December 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

More than just supply houses, they’re here to help

The office supplies e-retailers selected for the Hot 100 this year deliver more than staples and toner.

The office supplies e-retailers selected for the Hot 100 this year deliver more than staples and toner. They aim to deliver relationships that compel customers to look to them as suppliers of information and advice.

For some, this means providing all the ancillary how-to information consumers may want to get the most out of their purchases. features instructions on how to use its products to make brochures and name badges. uses fun animation on its home page to demonstrate how its product transfers paper receipts into digital data. It features tips on how to get organized that appeal to its organization-minded customer base.

Supplying these reams of extra information also doesn’t overwhelm the e-commerce staff because they don’t create all of it themselves. The sites embrace consumer-generated content both for the value it brings as a resource for others to learn from and for how it helps strengthen the brand relationship. At, the retailer of teaching tools hosts a blog that prompts discussions about how to be better teachers—and its teacher user community takes it from there. The company says it values the conversations the customers have with the company and with other customers and believes these conversations help build the brand’s reputation.

At, consumers can upload instructions and advice on how to complete projects using the retailer’s products. A project library includes articles, step-by-step instructions and downloadable templates for dozens of projects organized by theme. At, a user community named the Neat Fleet fields questions and supplies answers related to their expertise areas, such as sustainability, wealth management and organization.

This supplemental information takes several forms, including articles and videos hosted on-site. It also gets communicated through company blogs and social media pages. All the selected sites use Facebook to respond to customers, but questions are often answered by the retailer’s consumers first. In other words, these highly engaged customers and retailers supply customers with a dozen ideas on how to use that pallet of paper they just ordered before they realize they even have a question.


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