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Office Depot Canada Closes All Stores, Focuses On Ecommerce Channel

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In early 2011, Office Depot Corporation made the strategic decision to close its Canadian retail stores and take its multichannel operation exclusively to the web.  At the same time the company sought to seamlessly and efficiently migrate from its previous e-Commerce platform to a new system without disrupting customer-facing site functionality.

Since its inception 25 years ago, Office Depot (comprised of Office Depot Canada, U.S. and other divisions worldwide) provides supplies and services to its customers through more than 1,500 retail stores, catalogs and global e-Commerce operations. Office Depot reported annual sales of approximately $11.6 billion in 2010, and employs approximately 40,000 associates around the world. The company currently sells to customers directly or through affiliates in 56 countries.

In April 2011, Office Depot Canada partnered with e-Commerce platform provider ShopVisible to build a new e-Commerce site from an entirely new framework.

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In addition, ShopVisible built web site integration touch points with several different fulfillment and customer service partners, including DHL and Purulator.

“As part of the transition we needed to find an e-Commerce platform provider that can help us re-launch the site in a new format to support a larger assortment of products and give customers a better shopping experience online because we’re focusing all of our effort on the online channel,” said Shannon Wu-Lebron, Director of e-Commerce, Office Depot Canada. “Speed and agility are the two critical factors for us.”

The new officedepot.ca site was launched in June 2011, featuring a larger product assortment, streamlined navigational structure and peer ratings and reviews. The branding and visuals are similar, though not an exact replica as the U.S. site, officedepot.com. The brand messaging, promotional programs and language, however, are consistent with that of officedepot.com. Office Depot Canada was able to extend its product assortment online because the company has additional wholesaler partners, however, the new web site does not feature the Office Depot branded products.

News of the launch was communicated to customers via a combination of mediums including letters, emails and direct communication from sales reps, in some instances. “Because Office Depot had stores in Canada for years, people are familiar with the brand so we really didn’t have to do a lot of marketing and advertising,” Wu-Lebron said. “We do have plans in the works to do that. But for us, the brand itself attracted a lot of customers. With the closing of the stores, people still want to shop with Office Depot Canada, so they migrated online as a result.”

Tapping The Wisdom Of The Crowd
As part of the new site, Office Depot Canada sought to give its online customers the opportunity to share their experiences, shopping via ratings and reviews.

“Comparison shopping engines are good drivers so consumers are lured into franchise,” Wu-Lebron noted. “Product reviews are becoming increasingly important in the customer decision making process. ShopVisible helped us to pull a lot of that information into the site when we launched it.”

Office Depot Canada plans to launch a full social commerce integration from ShopVisible, according to Wu-Lebron, adding that the company is “very interested” in deploying new technologies that can help harness the power of social channels. The eTailer will spend time building up its social fan base prior to the integration.

Additionally, the company conducts its own customer follow-up to glean deeper insight into the shopping experience. “For every order, we do a post-transaction call out to the customer with a survey to see how their overall experience was, and we’re consistently getting 4 to 5 ratings on a scale of 1 to 5,” Wu-Lebron said. “Customers are very pleased with the experience and really appreciate the simplicity of the web site, and the ease of navigation.” 

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