May 2, 2014, 8:54 AM

Quill.com opens an e-commerce technology shop

Covering the small and mid-sized business market for office supplies, the Staples Inc. subsidiary is opening an online shop today where its customers can also buy technology and services for building an e-commerce site and running digital marketing campaigns.

Lead Photo

Paul Bessinger

No longer satisfied with selling only office supplies, Quill.com, a part of office supplies chain Staples Inc., is entering the business of selling whatever a small or mid-sized business needs to operate an e-commerce site and engage customers through digital marketing. “We want to become a single source that a business needs to operate, and provide more than just widgets off a shelf,” says Paul Bessinger, director of innovation, the Quill executive behind the company’s new e-commerce and e-marketing services strategy.

Quill is launching its new Internet marketing services business line today in a joint venture with Deluxe Corp., a long-time Quill supplier that provides a broad range of e-commerce technology and services, covering such areas as web design and development and online marketing through Internet search, e-mail and social media. Until now, Quill has mostly used Deluxe as a supplier of paper business forms and commercial check printing services.

Quill and Deluxe decline to disclose how they’ll share revenue or any other financial terms of their joint venture. But Bessinger says it enables Quill to quickly enter a new market, while it also brings new clients to Deluxe. Quill and Deluxe introduced the Internet marketing services venture to a limited audience a week ago and already have attracted some existing Quill customers, Bessinger says. He declines to name the customers.

Quill’s entry into e-commerce and e-marketing technology and services comes at a time when Staples and other office supplies companies have been striving to expand into new product lines and markets, as demand for traditional office supplies like paper notebooks and envelopes has dwindled as more businesses and consumers communicate and share electronic information online. In 2013, Staples grew its global web sales just 1% to $10.4 billion, according to data published in the 2014 Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide, which ranks companies on their annual web sales. In the past two years, Quill has increased its number of SKUs tenfold—to 500,000 from 50,000—including new product categories from online retailers Wayfair.com, which sells office furniture and other furnishings, and Poppin.com, which specializes in selling office supplies including desks and file cabinets.

Entering the market for e-commerce and e-marketing technology and services, Quill.com is meeting a demand Quill has been hearing from its customers, says Quill president Sergio Pereira. “Our customers constantly tell us how much time they’re spending on sales and customer acquisition, and our mission is to make it easier for them.” “Being able to get a complete portfolio of marketing services that expand a business’s presence on the web will reduce the time small- and medium-sized businesses spend on marketing and let them get back to running their business.”

Quill has noticed many of its small and mid-sized companies relying on dated forms of marketing to grow their businesses, including direct mail materials and listings in phone books, but with only a light online presence. “We saw two opportunities,” Bessinger says, offering online technology and services to “companies doing little or no e-commerce or companies who have a decent web site but don’t know how to optimize it.”

When customers on Quill.com click into the Internet marketing services section, they can choose among several areas for web design and hosting, search marketing, e-mail marketing and social media. That takes them to a separate site co-branded by Quill and Deluxe that provides details of technology and services offerings, including pricing. Web design and hosting, for example, ranges from $29.95 to $169.95 per month, depending on a site’s number of web pages and whether it includes such things as mobile site design and a Facebook page.

Depending on the project, a Quill client may either deal solely with Deluxe or with a combined team of reps from both Quill and Deluxe, Bessinger says.  He adds that going through Quill.com provides a special mix of price and service levels not otherwise available to Deluxe clients—for example, a free first batch of 300 e-mail marketing messages when signing up for the e-mail marketing service.

Staples is No. 3 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, which ranks companies by their annual web sales.

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