Do you approach the over-stuffed postbox cautiously, nervous about what you might find amongst the catalogues? Do you walk away from the television during commercial breaks, or turn the sound down so you don't have to hear impossibly low prices being bellowed into your lounge room? Do you ever grip the sofa, knuckles white with frustration as an over-paid voice actor announces a retail price below what you are expected to pay to the vendor for the very same product? Or do you find yourself muttering at the audacity of the mass merchants in turning an end-of-life product into loss leaders to attract peripheral sales?
Fear no longer, there is at least one product line where smaller independent retailers can level out the playing field with the mass merchants: printers. While the market is large, lucrative and growing, selling a printer in 2007 will still take a bit of market savvy, and a lot of knowing how your particular channel operation fits into the picture overall. First and foremost, you need to know your own strengths. Do you attract the risk-takers by driving down the price and minimising your service offering? Do you offer your local market a friendly face and a single point of contact for all things computational? Or do you offer end-to-end service and supply to the risk-adverse, who are too busy running their own businesses to let printer malfunctions get in the way?
Levelling the playing field
The challenge is that across the board, customers are better informed than they have ever been. Long gone are the days where the channel was left to explain total cost of ownership equations to a public suspicious of paying too much up front. Thanks to modern communications, most customers have done their research and will have a fairly clear idea about what they want when they walk through your doors or log onto your website. The key then to sealing the deal is not to show them that you understand your business, but to show you are willing to understand theirs. The main attraction of the printer market is that prices are pretty much stable across different channels, enabling smaller resellers and integrators to compete with the larger mass merchants.
"I'm always surprised when I see what's on offer at Harvey Norman and how much is being charged for end-of-life products," channel stalwart and managing director of Complus Computers, Tony Prince, said. "When it comes to printers we never have any problem getting what the customer wants at a competitive price. It's an area where we can definitely compete."
According to Prince, the fiercest competition in the print products sector comes not from larger retailers, but from online resellers, who are most able to cut into their margins in order to seal a sale.
However, even these lost sales can be turned into service opportunities when consumers find they need more support down the line.