November 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

Office Supplies

Putting service behind office products.

Lead Photo

When it comes to choosing e-retailers for the Hot 100 list, merchants that quickly get noticed are often those selling things like hip apparel designs or cool gadgets. By comparison, sites selling office supplies are recognized more for how their sites serve the particular needs of their shoppers, typically time-pressed business office managers and work-from-home professionals., for instance, learns about its registered customers to make recommendations that save them time and help them find all they need. If a doctor's office buys an HP Laser Jet printer and has 10 employees, for example, Quill can calculate about when—based on printer, industry and staff size—the office will need ink. It can then recommend ink cartridges when registered buyers from the office shop online as their ink is about to go dry. On shoppers can view special sections on emergency preparedness that provide advice on how to plan for, and respond to, events like earthquakes, with links to such products as hazard alarm devices.

A world view also comes in handy., for instance, plays up live chat for customers in the Netherlands, where the retailer says live chat is more popular than in other countries such as France.

Of course, there are also some shoppers who focus on aesthetics. That's why offers a "design a desk" function that lets a shopper assign her favorite color to products to see how they look on a desktop.

The office supplies market isn't strictly for business managers and employees. It's also for schools, for which presents products by grade level.

The common thread among these retailers is that they understand their customers' needs.

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