Get to know a MITX member! This month we're featuring Staples.
1. Tell us what’s new at Staples.
We recently announced that we’ll be opening an E-Commerce Innovation Center in Cambridge this spring. The office will house teams responsible for designing and implementing innovative new e-commerce solutions for the millions of business customers who shop Staples websites and stores. We’re adding IT, product management, usability and creative positions as we continue to invest in the multi-channel customer experience across mobile devices, desktops and stores. We’ve said publicly that we’re looking to triple the size of our e-commerce and IT teams for Staples.com in the next three years. Tasked with that, we knew that opening an office in Cambridge, a hub of innovation, with both world-class universities and technology companies, would attract some of the world’s best e-commerce talent with the goal of rapidly bringing breakthrough new ideas to market in emerging online technologies like mobile commerce and social media.
2. What are some key Staples initiatives that you’d like the MITX community to know about?
We’ve made site optimization and personalization on Staples.com some of our top priorities. Customers have come to expect that their favorite brands will know their likes and dislikes and will serve up relevant content on their e-commerce sites. This fits right into our promise to make things easy for our customers, so we’re excited about the opportunities in the space.
In terms of site optimization, we’re continuously optimizing the product recommendations we make to customers by leveraging web analytics to increasingly make the recommendations more relevant for our customer, allowing us to sell more in the process.
One example of personalization is treating our “best” customers uniquely on Staples.com – providing them with special promotions and tailored site content unique to them as individual consumers. This theory extends to all of our customers. They’ve come to expect an easy shopping experience from us so we’re always looking at ways that we can solve their pain points so they spend more time on the site. An example is our ink & toner finder, letting them easily find out the best ink & toner for their own printer, based on previous purchase history.
You’ll definitely hear more from us on these initiatives moving forward.
3. What makes Staples different than other companies in your marketplace?
We provide a pure multichannel offering. Customers can order products online and pick them up in the store, or check store inventory online before they leave their house. Tablets are the perfect example. People can research tablets online and then go into the store to purchase them, or vice versa.
With our mobile offerings customers can check their account, look at things they’ve previously purchased or search for comparable deals on Staples.com, all while in the store. We also offer Staples.com in-store kiosks so if customers can’t find exactly what they need, they can order it before they walk out of the store.
Overall, our broad product and service selection, fast delivery, convenient locations and strong customer service helps differentiate us from all competitors.
4. What has been Staples greatest accomplishment in the last year?
In the last year we’ve rolled out a new mobile website, smartphone app and tablet website. Staples understands the importance of allowing customers to shop and research where, when and how it’s convenient for them. Whether it be in-store or on-the-go we know that more and more customers are turning to their mobile devices not only to shop but to do research before they buy. With those factors in mind, our mobile offerings make cross- channel shopping easier, allowing customers to get the best of the Staples.com and in-store shopping experience. Customers can now quickly access rich product information and ratings and reviews while in-store, or find the nearest Staples store with the specific product they need by using the store locator and inventory check feature.
In addition, customers are increasingly engaging their favorite brands through social media so our new mobile assets also allows users to share product reviews and become a fan of Staples on Facebook, or follow Staples on Twitter.
We feel like we’re doing things in mobile that really set us apart in the e-tail space and we’re proud of everything we’ve accomplished in the last year.
5. What is the biggest challenge you face in the marketplace today?
We face several challenges in today’s ever changing e-commerce landscape, but two of our biggest challenges come in the mobile space and in growing our e-commerce team to match our desired rate of innovation.
We know that customers are using their mobile phones to do price and product comparisons. It’s a common practice for shoppers to go to a store to check out the latest products but then leave the store and purchase online. That’s why we’re putting such an emphasis on our mobile assets. We offer side by side product comparisons and expansive product info. We want our customers to not only to think of our stores as showrooms for e-commerce, but to think of our mobile site and apps as their destination for research and make it a seamless multi-channel experience. By doing that, and addressing their pain points, we can hopefully increase their brand loyalty.
In terms of people, we’re blessed to be Massachusetts, a state with a strong history of innovative companies and people. However, the e-commerce field is exploding with so MUCH innovation that there’s actually a shortage of top talent. It’s one field that seems to be adding jobs, regardless of the current market conditions. That’s why we’re so excited about our Cambridge office. It gives us a chance to tap into the area’s great talent pool and help to staff our rapidly expanding team with people who want to work on forward thinking projects.
6. Why are you a MITX member?
We believe strongly that our business leaders should be a part of the local business community and MITX does a great job of bringing together some of the brightest people and most innovative companies in the area. We also think it’s a great way to learn what other companies are doing from an e-commerce perspective, while at the same time letting New England’s business leaders know about everything Staples is working on, so we can work together collaboratively to foster innovation. It’s important that we do everything we can to help grow the businesses and careers of the so many talented people in the area and MITX is a great platform to do that.