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What Are the Pros & Cons of Online vs. Local Printer Consumable Suppliers?

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More options for purchasing your office’s printer consumables have never before existed.

There’s never been a better time to be a buyer of printer consumables such as toner cartridges, ink cartridges, paper, and the like. The internet has placed the world’s supply of goods at your fingertips. Even with this being the case, local business solutions companies maintain a loyal customer base. So, which option is best for your company? Let’s look at each’s pros and cons to help you make an informed decision. 

Local Printer Suppliers Defined

A local printer consumables supplier is usually a business solutions company, a recognizable name in your area—sometimes with a long history predating the age of fast-paced internet sales. For the sake of clarity in this piece, we’re not talking about the franchised cartridge refillers but actual manufacturer-affiliated suppliers.

Local Printer Consumable Supply Pros 

Product Quality Transparency

Many local business solutions companies selling printer consumables can answer questions about their products’ quality at length. Why? To start, many of them are also authorized dealers of the printers for which they sell consumables. This means they are often restricted from selling inferior consumables from questionable sources. This clarity about their product allows them to offer performance guarantees. 

Local Inventory & Service

Simply being within proximity to their customers is where many of these companies stand out. Because most of these companies operate solely within a limited geographic area, they typically keep a robust inventory. This means that, if need be, a customer could usually obtain needed printer supplies on the same day. This proximity also means that any issues in which products caused damage to client machines, or the client received the incorrect parts — all situations can be remedied quickly and easily. Local companies have a great incentive to maintain a positive image within their limited geographic service area. Because word travels fast in these locales, burning bridges is simply not an option. 

Local Printer Consumable Supply Cons

Less Competitive Pricing

While still competitive, local printer product suppliers will likely not be able to offer pricing as competitive as online-only stores. Part of the reason for this is due to the local company’s need to maintain a local inventory, employ local customer service professionals, and the specifications of their products. In the end, when the entire world is your marketplace, as is the case when one shops online, there will always be a company willing to sell any product for less than a local retailer. 

On the other hand, a local supply company may be more open to negotiate pricing—a fairly common practice that allows them to remain competitive with online retailers among local customers. Online retailers are rarely open to price negotiations.

Possibly a Less Diverse Inventory

Most local business solutions companies that supply printer consumables specialize in a specific style or brand of printer. This means that, though they can likely order the necessary items, they may have a more limited inventory than online retailers. This decreased selection mostly stems from needing to maintain a local inventory with the most frequently purchased consumables. If your printer is less common or parts are less common, a local printer supply company may not have the products you need on hand.

Smaller Pool of Online Customer Reviews

Even if you’re buying locally, you’re likely reviewing companies online. A local company’s smaller service area also likely means a smaller customer reviews pool to use when shopping. This pool may also be made smaller compared to online companies due to some customers only doing business with the companies in person or over the phone— creating fewer opportunities to give online reviews. 

Online Printer Suppliers Defined

Online printer retailers are decentralized printer supply operations without brick-and-mortar locations that serve customers nationally or even globally. Most operate via an e-commerce platform such as Amazon or through a self-hosted store site. Their primary value proposition is price, making competition among these online retailers fierce.

Online Printer Consumable Supply Pros

More Competitive Pricing

When price is the primary differentiator between apples-to-apples online printer supply retailers, winning business comes down to who is cheapest. Unlike a local service company whose competition includes other local companies, the competition online is intense. This competition has forced many online suppliers to keep their products priced lower than the next website to remain in business. 


The Convenience Online Shopping & Direct Shipping

The internet has made it easier than ever to shop around for a worthwhile printer supply company. While a local printer supplies company may be able to deliver an order of toner cartridges to your office the same day, an online retailer can often ship it to your office within a few days—a negligible amount of time for many companies. For many, e-commerce investments on the part of online retailers have made them a more convenient option than those outdated local companies that have failed to catch up with online shopping.

Online Comparisons and the Huge Pool of Online Reviews

Due to their ability to serve customers nationally or even globally, an entire industry dedicated to comparing online consumables suppliers has emerged. Using side-by-side comparison tools and price-match options, it’s never been easier to find the highest rated online retailers and the customer reviews to back up said ratings. 

Online Printer Consumable Supply Cons

Questionable Supply Sources

Some prices offered by online printer supply companies may seem too good to be true—because some are. While a product may seem significantly cheaper than the local company’s version of the same product, it may be an apples-to-oranges comparison in terms of quality or product manufacturer. Due to the removed online nature of many of these companies, getting specific information about the products listed may be trickier, making purchasing said products a bit more of a gamble. 

Long Distance Customer Service

Unlike buying printer supplies from a local company, there may be little recourse for repairing damage incurred due to defective product on behalf of online printer supply companies. Even if they agree to resolve matters, product replacements will likely take time, and local resources (maybe even that local company) may be employed to remedy any issues. Let’s say you threaten to post a scathing review about your negative interaction with the company. Because their target consumer base may span the globe, it will likely have little leverage to get matters remedied any more smoothly.

Conclusion

The decision to go with either style of printer supply company essentially comes down to which style you prefer. Do you value having a local point of contact you can get to know on a first-name basis as well as have orders filled and service issues resolved locally? A locally-based business solutions company may be a more attractive choice. If you don’t mind forgoing the human representative in lieu of rock-bottom prices on products with little-to-no customer service follow-up, using an e-commerce store may work just fine. The choice is ultimately up to which style of business solutions provider you wish to utilize. 

Happy printer consumables shopping!

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