Amazing Print Corp., a 14-year-old firm, has more than 4,000 US installations, according to CEO Slava Apel, because it makes designing online interfaces simple for printers and their customers who need products such as postcards, business cards and letterhead. Its eCardBuilder web-to-print software includes review, grouping and order desk functions plus integration for e-commerce, FTP support and shipping. Amazing Print also offers customized web-to-print portals. "The response from our clients has been overwhelming in regards to eCardBuilder's online designer," says Lillian Roberts, president of Business Card, Inc. (BCI) of Florida. "I believe this has given my company a weighted advantage in a highly competitive market."
Other providers ratchet it up another notch or two, adding features like online proofing (for non-color-critical work) and customer account management, which can include job tracking and payment options. Aimed at content creators, prepress-centric solutions offering preflight, file delivery, soft proofing and approval have been around for more than a decade. These are now being married to e-commerce storefronts, such as Kodak Insite Storefront, which integrates with the popular Prinergy prepress workflow solution.
Shown for the first time in Canada at PrintWorld, the :Apogee WebApproval 7.0 interactive portal is the latest version of the Agfa Graphics workflow management suite. It allows for job initiation and soft proofing, and also links to the firm's Manage 7.0 prepress workflow. Meanwhile, Avanti offers a modular print MIS solution that includes eAccess web-to-print capabilities, such as online catalogs, RFQs, job submission/tracking, soft proofing and e-commerce, that fully integrate into JDF-certified production.
Datatech SmartSoft has developed PressWise, an end-to-end, web-to-print and workflow automation solution designed as an alternative to purchasing independent modules of web storefront, production workflow, print MIS and mail preparation software. It features Web2Ship Storefronts that automatically generate custom client websites in under an hour, says Datatech. Integrated online estimating tools, with support for custom pricing per client, streamline the entire order process. PressWise integrates seamlessly with existing storefront products such as Saepio, OPS, Pageflex and more.
For digital press users, even more advanced solutions have variable data print (VDP) front end options that drive prepress systems to generate output-ready PDFs on the fly. XMPie's latest version of uStore (4.0), for instance, has a business-to-consumer (B2C) component with features such as anonymous shopping and tagging products and categories to maximize search-engine visibility. And Aleyant Systems garnered Worth-a-Look attention at GRAPH EXPO for its Pressero v. 4 B2B and B2C web-to-print storefront system that provides fully integrated e-commerce, proofing, design, VDP and reorder capabilities. Among the updates and improvements are integrated SEO (search engine optimization) and social media, an open XML architecture for integration with a print shop's third-party applications, and the ability to auto-generate two-dimensional QR (quick response) barcodes for use in personalized print materials. Whichever level of web-to-print you select, "web-to-print is your shop's online portal," Atkinson reminds.
"Make it easy for your customers to reorder and place new orders," PrinterPresence by Firespring president Tawnya Starr advised Show Daily readers at GRAPH EXPO. "Utilize tools such as Adobe PDF JobReady that make it easy for clients to send you files. Be diligent about getting clients to utilize FTP [file transfer protocol] instead of email," she said. PrinterPresence offers turnkey websites with integrated web-to-print solutions created by over 10 years of research with print buyers. The firm now has more than 3,000 clients on five continents. Starr used the show to present more than 20 upgrades to the Springboard platform, including the latest from partner Pageflex, the addition of payment getaways and a tax/shipping calculator.
Rent, Buy or Build Your Own
The hosted, Software as a Service (SaaS) model has grown to the point of grasping about an 80 percent share of the web-to-print marketplace, says Atkinson. "It's a pay-as-you-go model, and they handle all the technical stuff like hosting and back up," he explains, adding that SaaS web-to-print is relatively inexpensive to set up, with low upfront costs. The solution provider maintains all hardware and software, hence the monthly fee. "They're not truly customizable, so there is a limited range of services." But it is fast, "up and running in a week— in one day, in some cases," Atkinson notes.