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Know Your Customers: Tips for Optimizing Your Product Assortment

Creating the right product assortment can be tricky for office supply retailers. Here are some tips for knowing which papers your customers need most.

As a retailer, you know that having the right product assortment is essential. But is it possible to have too many choices for your customers?

Unless you’re an expert in the industry, choosing the right paper can feel a lot like choosing an ice cream flavor at the local soda shop. Faced with three dozen flavors and an endless variety of toppings, customers might just end up choosing plain old vanilla.

With different brands, colors, weights, finishes and environmental standards available, the large product assortments seen in many stores can be overwhelming to customers. They count on their office supply retailer or paper supplier to sort through the options and provide what they need, when they need it.

So how do you create an ideal paper product assortment?

Communication Matters

Good communication will help you determine which products your customers need. Asking the right questions can help you figure out the types of paper-based projects your customers have, what industries they work in and whether they’re printing in-house or outsourcing.

Here are four tips for getting the answers to these and other questions.

  1. Talk — Face-to-face communication is a tried-and-true way to find out what your customers want, to build relationships and to gain greater customer loyalty. Talk to your customers while they’re shopping or when they’re checking out. You’ll learn important information about their paper needs, and they’ll learn that you care about offering the right product assortment.

  2. Conduct a Customer Survey — Free survey tools like Survey Monkey and Google Forms make it easy to conduct customer satisfaction surveys. Just be sure to keep them short.

  3. Take to Social Media — If your store has a good following on Facebook or Twitter, you could use these outlets to conduct a poll or ask for feedback. Offering an incentive may encourage your followers to participate.

  4. Study the Data — In addition to new data from surveys and in-store conversations, take a look at your past inventory records, customer data and sales information to see what you can learn about what types of paper sell, what types don’t and who’s buying what. You may already have the information you need to start fine-tuning your product assortment.

Optimizing Your Product Assortment

Knowing how many types of paper to carry can be tricky — you want to offer enough variety to meet the needs of your customers, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with too many choices. Optimizing your product assortment means eliminating products that aren’t selling and adding new items to fill any gaps in your coverage.

“Ask yourself if you are missing a product that could help you better serve a certain audience,” says Meredith Collins, brand marketing manager. “It’s important to make sure your offering covers the range of needs and uses for all your customers.”

A good product assortment will serve business customers as well as hobbyists, teachers, students and other customers who value a wide range of colors, stocks and applications.

It’s also important to remember that the way people use paper is changing. Multipurpose paper will always be popular for copiers and printers, but thanks to advances in technology and improvements in digital printers, inkjet printers and design software, many companies are doing more printing jobs in-house. These customers are looking for premium and specialty paper as well as different paper sizes, such as the 12-inch-by-18-inch size used by many digital printers.

Contact us if you have questions about what your product assortment should look like. We can help you identify which Domtar papers are right for your business.

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