The value proposition of aftermarket toner has long been driven by price. After all, OEM supplies are highly tailored and optimized to work perfectly within a given manufacturer’s printers. How often do you hear of end-users wanting an alternative to the manufacturer’s toner brand because of performance and quality issues?
But with the launch of a new line of aftermarket products, Xerox is seeking to flip the narrative by offering Xerox-level quality for other OEM’s printers, at aftermarket prices. Christian Redder, who heads global marketing for Xerox’s supplies business group, believes Xerox’s Everyday Toner program speaks to the issue of cost without sacrificing performance and quality—all backed by a lifetime warranty and free of intellectual property (IP) violation concerns.
The nuts and bolts of the program are fairly straightforward. Using a balance of reman/new-build partner manufacturers, Xerox offers compatible A4 toner for the leading manufacturers to the industry, with most products geared toward business class printers and small office/home office (SOHO) devices. Resellers can garner profits up to 40%, with end-users reaping savings of 55%-60% compared to OEM prices. Redder believes the offering can augment the reseller’s catalog, providing that middle ground between carrying OEM-manufactured toner and the lowest-cost “house brand” option.
The Everyday Toner portfolio launched in June of 2020, effectively replacing a catalog of Xerox-branded replacement cartridges the company had offered for over 25 years. The difference between 1995 and now is an expanded selection supporting a wider array of OEM printer brands and a lower price point, which was previously 25%-40% under OEM pricing.
“The timing of the launch has been fortuitous, because OEMs in that small office and home office class were really pinched on inventory for quite some time,” Redder observed. “We launched at the right time with the right products, and it immediately plugged some holes for people who couldn’t get toner for their home printers. The SKUs for the larger in-office printers are moving more slowly because many companies are delaying their return to the office, so the bell curve is more skewed to the low-end printers. But we’ll see that migrate and expand as offices gradually return to on-site.”
The branding and lower price point has been well received by Xerox’s reseller partner network, and Redder felt the Everyday Toner branding would aid the cause toward marketing the line. With the industry maturing and technology improving, it logically followed that even greater affordability was required to gain further traction. The pandemic prevented Redder and the sales teams from hitting the road to educate resellers in person, so Xerox has hosted web events and used digital display advertising to help partners that have been forced to sideline their own sales forces.
Redder notes he and his marketing team recently released a major revision of the Everyday Toner partner promotional kit, which due to the pandemic restrictions, forced him to launch without original photography showing the product within typical office settings and with different printer brands. Version 2.0, he points out, is a wholesale revision of the initial campaign assets, which includes prepared emails, online banner ads, social media content and animation (for use on landing pages) as well as additional resources—all ready for partners to use in promotion of Everyday Toner.
“We laid out our marketing strategy in January 2020, but by April we knew we’d need a different approach,” he said. “When we launched, partners were telling us they weren’t working like they had previously, so we needed to pivot. We’re driving awareness, but as the pandemic clears, it will be up to our partners to evangelize the new range of products.”
When Xerox began offering aftermarket cartridges for North America and Europe in 1995, the products were 100% reman. Redder notes the OEM has an enormous breadth and depth of experience with imaging technology, from inventing dry ink in the 1930s to developing the first production copier and laser printer. As toner formulations are “often highly bespoke,” it requires careful evaluation and numerous iterations to devise the proper formulation, according to Redder. Xerox’s engineering team found it could extend the manufacturer’s technology to other leading OEMs with compatible toner cartridges.
The earliest new-build offerings to hit the market, Redder says, were “quite poor” when it comes to quality and reliability, and their use voided the warranty of many devices when the machines became gummed up and leaked. Now that new-builds have dramatically improved, they comprise 60% of Xerox’s Everyday Toner portfolio, with the remaining 40% being remanufactured.
“People will ask, ‘If the quality of new-build is so good, why isn’t it 100% new-build?’ We’re absorbing the cost differential, because reman is certainly more expensive,” Redder said. “But we couldn’t always find the quality that we wanted with the new-build, or we couldn’t always be 100% sure that there was no violation of (another OEM’s) IP. Xerox is committed to the protection of its own IP and the respect for the IP of others. If we’re asking partners to represent our product line, we are only going to do so if we’re 100% sure from a patent standpoint that there are no IP issues. Since OEMs have traditionally gone after individual partners, we extend indemnification to our reseller partners. We rigorously evaluate these products from an intellectual property standpoint.”
In addition to ensuring IP rights are not infringed upon, Xerox takes great pains to certify that the materials used in the cartridges meet with its stringent environmental standards. “Our portfolio today could be considerably larger, but our environmental health, safety and sustainability organization looks at every component of every individual SKU, from the chemistry of the toner to the composition of the plastics and the chemicals in the plastics,” Redder added. “If one thing does not abide by our strict guidelines, we won’t bring it to market.”
Redder believes the Xerox cachet goes well beyond having the name on the box. The 100% lifetime warranty comes with the reassurance that users can pick up the phone and reach a live person for customer service, and the website is printed on the box. Lower-cost options purchased through online retailers, Redder notes, often have no contact info for customer support. That leaves the user to reach out to the retailer or other third-party outlet to begin a laborious process to address a defective product. The Xerox warranty is also extended to the printer itself, providing an added layer of assurance.
“A lot of the aftermarket cartridges have pretty boxes, showing toucans, parrots, lions and various other brilliant images,” Redder said. “One of them has the top men’s tennis player. As attractive as the packaging may be, customers really don’t know what they’re getting, and they certainly don’t know—from purchase to purchase—what the level of quality will be. Certain foreign manufacturers will change their materials to save a penny—a penny! That is a real risk no customer of Everyday Toner is going to encounter.”
While businesses grapple with bringing back employees back on-site, as COVID-19 infections continue to mount as a result of the Delta variant, printing volume will continue to ramp back up at a pace that trails pre-pandemic usage. However, Redder notes that Xerox is seeing month-over-month volume growth, and he is optimistic that volume will enjoy a meaningful “catapult” heading into 2022. And he’s banking on resellers being able to capitalize on the value proposition that Everyday Toner offers.
“Supplies are an important annuity stream,” he said. “We’ve always felt that we can extend our level of engineering expertise to the supplies of other OEM devices and give customers an option to not sacrifice quality or reliability while saving a good bit of money for the end-user.
“The ability to marry exquisite print quality, unmatched reliability and outstanding support—all traits that customers have come to expect from Xerox—with prices 50% to 60% below the OEM alternatives truly resonates with end-customers and our business partners in the industry. I think it bodes well for the future of Everyday Toner.”