New printer technologies, inks, substrates, and processes have encouraged many print service providers to tap into potential markets and to increase profits by venturing into the trade show and exhibit market. These advances have also increased the capabilities and profit potential for those that have made a name for themselves in the industry. Our experts weigh in on the advances and technology and offer advice on how a PSP may increase business and profit through the trade show market.
What are the most important recent additions in technologies that help to enhance productivity and quality in creating trade show and exhibit signage? According to Barry Polan, vice president of sales at Coloredge, digital signage gives PSPs a real edge in this market segment. “We recently introduced a line of digital signage and content distribution for retail POP, quick service restaurant, and event signage,” says Polan. “This new technology allows for video and still images to be displayed on very slim screens and/or through projection. With this new technology client’s can customize content and imagery for specific events, campaigns and regions. Real time feedback linking imagery to sales results can be generated from the software.”
For Greg Schopmeyer, vice president at Outdoor America Images (OAI), textile and dye sublimation printers have allowed shops to increase their capabilities and bring in more customers.
“There are a lot more dye sublimation printers have come onto the market,” says Schopmeyer. “A lot of the dye sub printers that are coming out are faster, better quality, tighter DPI. It’s changed a lot within the last three years.”
OAI is currently updating its technology and is in the process of installing a new Mimaki dye sub printer in the shop to complement their current equipment. This addition will assist OAI in increasing their capability to produce quality items faster and more economically.
Competition is fiercer than ever, often forcing PSPs to be more aggressive or focused on specific niches such as trade show and exhibit markets.
“Coloredge’s attention is focused on the future of visual media,” says Polan.” We are committed to offering our clients the most cutting edge solution based on their current needs. We recognize that what we do today will likely change in the near future. It is because of this that we are continually focused on new technology and solutions.”
OAI has begun to offer their customers more services to make their purchases complete. This assists clients in getting all of the right materials in one place rather than going from vendor to vendor.
Schopmeyer says, “We’ve brought on more and more on hardware. We’re not just doing the graphic. We can go in and sell the hardware for your entire booth all the way down to the crates that you’ll need and carry bags. It’s very much a one stop shop.”
OAI also offers more than one type of work to expand their catalog for a wide variety of customers. “We also do some flatbed work for exhibits and trade shows. We’re printing direct and I think that’s a technology that’s still developing and has grown leaps and bounds, the ability to print directly onto rigid substrates.”
Every PSP would do well to tap into previously untouched markets if they want to increase their businesses. When it comes to trade show and exhibit markets, Polan suggests tapping into every available market. Schopmeyer gives specific advice on where a PSP might find potential clients.
“There is a trade show for everything,” says Schopmeyer. “The best thing is to tap into your local convention centers, your local large hotels that put on conventions and try to develop relationships with those parties. There’s a ton of information online about trade shows that are coming up, again you can pull up any convention center and they will give you a whole list of trade shows that are coming up. Perhaps it’s good to join certain organizations even if it doesn’t make sense to you but it can put you in touch with suppliers that will be at that particular trade show that you can offer your services to. Those shows can range from just a handful of vendors and suppliers that are exhibiting way up to 500,000 exhibitors.”
Advancements in Substrates
Substrates are constantly being created and upgraded, offering PSPs untold opportunities to create new items to attract and please their client base while increasing the bottom line. One of the most common substrates in this arena is fabric. One should be aware that the types and styles of fabric use to create trade show and exhibit products has grown by leaps and bounds, particularly over the last several years.
“There are a lot of new fabrics that are coming out,” says Schopmeyer. “[A lot of suppliers] have people out there who are just really hunting and they are always coming up with new fabrics with different feels and textures. Sometimes when you say fabric people think of cotton t-shirt type of thing but there are a lot of interesting fabrics out there that have a shimmer to them when you dye sub onto them. There’s quite a wide variety of product to offer a customer.
“A lot of the stuff is starting to come down now to where you can touch it at trade show booths. For a while most of it was on hanging structures but now they’re starting to make walls out of it and cover the entire thing in fabric.”
Naturally, durability is a factor, particularly if people are going to be handling materials that were once hung from the ceiling. Schopmeyer says there are no worries about how the items will hold up. “You can throw them into a washing machine and put them into a dryer on delicate and usually that takes care of any problems that you’ve got. It’s hard to do that with traditional banner type things and rigid substrates.
“The big thing with the fabric is that it is so lightweight. One of my selling points when I have people in here is that if they buy something as simple as a 10x10-foot pop up from me with fabric and something were to happen I literally could wad a 10x10-foot backdrop in a FedEx overnight box and send it to them and within 30 minutes when they put it back on the hardware, the wrinkles will pretty much just fall right out of it.”
Cost effectiveness is always an issue and it is always contingent on the type of fabric used. “You need to lead your customer down the right road. Know your fabrics out there. There are a lot of green materials coming out,” says Schopmeyer.
Current and Future Trends
Much like the larger visual communication industry, the exhibit and trade show signage market will be affected by industry trends. UV inkjet printers, 3D printers, digital signage, and concerns about sustainability will make an impact on the types of products used and produced.
“In the near-term, we will see the continued improvement of the UV based inkjet printers,” says Polan. “Through increase and efficiency, quality and versatility, these devices will continue to further move screen printing, lithography and photo production into obsolescence. Over the longer term future we will see continued slimming down of physical width and cost of production of digital signage. This will allow retail stores to move toward full digitization of their environmental graphics. We also do 3D printing of physical products playing a greater role in packaging and visual production.”
“More green materials are going to be a big bonus going forward,” says Schopmeyer. “I think that’s what’s going to happen with the technology as more and more people are demanding more green materials. The manufacturing process will come down. The price points are starting to come down on that and it has to do with the manufacturers being able to predict how much of that is going to be utilized. As we ask more and more for it, the prices are going to start to drop on that.”