Mobile workers are a fast-growing group. Almost one-fourth of Americans work some hours from home each week, and the number of companies that give their employees the option to work remotely has nearly doubled–from 34% to 63%–since 2005 (Yahoo is a notable exception, of course).
Working from a home office or a coffee shop in the neighborhood provides ample perks: cozier ambience, less commuting, and more time to run errands. One glaring disadvantage? Trips to Staples, whether in person or online, to stock up on at-home office supplies.
It’s a messy retail landscape. “If you go to Staples they’ll offer you anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 products, all at rock bottom prices,” says Douglas Nash, president and CEO of Mobilegear.com, which, by contrast, offers a calmer, more curated selection of 4,000 office products. “We wanted to create simplicity, so we designed for an intuitive visual search.” Mobilegear turns the big-box office supply store upside down, and instead categorizes merchandise into one of eight categories: home office, mobile, organize, print and present, write, protect, comfort, and green. Nash says it takes about three clicks to find the right product, instead of the 10 clicks he counted when navigating a bigger store’s site. Most importantly, every product featured comes recommended specifically for the mobile work environment. There’s special emphasis on durable, lightweight, and dual-purpose goods.
Nash worked closely with Lunar Design to develop the company. Lunar, which has caché in the office design department after working with clients like HP and SanDisk, brought a specific curatorial eye to the project: “It’s almost like a small boutique, rather than a large, big-box retailer,” Jonathan Cofer, Lunar’s art director, tells Co.Design. “The products are really the hero, so we leave the focus on them.” The result is something like a cross between Zappos and Things Organized Neatly–lots of 90 degree angles, and plenty of smart suggestions.
While useful for consumers, Mobilegear.com could be a boon to big brand distributors as well. Prior to launching this company, Nash spent 20 years working in office supplies, on both the manufacturing and distribution side. “About two years ago, their strategic vision was to capture this mobile working trend,” he says. So Mobilegear.com plans to adopt a crowdsourced ethos, by letting customers share reviews, and ultimately help refine the selection of products available. Big office-supply brands–whose products may not incite the kind of rave reviews that the latest phablet will–are clamoring for that kind of feedback. “I talked to an executive at Avery Binders and she said, ‘If you can get some traction for mobile workers, that would be invaluable to us as a manufacturer.’”
See more goods at Mobilegear.com.