The write way - PC Retail

The write way

PCR talks to CD-Writer's managing director, Nic Ranshaw
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CD-Writer was formed at the dawn of the commercialisation of the internet. And in the decade since its incorporation, it has grown to be one of the UK’s market leaders in the development and production of CD and DVD duplication technologies.

Much of the company’s initial success can be attributed to its founder Nic Ranshaw, who was quick to recognise the potential of digital duplication. Having spent the late nineties working with multimedia, including roles at Channel4.com and agency.com, he became head of internet at the music publishing house Ministry of Sound.

It was there he noticed music downloads increasing in popularity among young people, and so invented a CD production device for the consumer market.

“I thought we could have a licence agreement with one of the music download sites. We went to them with the proposition back in 1999, but the technology had evolved so fast that it very quickly became an unviable business model,” states Ranshaw.

After a review of the options, it was decided that it would be better to offer CD and DVD production solutions at an enterprise level – something that remains the core of CD-Writer’s business today.

“We were at the forefront of an emerging new market, so we were able to capitalise on the skills and tools that I had as a web developer to bring the product and the brand to market. As we were one of the first online stores in the UK, we got a hell of a lot of traffic, which gave us a competitive advantage.”

As the internet developed and became a new marketplace, the company was able to develop an excellent web presence and became the go-to destination for anybody looking for CD duplication technology. Ranshaw describes this visibility, along with the development of its own in-house brand, as key to CD-Writer’s growth.

“The main reasons for our success have been good internet presence, a focus on a niche product and the development of our in-house brand, StorDigital,” confirms Ranshaw. “Essentially, we benefitted by concentrating on that and building a level of expertise within the company that customers could relate to and feel secure that they’re getting the products and services they need.”

Like many other companies, CD-Writer has felt the sting of the current recession. However, it has seen good growth in new markets, such as education. Nonetheless, Ranshaw believes that now is a good time for strong companies.

“From our perspective, the economic climate has acted as a leveller, where the companies with the weaker propositions and products are generally going under and being forced out of business. Those that have the service model in place to support and sustain their customer base, should come out of it strong and in a better position.”

Naturally, Ranshaw counts CD-Writer among the second category, and is keen to stress the strengths of his business model. It’s clear he considers the exploitation of internet technology to bring products to market as a great advantage. CD-Writer has a portfolio of over 150 websites that help generate interest and ensure a good internet marketing strategy.

“Equally, differentiation through branding – establishing StorDigital as the name in duplication – has been a great benefit to us,” adds Ranshaw. “Our diligence in ensuring excellence in customer service has helped retain business, and our product innovation has always kept us ahead of the trend. We put a great deal of work in to monitoring new trends and researching new techniques to help bring cutting edge products to market.”

Another of CD-Writer’s strengths is the versatility of its products, which can be used for digital distribution for segments of the population who don’t necessarily have access to high speed download facilities.

“In terms of markets, education is always strong, as is the public service sector,” elaborates Ranshaw. “Our products are heavily used by the legal services for distributing digital evidence; one for prosecution, defence and the archives.

“There are also a lot of unexpected areas, for example churches are quite big for us because they distribute the sermons to their congregation, or we can do remote duplications of DVDs for people on day trips or events. As digital media has filtered in to every aspect of our lives, so too have the applications and the necessary distribution methods.”

It’s with this kind of versatility in mind that CD-Writer has initiated its drive to grow its reseller base. Previously, it has operated without an official distribution channel, preferring to work with those resellers who offer value proposition.

“We’re going to be supporting more online resellers that are looking to sell off the page,” comments Ranshaw. “We produce live data feeds that’ll keep them up to speed on what’s available, in terms of pricing and stock, and just generally keep them informed with training and product knowledge to a level that we’ve traditionally done with our end users.”

This drive is already under way, and Ranshaw hopes to have doubled the current reseller base by the end of the second quarter of 2009.

“We recognise that visibility is key,” adds Ranshaw. “We can’t use our own D2C channel for every market. There are a lot of resellers out there who operate in their own niches, they’ve got their own web development in hand and we’re in a unique position where we can help to deliver them clean data.

“Many might not have considered that our products can offer them additional margin or extra value to their proposition. We’ve got a portfolio that ensures a good margin for the reseller. They’ve extended warranties, free training and support, direct shipping and all the things that make back-to-back ordering not just easy but profitable, and encourage repeat sales.”

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