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Office Depot Targeting Wide Range of Clients with Business App

Thursday, July 6, 2017  
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Office Depot has told OPI that it sees potential for all sizes of business customers with its recent investment in asset management platform Centriq.


At the end of June, Office Depot announced that it would develop a B2B app based on Centriq’s award-winning home management app after making a minority investment in the California-based start-up.


Currently, Centriq is aimed largely at home-owners and real-estate agents; it is used manage a range of assets and devices such as electronic appliances, machines and household valuables. Features include the management of receipts, warranties, instructional videos and the ordering of replacement parts. Depot’s Chief Digital Officer Kevin Moffitt told OPI that the app currently has around 60,000 users and this number is “growing monthly”.


Quite how Depot will develop the app for B2B customers remains to be seen, but Moffitt said that he expected the B2B version to be ready by the end of the year. More details regarding the business model and how users will get the B2B app will be available at launch, he added.


“The B2B app will support Office Depot’s mission to help our customers […] by helping them make the most of their business investments in technology and professional equipment, and keeping them up-to-date with maintenance and service information,” he explained.


“We’re targeting a broad base of business customers, and we see applications for both large and small businesses,” he added.


Looking at how Centriq is used in the consumer space, it would appear to be better suited to smaller businesses that have fewer resources to devote to asset management and maintenance, although you can see how the app could be adapted into a wider platform for the ordering of supplies. In fact, a Facebook post by Centriq in May indicated that replacement parts could be ordered directly through the app on Amazon; presumably, Office Depot would be able to tweak that feature so that supplies were ordered from its own website instead.


Moffitt said that Depot was not disclosing the financial terms of its investment in Centriq at this time, but the move is reminiscent of Staples’ backing last year in business services provider Managed by Q in that it is investing in digital-based office services and helping fund a tech start-up.


In Depot’s press release last month announcing the Centriq deal, CEO Gerry Smith called the arrangement “the first step in showing that we are moving toward a strategic transformation of our company outside of the traditional retail model”. Again, that sounds a bit like Staples and its move to a predominantly delivery-focused business, although Smith has also said that retail will be very much at the heart of the Office Depot customer experience.


It is also interesting that Smith still sees Depot as a traditional retailer of paper, ink and toner despite all the noises made around omnichannel and the ‘store of the future’ in the past few years. The Centriq investment is a move in the right direction for Depot, but it still appears to be very much in catch-up mode versus direct rival Staples and the likes of Amazon.


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