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Refillable ink a way for the channel to keep the customer

The technology ticks sustainability boxes but, unlike some of direct cartridge offerings, enables the partner to keep the relationship going with the user

Refillable ink offers the print channel an opportunity to bolster their sustainability credentials and ensure they remain part of the equation for customers looking to change their approach to organising replacements of toners and cartridges.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has meant that many printers have sat idle, or have been printing much less volumes than usual, as staff stayed at home. It also revealed the limitations of some print management contracts, with users frustrated at a lack of flexibility.

At the same time, the sustainability debate has taken off and customers are looking for ways to keep an eye on recycling components as well as total running costs of their hardware.

In response to that, some vendors have launched services – HP’s Instant Ink is one that springs to mind – that offer a subscription-based option for users wanting to get help with the collection and replacement of cartridges. Across Europe, there are commitments to reduce waste and use remanufactured cartridges and encourage users to send them back rather than throwing them into landfill.

Not many would argue with that position but for Janis Kemers, vp print and supplies at Tech Data Europe, the channel need to be talking about refillable ink toner tank technology to make sure it keeps the customer, as well as ticking sustainability boxes.

“Refillable ink and toner tank printers, in terms of the environmental impact ,have so much more benefits than the circular economy because you effectively reduce electronic waste because you don’t need to produce the cartridge,” said Kemers. “There are no cartridges, no plastics needed and no chips in them. There are just these eight bottles of ink, so you don’t need to remove any cartridges from the market later on. You can dispose of those ink bottles in general, basic plastic waste, but you don’t have any electronic parts that inside.”

Kemers added that refillable ink also had a strong position from a carbon footprint stance, with users being able to use supplies for a couple of years and not relying on cartridges being shipped on a regular basis.

“It’s a lot of small packages, these cartridges flying around, and for each such short delivery transported, there is a CO2 footprint,” he said. “Now if we compare it again with the refillable ink, there is one big box delivered once and in two years, you generally don’t need to ship anything.”

Kemers said vendors such as Epson and Canon had already reacted to these market dynamics and had seen growth with their offerings and it was important for the channel to give them opportunities to sell the complete hardware and consumables package.

“Remanufactured cartridges are really substantially cutting out the channel, because either vendors do it directly or there are the other branded products,” he said.

“The refillable tank printers is something where developed and forward-looking IT resellers move that can address this value proposition. People who care about environmental impact, or people who are thinking about lifetime operating cost, versus the lowest price and the big discount percentage, those that do solid research on the internet and make quite educated buying decisions are buying these products.”

Kemers added that vendors were driving awareness at an SME level and there could be more spending expected across 2022 by public sector customers as the message about the technology was more widely understood.

“It’s an interesting and profitable business for the resellers, because they can substantially accelerate the revenue growth,” he said. “They have the same end-user needs.”

Kemers added that revenues were better and margins were higher, but ultimately it meant they kept the customers they had worked hard to establish relationships with.  “The resellers are creating the largest value in the market, meaning they generate that install base of printers, not to see someone else sell a cartridge into a customer base that somebody has been working to generate.”

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