Print shop owners and retailers alike have found that without a presence on the Web, their businesses are practically on an island, lacking the worldwide exposure that an effective website provides. The easy part is putting together a webpage, even if it’s nothing more than filling in the blanks of a cut-rate template. The difficulty lies in the choices you make between using your website for marketing versus utilizing technology to facilitate workflow.
A static website these days is about as effective as an “Open” sign in the window and a phone recording stating your store hours. Successful printing companies do more—much more—on the Web.
When it comes to marketing on your homepage versus completing the pre-print process (uploading a customer’s document), it is important to realize that the key to success is not one or the other. The best printing companies utilize both.
Basics of Web-to-Print
In the printing industry, the name of the game is Web-to-print (often shortened to web2print or W2P). Maybe you’ve heard the term Web-to-print so much that you are tired of the phrase, much like “social media.” If Web-to-print sounds more like a new term, you are likely dragging your feet in a way that’s holding back your growth, so let’s cover the basics.
Websites are evolving to higher levels of interaction with the consumer, which is benefiting the printing industry by moving more items ordered by clients to an online storefront. Web-to-print, in very basic terms, describes a website that allows orders to come through a Web interface, which then pushes them into a workflow of some kind. The printing company can then direct the orders to some type of output device, whether that is a press or a digital printer. From the customer’s standpoint, they have no idea what Web-to-print means and they don’t really care. What your customers care about is that you make it easy for them to do business with your company.
For the most part, printing companies just like yours use similar equipment and similar technology. Although there are no major developments in current technology, user interfaces will continue to be refined for ease of use, whether that involves document management or client-to-business interaction. The technology that is behind Web-to-print will become easier to implement as the software advances. As a result, printing companies can choose technology that best suits the needs of their business in terms of order integration, pricing, and workflow without being held hostage to one vendor or supplier.
DIY, but Not Hands-off
What is critical is how a printing company embraces that technology and finds creative and innovative ways to use it in order to set itself apart from the competition. This is the same in Web-to-print technology. It’s not what a printing company has, but how it chooses to use that technology. Customers might think of the interface as self-service, but your website and your staff must serve as consultants every step of the way.
Setting yourself apart means providing outstanding customer service. The content of your website surrounding the Web-to-print capabilities could very well make or break your online success. Online instructions—or coaching, if you will—can be the difference between a customer uploading a large print job or moving on to the next printer’s website.
Even though Web-to-print favors the autonomous, do-it-yourselfers out there, you must remind your customers that you are, indeed, a real live print shop with real live employees. That might mean calling the customers after their orders are received, but it could also be done electronically. A confirmation email written and signed by an individual, with his or her phone number included tells customers they are being taken care of.