Can Staples Begin to Compete in the Online Arena?

8404056992_b8e8507526_nStaples recently acquired Runa, a 2009 e-commerce personalization start-up, to compete on a new level in the online marketplace. Runa designed the PerfectOffer service to provide automated, data-driven customized offers, by capturing and analyzing the website activity of every visitor. Runa is also responsible for PerfectShipping technology which offers real-time personalized delivery estimates and free-shipping options.

Will Staples be able to turn their financial investment into a significant sales increase? Nizar Kasaballi, a senior business development director, shared his thoughts about eCommerce and its future.  “E-commerce had become the next revolution , yet the market did not cater to proper syndicated logistics. That made the operation an extremely expensive business model as long as there was the absence of purchase penetration.”

“China now manages two in every ten consumer items purchased online and delivers to consumer doorsteps without the premium,” continues Kasabelli.  “That is thanks to a reasonable labor cost, and fuel inflation that is below the world average. With the hefty fuel taxation in Europe- raising above 300 percent in some countries- it appears as if the U.S. will see a mass economic turnaround in the next 10 years…if development and government support continue.”

What does that mean for Staples? Is it possible for Runa to propel Staples to the level of a company such as Amazon? Executive director and finance expert Jason Taylor explains, “Runa has the potential to bring Staples back into a competitive space vs. Amazon. With that being said, it’s more about critical mass and infrastructure. Product offerings are exponentially greater with lower pricing on Amazon. Unless Staples can attract sellers or increase its online presence, it’s fighting an uphill battle.”

There is no question that the relationship between Staples and Amazon is in transition. In September, Staples, along with Radio Shack, ended the year-long trial of hosting Amazon lockers on site. The chains had been testing a system in which Amazon customers could order online and then pick up the item at Staples or Radio Shack for no shipping cost. As Staples and other brick-and-mortar stores continue to compete with online retailers, that program has come to an end. Now it appears Staples is working on improving its own online experience.

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