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Resellers have a lot to learn from Netflix, says Chris Cowell, Office Equipment Sales Director at BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions UK.

The way we purchase things has changed radically in the last twenty years – for businesses and consumers alike.

These changes have come about in response to shifts in technology, markets and customer demand. People want to lease, rent or pay monthly because the value of their big purchases tends to deteriorate rapidly and new billing structures offer a more

Chris Cowell, Office Equipment Sales Director at BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions UK.
Chris Cowell, Office Equipment Sales Director at BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions UK.

consistent experience.

Where office equipment is concerned, this payment structure is hardly a new phenomenon; anyone working in this industry is likely to be well ahead of the ‘pay monthly’ curve.

Even so, the tech titans of today can teach printer resellers a thing or two, especially in the following areas.

1 Product choice

There can be a tendency for resellers to treat all customers as if they have the same interests and expectations. The problem is that where offices are concerned, one size rarely fits all.

The same can be said of the average Netflix customer, which is why the Netflix platform accommodates eclectic viewing tastes: action films, period dramas, stand up-comedy and more. Over time, it develops a clear idea of each user’s preferences and is able to make an informed guess as to which film or programme from Netflix’s library they might like to watch next. These recommendations are good. Crucially, they’re also very easy for the customer to act upon.

Printer resellers would do well to adopt a similar approach: provide a wide variety of products; offer them à la carte; and support and guide the customer throughout the buying process. If there is an opportunity to draw up a contract that discounts related items on a pay monthly basis (e.g. toner and paper), you should let the customer know.

If a customer feels that you’re always trying to accommodate their needs and provide the best deals, you’ll have an advantage when they sign up – and when it’s time to renew.

2 Choice products

Music taste is rarely consistent. Even if you’ve always preferred a specific genre, you’re liable to get sick of a particular song or artist. When you buy an album for £10, you get, on average, 10 to 13 songs. After just a few commutes or car journeys, the chances are you’ll be itching for something new – whereupon you can buy another album.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Streaming music services like Spotify and Tidal give you unlimited access to the entire discographies of thousands of artists, popular and obscure, for a nominal monthly fee. For the price of one album, you can get access to millions.

Resellers might not be able to offer the same value ratio, but the basic idea holds. The money a customer has budgeted for new office equipment will get them new kit – but they’ll eventually grow out of it. And when they do, there’s no assurance that they’ll come back to you for an upgrade. If they can lease monitors, PCs, printers, phones and everything else, at a fraction of the original cost and with the promise that they can upgrade the minute new versions of this equipment are released, it’ll be much easier for them to justify the initial outlay and any future renewals.

You’ll forge a relationship, not process a transaction.

3 Both on demand

For better or worse, the shape of a business changes over time – and not always in ways the owner can anticipate. A printer might serve a team of 5-10 employees reasonably well, but buckle under the strain of supporting 25 or more. If a company needs to scale up urgently, but didn’t anticipate the cost of the new item in their budget, it will have to find the money elsewhere – or simply go without.

Equipment leasing providers already offer a viable alternative, but they’d be well advised to seek further inspiration from Netflix and make it even more convenient for customers to bolster their office setup.

If you’re signed up to Netflix’s singlescreen plan, for example, you pay a certain amount per month for a single screen with standard definition viewing. If you’re one person watching it on a tablet or phone that might be all you need. But what if you get into a relationship and want to share your subscription with your new partner? Opt for an upgraded plan and you get one additional screen. Let’s say your relationship goes well, and you rear a growing brood of TV-mad children. In this case, you can pay a little more for a premium plan of four screens and Ultra HD.

The genius of these price plans is that they scale with the customer’s life trajectory. If you can do the same with your customers’ requirements and allow them to upscale at their pleasure, you’ll profit from it.

In fact, this model may well be the most effective, reliable way for printer resellers to turn a profit at all, as customers are increasingly disinclined to pay for items that have built-in obsolescence. You’ll always get a good selection of movies and TV programmes from Netflix; your Spotify subscription will always give you access to a vast archive of old and new music; Adobe CS6 will always give you industry-leading design tools at a manageable price point.

Buying vital equipment outright forces the customer to compromise. The trouble is that customers no longer feel they should have to compromise. For the most part, this is a good thing. When printer resellers and their customers are in it for the long haul, both parties will benefit.

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