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Fine-Tuning Web-to-Print

Web-to-print, electronic-commerce, mobile, and social applications are becoming part of normal business operations. Within 18 months, print jobs fulfilled by web-based ordering systems will nearly double over the number from 2009, according to InfoTrends research statistics. Indeed, “e-commerce is...


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Web-to-print, electronic-commerce, mobile, and social applications are becoming part of normal business operations. Within 18 months, print jobs fulfilled by web-based ordering systems will nearly double over the number from 2009, according to InfoTrends research statistics. Indeed, “e-commerce is becoming the backbone of many [print] service providers today,” commented Idan Youval, business portal product manager for XMPie.

To ensure success, what do you need to know about storefronts, cross-media capabilities, workflow, and business system integration? Agility is the most critical attribute in a business world of IT automation and integration, contends Eric Wold, VP at Datatech SmartSoft, which three years ago acquired end-to-end print workflow system PressWise. The right software can empower printers to eliminate what he calls “value-less touches” in their workflows and withstand the inevitable market quakes down the road.

PressWise, for example, offers an all-in-one, browser-based workflow system that handles all shop orders, from point of entry to shipping and fulfillment. It is designed to replace the need for printers to purchase separate web-to-print, production workflow management, print MIS, and mail-preparation software, Wold said. He told MyPrintResource that redirecting labor from non-value-added processes to value-added processes is the printing industry’s greatest challenge.

“Stop throwing bodies and payroll dollars at mundane tasks like order processing, writing quotes and job dockets, and endless production meetings,” Wold advises print firms. “Clients don’t pay for these activities, so the less time you spend on them, the better off you will be.” He added that many print firm owners still need to shift away from their software-as-a-necessary-evil mentalities. Instead, mastering new software tools should be viewed as an opportunity to keep up with and even stay ahead of the proverbial pack.

This past May at the quadrennial drupa print fair, more than 145 vendors showed their product improvements and innovations within the “Workflow Systems” category, which included prepress/premedia, press, workflow, and data-handling software. Many of these firms also will exhibit this fall at Graph Expo in Chicago (Oct. 7-10).

So-called hybrid workflows are fitting together all the print pieces. The Kodak Unified Workflow Solution, for instance, is designed to bring all systems together and integrate and unify available information. Screen has introduced Equios, a universal workflow that drives multi-device production. Shown at drupa, this web-to-delivery turnkey solution provides end-to-end automation “from the initial job quote all the way through the invoicing of the finished project,” the developer said. With a single interface, the workflow automatically drives streamlined production from web to print to the delivery of the finished item. Users don’t need to operate different device-dependent workflows, each with a different way of handling imposition and color management, to drive their variety of Screen CTP, toner, and inkjet devices: Communication with a variety of third-party finishing systems is automated via Equios JDF. 

Going Mobile

 

Mobile platform compatibility is the “biggest shift,” according to Steve Ciesemier, who heads up the sales team at web-to-print storefront provider Aleyant Systems. Some have called rapid mobile adoption the tablet or iPad effect. “Your web-to-print needs to be there,” he said. This spring, Aleyant rolled out its open-platform, mobile-friendly eDocBuilder variable-data product that runs in HTML5 as opposed to Adobe Flash or a proprietary system. “We’ve been XML from Day One,” Ciesemier noted. An Interactive Designer feature allows for print personalization in the Cloud. “Users can reposition text and graphics and even change fonts and colors,” he pointed out.

 

Ciesemier added that Aleyant will show automated workflow integration and unveil some newer online storefront technology this fall at Graph Expo in October. “We’re trying to bridge the digital divide between online storefronts and back-end devices,” he said, “making it as seamless and hands-free as possible.”

 

In Dusseldorf, Agfa demonstrated its :Apogee Prepress App, which provides a quick check of a specific job during production on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. “A convenient status overview of the prepress equipment, including proofers, CTP systems, and other output devices, can also be displayed …,” said Erik Peeters, :Apogee marketing manager. Following an extensive period of rigorous testing, the :Apogee Suite version 7.1 now is certified as JDF-compliant for MIS to prepress connections by the CIP4 Organization. The new :Apogee Suite 8.0 also has been certified for digital print connections.

 

Also smartphone compatible is Pageflex iWay 6.0, which brings with it the award-winning NuDoc composition engine for sophisticated variable-data personalization. Plus, the new Create Order Application Programming Interface (API) enables printers to meet their customers’ needs for unique workflows by developing custom interfaces that drive orders into iWay's “back-end.” Version 6.0 also includes globalization features that help printers to better meet the needs of customers who service an international market or who have customers with locations in different countries using different currencies. These features include the ability to send out different emails and notifications in different languages, the ability to handle multiple currencies in one storefront, as well as tools for managing translation strings for custom fields.

 

Meanwhile, XMPie’s uStore now has capabilities in job submission and advanced reporting with Excel templates, including charts and pivot tables, said the Xerox company. Pre-drupa, it announced Version 6.0 of its enterprise-class web-to-print offering. For the first time, uStore will include a document-submission feature, enabling the full range of capabilities for out-of-the-box e-commerce storefronts, as well as more complex marketing portals. With document submission, uStore supports the uploading and production of customer-submitted documents in Microsoft Word (MS Office Suite 2010 and latest browser versions), PowerPoint, or PDF format. This expands the reach of uStore to a broader market, addressing the needs of most print service providers today and enabling a rich set of applications from flyers to booklets, said XMPie. Adding personalized covers, variable data tabs, and other enhancers allows for unprecedented versatility and added value in fulfilling the production of customer-submitted documents.

 

In the future, said Datatech SmartSoft’s Wold, “relationship marketing will drive an increasing share of buying decisions. Cutting-edge marketers will explore the use of AI (artificial intelligence) agents that will sift through mountains of data looking for correlations and opportunities to trigger communications. If printers still want to be around 10 years from now, they need to overhaul their workflow now so they will be able to participate.”

 

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Cross-media Help for Sale

 

In early August, MediaExx, Inc. (MX) introduced its marketing services company and launched a new website (www.mediaexx.com). The Connecticut-based firm offers customized marketing solutions for small and mid-size printers seeking to differentiate themselves by expanding their service mix into cross-media marketing. Printers can use MediaExx to market their own companies and increase their own market share, as well as subscribe to MediaExx to create tailored-made programs for their own customers.

 

Using robust and cost-effective Internet technologies, MediaExx analyzes, creates, communicates; schedules, tracks, reports, and delivers each project without the bricks-and-mortar overhead typically built into agency price quotations. MediaExx is a virtual marketing hub that is lean, flexible, efficient, and effective. Monthly subscription program fees range from $295 to $950.

 

MediaExx serves as an extension of printers, enabling them to grow their businesses by:

  • Providing cross-media marketing expertise and giving the printers a competitive edge;
  • Adding marketing consulting and implementation to their repertoire, as well as offering more value to their clients;
  • Increasing customer loyalty while generating new revenue streams.

Individually, the experts who make up MediaExx are accomplished specialists in their respective fields. Together they are a symbiotic team delivering highly effective marketing solutions. The virtual marketing firm pulls from a nationwide pool of industry experts who form client-specific teams to design and implement tailored marketing strategies to meet the precise needs of each client. MediaExx provides strategic direction and brand management, collateral development, social media implementation, website development and SEO, direct mail, multi-channel marketing, and just about every aspect of internal and external communications.

“MediaExx offers the best-budgeted and best-integrated marketing projects from experienced industry professionals,” said co-founder Mark Myers. “What’s the difference between acceptable and outstanding? Cookie-cutter marketing vs. custom-designed solutions? Sales and profits? That difference is MediaExx.”

It has been said that more money is wasted in marketing than other discipline except government because most projects lack measurable and concise objectives. “Delivering measurable results and an exceptional product is our first priority,” Myers asserted.

 

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