If printers expect to take advantage of the automation offered by the new digital presses and RIPs, they will have to become experts in PDF files. Every new piece of output equipment is optimized to work best with PDF files. The PDF workflows have built-in scripts that automatically correct common PDF file problems and allow printers to push work through the output machines faster.
One trend you can expect to see is for printers to require certified PDF files from their customers, especially if the files are printed offset in color. Larger commercial printers have trained their customers to provide certified PDF files, and smaller printers are benefiting as customers make certified PDFs the standard.
Most printing website service providers offer low cost PDF creation tools that printers can give to their customers to make PDF file creation easier.
Variable data printing, online ordering, and Web-to-print (W2P) solutions continue to be a hot topic with many printers, but the services aren’t having the impact that many predicted.
VDP is getting easier and the price for the software has dropped. Page layout programs such as InDesign offer built-in VDP solutions. Other vendors, such as Printable provide low cost software add-ons to make handling variable data easy. Many of the RIP packages driving digital presses either include a VDP package or offer a low cost solution that can easily be added. VDP isn’t rocket science any more. The drawback for printers has been getting good database information from the customer. Printers will have to understand how to manage data for customers if VDP is going to work.
You would think that W2P services and online ordering would be common in most print shops, but they aren’t. Every printer-specific Web service offers document libraries and they all can be integrated with services that allow customers to add custom text to online templates. There is so much e-commerce on the Web that you would think most printers would try to get a piece of the action.
The trend here is for printers to complain about the aggressive online print companies cutting prices and taking business from local printers instead of doing something about it. Much of the commodity work that is disappearing from local print shops is being bought on the Web at very low prices.
The only Web-based printing most printers see is the increased use of customers submitting files through FTP sites or as email attachments. Printers with websites and email addresses report that customer Web submissions are rising. The surprising fact is, in my experience, only about 50% of the quick and small commercial printers have a website. The failure to have a Web presence will become another nail in a printer’s coffin as competition continues to heat up.
A positive trend is that the number of vendors who can provide Web-based services is growing. Plug-and-play solutions for almost every online print scenario are available at a reasonable price. Websites, W2P services, document libraries, online shopping carts, and more can easily be assembled to make a print shop look bigger than it is.
As printers scramble to offer more revenue generating services, several companies are betting that a number of quick printers will add Web development services.
Adobe is offering Adobe Business Catalyst. It is a hosted application for building and managing online businesses printers can resell to customers. Using Adobe’s unified platform, and without back-end coding, a printer can build everything from websites to online stores, brochure-ware sites, and lead generation mini-sites. Visit http://businesscatalyst.com/ for more information.
Net Solutions North America is signing on printers as dealers for its Profusion Products Dealer Network. This lets printers sell easy to design and edit websites to small business customers. For more information, visit www.Netsolutionsna.com.
eMAGC is another website development company that has introduced a reseller program for printing companies seeking to increase revenues through website sales. The easy to use system allows traditional prepress staff to quickly design and launch powerful and feature rich websites for their clients. For more information, visit the eMAGC reseller website at www.ABetterWayToWeb.com.