United Stationers needed a flexible way to manage its information. It began using a marketing asset management program from Enterworks Inc. about three years ago when it realized its existing management system wasn’t sophisticated enough to manage all the data formats and procedures it required to serve retailers’ needs. Evans says one problem with the prior system was that it didn’t allow United Stationers to easily manipulate product data to conform to promotional schedules. For example, if the marketing team needed to schedule an e-mail blast to go out tomorrow to promote an office chair, it would need current pricing and availability data. If another marketer was working on a print flyer scheduled to mail in a month’s time, it had to feature the right price a month from now. A print catalog scheduled to mail three months from now would need the right information for that time. “You’d think this capability should be basic in most systems, but it’s not,” Evans says.
Evans says Enterworks has the functionality United Stationers requires to schedule such programs and also integrates with campaign management and customer relationship management software programs. It also has a built-in integration with Adobe Systems Inc.’s Creative Suite programs, the publishing software United Stationers uses to build digital and print collateral. The wholesaler can also export data from Enterworks to ExactTarget, the e-mail distribution vendor it uses to send promotional e-mails on behalf of its resellers. The Enterworks program also manages workflow tasks for the roughly 80 in-house marketers and operational staff United Stationers employs to create the programs.
“When you consider these systems, you have to ask: Is the data model flexible? Does it have the ability to integrate with other things we need?” Evans says. He says he was impressed with the core system Enterworks offered and how the vendor has added functionality to customize it to United Stationers’ needs. “It has the ability to do what I call, real, robust digital asset management,” Evans says.