Office Depot's big bet on BizBox
The retailer is transitioning from a supplier of office supplies to a supporter of small business digital services with a brash 14-store test designed to serve new business owners.
PALM DESERT, CA. – Office Depot is betting big on business, specifically other people's businesses with the introduction of a new concept: BizBox, which aims to help entrepreneurs start a business by providing the digital tools and services to start from scratch.
Most entrepreneurs start businesses because they have a dream of some sort — to create, to become financially independent, to serve a greater good — but the realities of starting and growing that business can quickly become a quagmire of billing, scheduling and taking care of details, Justin Potts, vice president of digital business development at Office Depot, told attendees at the eTail West conference Wednesday.
And so BizBox was born, a startup venture within Office Depot meant to accelerate its transformation from seller of office supplies to supporter of new businesses.
BizBox is a suite of digital services being made available to new business owners in stores and online. There are currently 14 services in the program, including website design and hosting, marketing and advertising planning, payroll and HR, email marketing and even logo design.
"We didn't approach this as a product," he said. "It's a platform where we can house our own services, or maybe at some point others that you didn't buy from us." The goal is to provide critical solutions to new businesses and grow along with them.
"We want BizBox to be the first place you log in in the morning and the last when you log out at night," he said.
Office Depot purchased CompuCom in October as part of its pivot to a broader business services and technology products platform. As the company's CEO Gerry Smith said at the time: "Acquiring CompuCom is the first step in this new strategic direction. The combination of CompuCom's enterprise IT services with our millions of customers and approximately 1,400 distribution points gives us the credibility and scale to build a sustainable platform and stand apart from the competition."
CompuCom provides managed technology services, IT support services and technology consulting services for businesses large and small. Just the kind of support services a new business needs but might not know where to find.
This is the platform now anchoring BizBox, which launched in Austin in January. The area is home to many technology companies, has a relatively young and progressive population and was the perfect place to introduce a new service business to this target market, which is mainly comprised of millennials, Potts said
BizBox isn't just a service housed inside existing Office Depot stores. It was important to completely transform the retail environment from a product-centric one to a more interactive space. To that end, Potts' team has completely remodeled 14 former Office Depot locations to BizBox stores.
The program was begun under the leadership of Office Depot's new CEO Smith, who joined in March 2017, and whom Potts credits with having the foresight to let the effort scale in a very short period of time.
"We were 120 days from approval to beta launch," Potts said. The process hinged on being able to foster a startup culture within the larger organization. "Transformation is painful and disruptive internally, but you can only have a successful transformation with commitment from leadership inside [the company]. Our new CEO has been the catalyst to bring it to life quickly."
While it's too early to talk results, or share any metrics at all, early responses have Potts effusive about BizBox's potential to help transform the retailer.
Office Depot is charting a new path in the wake of its failed merger with Staples. The retailer is still focused on the business customer but now hopes to become help young entrepreneurs start a new business and be the end-to-end solution provider.
"Retailers are facing tremendous pressure to transform, to pivot," Potts said. "But when you look around, you don't see a lot of transformation." Just iteration.
"We're talking about true transformation," Potts said. It's a sentiment that was echoed Wednesday by Smith, who declared 2018 a year of transition during a conference call with analysts on the same day the company also released a less than stellar financial report that had top line sales falling 15% during the fourth quarter.
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