The Evolution from Copier Dealer to Technology Partner 

This past year marks another period of many shifts and movements in the office print industry. During the last quarter alone, the industry has been tasked with maneuvering in a partially unstable marketplace due to OEM consolidation and shifts in print volume, among other challenges.

 The recent transformation of the office print industry has been a catalyst that has led dealers to explore a new outlook on who they are, how to evolve, and who to partner with for long-term success. The factors and forces that have transformed the industry have also prompted dealers to reevaluate various aspects of their business. Many are now looking closely at their approach, technology and service offerings, and the methods implemented to meet and exceed their short and long-term goals. A critical element will be how dealers evaluate partnerships, as the time and resources invested in who they work with will ensure an upward trajectory toward success.

The transition to technology partner

It has become apparent that in order for dealers to get ahead of the curve, they must position their organizations as more than “copier dealerships.” The traditional copier, while previously a must-have in any medium-to-large-sized organization, is also being reevaluated. Today’s workforce is now either remote or hybrid and distributed printing continues to grow. Dealers who classify and communicate their business as a copier dealership may narrow the scope of potential opportunities. 

 Customers looking for organizations that can help solve technology office problems may think a copier dealership is unable to provide IT services or other non-copier needs. When it comes to this evolution, it’s important for dealers to let customers know they can help with their office equipment challenges, rather than solely focusing on providing printers or copiers and servicing them every few years or as needed. This mindset and business plan can be the difference between additional revenue opportunities per client as opposed to the occasional printer sale or upgrade and service. 

 Marketing and communicating a shift in focus beyond specialization in copiers is one thing. Having the infrastructure, expertise, and portfolio of offerings to serve that role for clients is an entirely different matter. To successfully evolve, dealers need the right partners in their corner – providing best-in-class technology, expertise, and ongoing support – propelling them forward into new markets, industries, and areas of growth. 

 With the instability in the marketplace, consolidation and mergers, and fluctuations in financial performance, dealers realize just how important it is to plan for the future and choose the right partners. In fact, recent discussions with a sample of dealers from the office print industry have focused on the desired attributes of an OEM partner. The top three centered around stability, profitability and support. 

Stability

The recent mergers, acquisitions, and related changes that have directly affected the office print industry have caused some dealers to reevaluate who they want to work with. Ultimately, the industry has increased concern that some OEM players will not stay in the office technology market long-term or be able to provide the support needed in the near term. Dealers are engaging with and leaning toward OEM partners that have a proven track record with business acumen, long-term market plans and stability despite industry uncertainties, and a diverse portfolio of differentiating technology that includes innovation and R&D, underscoring market commitment.  

Profitability 

To evolve beyond the traditional copier dealership, dealers should focus on expanding into other adjacent markets to get a greater share of wallet with existing customers. One way to accomplish this is by offering a broader set of related technologies. Most dealers in the office print industry already sell and service office equipment and printers to virtually any type of business. The office print industry can be a gateway to many other sales opportunities because print equipment is necessary in any business environment. While most initial client engagements are centered on solving an office print challenge, there’s a great opportunity to increase the share of wallet by providing complementary office equipment technology based on a client’s industry or scope of business. This mindset is the key to the evolution from copier dealer to technology partner. 

 There are a multitude of applications where the very nature of a client’s business or environment presents an opportunity for dealers to engage in conversations regarding complementary office technologies and services. Perhaps what can be viewed as the simplest place to start is with traditional office clients. Most office environments can benefit from the use of display technology, such as projectors, to outfit conference rooms or meeting spaces. With businesses that employ professionals with a heavy travel schedule – such as sales, onsite consultants or realtors – there’s an opportunity to discuss traditional office print solutions that are portable and have a small form factor. In that same vein, clients with satellite locations – such as construction businesses with offices at job sites – could also benefit from portable office print solutions or potentially from large-format professional imaging printing equipment for blueprints or architectural documents. 

 In education environments, some schools or administration offices could benefit from large-format, professional imaging color printers for signage or curriculum posters. Dealers that sell and service printing equipment to healthcare organizations or medical offices could look to engage in discussions with clients in these spaces regarding their label equipment challenges or needs and suggest equipment for color-coded prescription bottles in pharmacies or patient ID wristbands, IV bags, or syringes in hospitals. The opportunities to expand share of wallet with existing clients are not far out of reach. 

Support

Dealership owners wear multiple hats and serve many roles within an organization. Therefore, the ongoing support received from OEM partners in terms of hardware, training, sales, marketing, and general business endeavors can make all the difference. Dealers should be able to trust in their OEM partners to be available when needed, dialogue with and be receptive to feedback, provide high-quality solutions that others do not, and provide extensive training and materials. These should be standard. With the right support from OEMs, dealership owners should be able to focus more of their time and attention on strategizing and thinking about the future and less time on the day-to-day. 

 Industries with a constant ebb and flow, such as the office print industry, must stay nimble, flexible, and open-minded in order to manage the hurdles of the present and be proactive in finding and creating opportunities for growth and profitability in the future. Success in this arena relies on strong relationships and attentive support from OEM partners.

With foundational support from the right OEM partners, dealers should receive the technology and guidance to explore methods of evolving their businesses from traditional copier dealerships to technology partners, increasing revenue and business expansion opportunities. In a time when many dealers are analyzing who they are, how to evolve, and who to partner with for long-term success, the best approach is to focus on the partnerships that have the greatest impact now as well as in the future and provide adjacent avenues to increase profits. 

Elliot Williams is director of product marketing, Business Imaging, Epson America.