Refillable ink a way for the channel to keep the customer

Refillable ink offers the printing channel the opportunity to strengthen its sustainability credentials and ensure they remain part of the equation for customers looking to change their approach to organizing toner and cartridge replacement.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has seen many printers shut down or printing much lower volumes than usual as staff have stayed at home. It also revealed the limitations of some print management contracts, with users frustrated by a lack of flexibility.

At the same time, the sustainability debate has picked up steam and customers are looking for ways to keep track of component recycling and the total cost of ownership of their hardware.

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

Not many would argue with this position, but for Janis Kemers, Vp Print and Supplies at Tech Data Europethe channel needs to talk about refillable ink toner tank technology to ensure it keeps the customer, as well as meeting sustainability criteria.

“Printers with refillable ink and toner tanks have so many more advantages than the circular economy in terms of environmental impact because you effectively reduce e-waste because you don’t have to manufacture the cartridge,” Kemers said. “No cartridges, no plastics and no chips are required. There are only those eight bottles of ink, so you don’t have to take cartridges off the market later. You can generally dispose of these ink bottles, just plain plastic trash, but you don’t have any electronic parts in them.”

Kemers added that refillable ink also holds a strong position in terms of carbon footprint, as users could use consumables for a few years and not rely on regular cartridge shipments.

“It’s a lot of little packages, these cartridges flying around, and for every shipment that’s that short that’s transported, there’s a CO2 footprint,” he said. “Now if we compare it again with the refillable ink, one time it comes in a big box and in two years you usually don’t have to ship anything anymore.”

Kemers said vendors such as Epson and Canon have already responded to these market dynamics and seen growth in their offerings, and it is important that the distribution channel gives them the opportunity to sell the complete hardware and consumable package.

“Remanufactured cartridges really cut the channel significantly because it’s either done directly by the vendors or by other branded products,” he said.

“The refillable tank printers are something that evolved and forward-thinking IT retailers that can address this value proposition are moving into. People who care about the impact on the environment, or people who think of lifetime cost of ownership, compared to the lowest price and big discount percentage, those who do solid internet research and make informed purchasing decisions buy these products.”

Kemers added that vendors are driving awareness at the SME level and that more spending from public sector customers could be expected throughout 2022 as the message about the technology is better understood.

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

Kemers added that revenue is better and margins are higher, but ultimately it meant they were able to keep the customers they’d worked hard to build relationships with. “The resellers create the most value in the market, which means they generate that installed base of printers, not to see someone else sell a cartridge to a customer base that someone has worked to generate.”

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