Case: The cartridge specialists of Alleeninkt.nl
"Now there is a good flow in our warehouse"
When Nick van Klinken (27) was still studying, he discovered the cartridge market through his father. Together with his friend Daniël Keute (27) he specialised in this market. Their webshop Alleeninkt.nl grew to be one of the biggest online ink sellers of the Netherlands.
You both were in your early twenties when you started your ink webshop, how did you get this idea?
‘When Daniël and I were still studying we made some pocket money as furniture makers. We mostly designed concrete table tops. To sell these online we developed a webshop. Quickly we discovered that concrete was a natural product of which a picture doesn't truthfully represent the product. So we had a webshop without any products. My dad later pointed out the large price differences in cartridges. When I researched this I saw there was a market. Daniël and I both invested 200 euros and started Alleeninkt.nl.’
Were there no other ink webshops yet?
‘There were, but we bought our cartridges cheaper abroad and offered them for sale on Marktplaats. There we redirected buyers to our webshop. Everything we earned we invested back into the webshop. We never had to get a loan.’
How did you grow out to be one of the top 3 players?
‘The past years we worked day in and out to improve and market our webshop. The competition between online retailers is tough, but when you commit yourself one hundred percent to your brand, there is always a spot for you somewhere. We quickly realised that marketing was essential, you can buy visibility. This didn't pay itself back at the first clients, but it did when they returned. That's also why we invested in good client support, we go far in giving advice and solving problems. Because Alleeninkt.nl is fully specialised in cartridges (we only sell related products such as paper and batteries) our employees can think along. When you buy your cartridges at a big general store and they don't work, you will get your money back but you have to find out yourself what went wrong.’
Have things gone wrong in the past years?
‘We once signed a contract for a year with a marketing company. After a month or two we knew that it would not work for us, but we were still stuck for ten months. Our gut feeling was not right since the start, now we know, when in doubt don't do it and keep contracs as flexible as possible. This sometimes costs more per month, but we are always free to cancel at any time. We also learned how to negotiate. In the beginning we we had meetings with PostNL in our attic. Sometimes we were with our backs against the wall - our packages needed to be deliverd. Now, with hundreds of packages a day, we're a serious player in the market.’
In 2017 you transfered to Picqer. How did you find them?
‘Till 2017 our webshop ran on an out-of-date Wordpress webshop system with an e-commerce tool. Packing orders took long, we fooled around with our inventory management in Excel and we had to perform many unnecessary actions. During our search for a new warehouse toll we quickly found Picqer. They were less expensive than bigger parties and it directly clicked between us and the entrepreneurs of Picqer. Our website developer was also very enthoused, he directly saw the possibilities Picqer offered.’
What is the difference compared to the old system?
‘There is now a good flow in our warehouse. We can quickly trace our orders and we minimalised our error margins. Every employee has its own account, the system is easily scalable, a temporary employee receives an own login code and can directly start. With Picqer, one employee can do the work of four to five people. On Black Friday or other busy days we can easily jump in, the system can handle changes well. The only disadvantage is that Picqer doesn't offer customization, but then it would become more expensive too. But they are always open for ideas.’
How do you see the future?
‘I don't have a crystall ball, but digitizing will ensure that once there will be an alternative to printing. That's why we always write black numbers. At the same time, more is printed in a flourishing economy and e-commerce is growing so fast. So for now I don't worry.’
Casper Bakker of Picqer and Nick van Klinken of Alleeninkt.nl talked about how they use marketing to their advantage.
Facts & figures of Alleeninkt.nl
In 2013 the students Nick van Klinken (27) and Daniël Keute (27) started Alleeninkt.nl. Yearly they ship about half a million cartridges divided over 100.000 packages and sell printers, edible ink, batteries and paper. They have 12 employees and a few part time workers.
Alleeninkt.nl uses Picqer since 2018. This interview took place in March 2019.
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