Staples’ Emphasis On SMBs, Customer Service the Driving Force Behind Company’s Innovation

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From selling school supplies to printing services and the latest technology, Staples Canada has thrived in its ability to build a strong network of customers that include both consumers and merchants. But the real power of the retailer has come with its ability to help remove operational frictions for small businesses by providing personalized seamless services both online and in-store.

“Small businesses contributed 36.7% to Canada’s GDP – They employ more than 8.2 million Canadians,” said Andrew Go, Chief Digital and Data Officer for Staples Canada, citing 2021 data from Statistics Canada. “We have a customer-centric approach at Staples. Small business owners have a lot to focus on for their own business, so our job is to figure out how can we remove some of that friction.”

One of the ways the company has done that is by using data science to evolve its end-to-end customer mentality, Andrew said. That means creating opportunities to get to know customers through a strong omnichannel strategy where every location is a hybrid destination. By being able to connect a customer’s activity online and in-store, Andrew said Staples can offer highly personalized solutions, suggestions and preferred membership access.

“Just engaging that customer dialogue in that sense goes a long way and helps us unlock more of that data to help us understand and anticipate the services they might need,” he said.

Solutions that go beyond supplies: enhanced customer experiences

Andrew Go, Chief Digital & Data Officer at Staples Canada
Andrew Go, Chief Digital & Data Officer at Staples Canada

Those services tend to go beyond providing highlighters and ballpoint pens.

Staples Preferred members have access to partnership discounts on essential supplies, technology, shipping services, printing, mobility and internet services through a partnership with Bell, and more. Staples also provides free next-day delivery as well as credit solutions. To add even more value, they provide consulting services where customers can be advised on the kinds of tech they will need for their business setup and how to best furnish and design their office.

The company continues to invest in its Staples Studio co-working spaces that enable their business customers who work remotely a quiet space to operate. Some of the Studio locations have podcast recording booths that can be rented out.

Though the initiative was understandably popular during the COVID-19 pandemic,  it continues to be a popular option.

“Staples Studio is even more successful now in terms of how more businesses are leaning into a hybrid model. Plus, the solopreneurs who have expanded their business since then like to have a place where they can bring in new team members,” he said. 

Consumer-centric strategies

He likened the success of their e-commerce site, physical locations and highly engaged account teams to a strong and steady three-legged stool that can support the weight of both consumer and merchant demands.

While businesses are a significant percentage of the business, the company has not lost sight over how important day-to-day customers are, and they are constantly innovating to expand their offering.

In recent months, the company has enhanced its online capabilities to allow teachers to create custom supply lists that their students can easily transport into their checkout. Staples has also recently launched Staples Kids Learn and Play, a curated collection of tools and toys to enhance play-based learning and fuel a love of learning inside and outside of the classroom. And, it’s back to school campaign featured a special promotion around 90s-era pricing.

“It was a very successful campaign in that there is a lot of financial uncertainty in the Canadian marketplace right now,” Andrew  said. “Just recognizing the real challenges that exist – that was a big part of what we set out to do.”

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve other challenges continues to be something the team is exploring. The goal, Andrew said, is to find ways to augment rather than replace the work that employees are already doing.

“Online for consumers, it means using AI to figure out how much you can fit in a 28-litre backpack – what kind of lunch bag, bottle, laptop will fit. How can I use AI to make that process easy and transport it into checkout? How can AI help our agents respond with more information to customers who may be having an issue? Those are the types of augmentations we are exploring,” he said.

PayPal helps build relationships, drive sales

With Staples’ focus on serving both consumers and businesses, it made sense to work with a payments partner that deeply understood the unique needs and challenges of both segments.

The company turned to PayPal, due to their reputation for providing both consumers and businesses a service they can trust.

“PayPal is a name that is respected and known throughout. Being able to provide our customers with a trusted and frictionless solution has been great,” said Andrew.

“Working with companies that understand that delicate balance of the multi stakeholder customer means they understand you're building solutions not with one angle, you're actually building partnerships versus just the one-off transaction,” he continued to say. “It always goes a long way and builds a more meaningful connection for ultimately the end customer.”

Within 48 hours of launching PayPal on the Staples site, Andrew said the company saw six figures in sales through the platform.

“We are always thinking of what’s best for our customers and that includes providing them as much choice and flexibility they need,” he said, noting that customers were asking to pay with PayPal. “Having PayPal provides them with another choice. It’s just another way for them to get what they need as fast as possible.”

These results may not be typical and may vary substantially by business. This content is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision. 

Modern Enterprise

The Modern Enterprise series explores the issues and opportunities shaping today’s most successful companies. Read about innovations that change the competition, new ways of doing business that consumers have come to expect, and hear from industry leaders on their decisions and the lessons they’ve learned. Read more or sign up for the newsletter here. For more on how PayPal can help your company, visit PayPal for Enterprise  

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