What’s in a name? finds better business

April 20, 2015 02:50 PM

The idea of a name change came to the operators of a year ago, while viewing the name splashed across their new ad at the ballpark of the Milwaukee Brewers. “After we saw the ad on the scoreboard, we thought no one would remember that name,” recalls Joe Schaefer, vice president of sales and marketing.

Changing the name, however, brought worries about losing ties to its reputation, with negative repercussions in lower search engine rankings, confused customers, and lost business.

But when the name became available, the merchant, co-founded by Tim and Jim Horton, CEO and president, took the plunge.

And they soon became pleasantly surprised at how well things turned out, Schaefer says. Repeat traffic, Google rankings, click-through rates and conversion rates all increased.

“Under DiscountOfficeItems, people weren’t sure what we were selling—returned items?” Schaefer says. And many customers simply lost track of the name, he adds. “A lot repeat customers were searching for our name because they couldn’t remember it.”

The merchant also did its homework in bringing about the successful name switch. Its in-house marketing and graphics design professionals worked with marketing firm RKG, also known as Rimm-Kaufmann Group, to update web content for improved search engine optimization.

OfficeSupply, with about 150,000 SKUs ranging from general office supplies to paper shredders and furniture, does about 60% of its business, or about $25 million, in sales to other businesses, schools and government agencies—all of which comprise its business-to-business category. Among the other 40% considered retail sales, many customers are small one- or two-person businesses, Schaefer says.

The merchant’s parent company has also changed its name, to Discount Office Items Inc. from Deal Express Inc. It is No. 400 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, which ranks companies on the annual web sales. It has about 35 employees.

The company uses several strategies to maintain sales growth and provide services to B2B as well as retail customers. In addition to, it also operates an OfficeSupply sub-domain at, a password-protected site for B2B customers who place complex orders through account managers. The account managers place customers’ orders online at

It also offers a mobile-optimized site that it plans to upgrade soon using the technique known as responsive web design, which adjusts the way a web site looks depending on the device the customer is using. That way a single e-commerce site can effectively serve buyers using PCs, tablets and smartphones.

The company’s contact center reps and account managers receive regular product training from manufacturers that frequently visit OfficeSupply to introduce new products. “One of our biggest differentiators is that we test and use products,” Schaefer says. “We’ll tell a customer that they may not need that big shredder,” he adds. “We can help determine what they really need.”

Based near Milwaukee in Columbus, Wis., and with most of its customers located on the East Coast and the West Coast, the company also provides next-day delivery on 90% of its orders without charging expedited shipping fees, Schaefer says.

The company is also growing in other ways. It recently introduced a crafting products category, including products and materials for such activities as sewing, quilting, knitting and scrapbooking—an area that helps to increase sales to customers in the education market as well as other customers.

Last year it introduced a paper catalog to complement its e-commerce site, distributing about 10,000 copies of a 16-page book last year and again this year. About 30% of catalog recipients use it to get ideas before placing orders on, Schaefer says.

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