Bringing Storefronts to the Forefront

Web-to-print software can be a real game changer for print service providers, helping expand their operations and fatten their bottom lines. There are few limits to the benefits this technology offers, from enabling PSPs to serve a much larger population of customers to helping them boost the automation of their operations. For many print providers, the results are higher sales, greater efficiency, print-on-demand capabilities and more productivity and profitability.

Wide-format imaging companies were behind the curve in embracing Web-to-print, for reasons ranging from file size in wide-format to the industry’s later adoption of digital technology. But they’re making up for lost time now.

Here’s a look at just a few of the wide array of products available to PSPs seeking to create e-commerce storefronts for their printing businessesz

 

EFI Digital StoreFront

EFI Digital StoreFront from EFI (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10005156) is a scalable, Web-to-print eCommerce platform that can be deployed on-site or from the cloud and offers tools, add-on modules, and integration to Fiery-XF servers, EFI Print MIS solutions, and EFI wide-format printers to help customers in the market capture more print work, reduce the number of touch points per job, and achieve a higher return on investment.

The Digital StoreFront platform currently supports standard, oversize, and wide-format product types. In addition, support of an additional product type, DSFdesign Studio, is to be unveiled at Graph Expo, reports Dave Minnick, product manager. DSFdesign Studio introduces “on the fly” design functionality, giving buyers, in a web-browser-based online format, the creative ability to produce custom print products. During the shopping experience, a print buyer can build a tradeshow banner, for example, by inserting imagery, uploading a logo, changing the background color, adding text copy, as well as editing the title directly in the product template using a free-form design tool—without the need for a professional design application, design skills, or software training. The resulting artwork is automatically produced into a production ready PDF and can be sent to the wide-format output device for printing.

Digital StoreFront differentiates from other Web-based eCommerce tools in two critical ways.

“Number one, Digital Storefront has an intuitive user interface that makes online ordering of print products easy, even for a novice print buyer. When ordering an ad hoc job (customer uploaded content), the buyer is introduced to the Visual Product Builder—a single-screen, interactive tool that guides the buyer through the job submission process with visual cues, real-time pricing updates and online proofing of the job specifications ordered,” reports Minnick.

“Number two, end-to-end automation. Specifically, in Digital StoreFront, you get online, real-time pricing as you are configuring the job ticket. And those same job ticket settings are communicated down into operations. Tight integration among EFI’s portfolio of products ensures that the job specifications are communicated in real-time from Digital StoreFront to the server, the print management system, as well as the wide-format printer—a solution that makes dollars and sense for our customers.” he says.

How can printers benefit from using Digital StoreFront? Let’s look at the example of a PSP hired by a big retailer to produce creative signage for various retail locations, some of it needing customization at the specific store level.

Individual retailers can go into the system and introduce pricing specific to their stores. The printer is able to incorporate all those orders in a mass production run and distribute them to the various retailers, Minnick says.

Many orders are repeat orders in the B2B environment. That points to another advantage of Digital StoreFront. “Rather than printing everything you need for six months, you can print on demand,” Minnick says.

Using Digital StoreFront, information captured at the StoreFront is automatically transferred all the way through the production process. The result? The production manager doesn’t have to re-key data, errors are eliminated, touches are reduced, quality and efficiency are improved, and productivity and profitability boosted.

Says Minnick: “Understanding the value of print on demand takes a while to catch on. When it does they understand the expense of warehousing, and the cost of scrapping already-printed pieces when prices or branding change...Print on demand will actually end up saving them money in the long run as well as increasing their profitability. Printers are catching on to those profit areas and the value of passing savings to their customers.”

Keen Systems’ Keenprint.com

San Francisco-based Keen Systems (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10013629) is the first and only cloud-based e-commerce platform for the printing industry. The company deals with the worlds of commercial, wide-format, quick print and promotional items, and packaging. “It’s any print for sale,” says company CEO and founder Vitaly Golumb.

Keenprint.com allows any PSP or broker to sign up for an account and build multiple storefronts, each serving various business models.

“They would build one or several publicly-available storefronts, which would service their primary websites,” Golumb says. “Or, if PSPs have specific industries they service, say the real estate industry, they can build a storefront specifically for that industry. They could also build a storefront specifically for a design firm providing them customers. And if they have a handful of major customers they deal with daily or weekly, they could provide private storefronts for those customers. It doesn’t matter if they have one or 100 storefronts, they can manage them internally at the PSP through one dashboard, and also give their employees access through that dashboard. If they have an affiliate or reseller with whom they work, that affiliate can gain administrative access to whatever part of the storefront applies to them.”

Here’s an example of how a private storefront might be used by a PSP. The PSP could give a large retail customer access to its own private storefront, and give each location of the retailer access to the store as well. “The customer can price out very complex products, which could include for instance variable-sized signage priced by the square foot,” Golumb says.

“They can add all kinds of finishing services. Once they place the order, they can have an open account with net terms, tax exempt status, or can simply place an order with a credit card or electronic check. It’s modeled after Amazon, so they can save in the system their payment information such as credit cards and other payment methods, and the next time check out very quickly.

“Once they pay for the order, and upload the file, our system automatically inspects the file, and if there are any problems they will be notified immediately.”

In addition, Keenprint.com has full shipping integration with FedEx and UPS. Any time there’s a change in the order status, the customer gets an automatic email. Customers can also track their orders 24/7.

Print service providers stand to become more efficient and more profitable with Keenprint.com, Golumb says. The automation and clearer communication made possible by the system helps reduce error rates and increases customer satisfaction. The system specifically allows providers to pursue new business models not obtainable without e-commerce and a system like Keenprint.com, which makes it possible to spin off a new storefront within minutes, he adds.

With Keen’s patented cloud-based architecture, PSPs will have access to a marketplace of trade vendors they can partner with by means of a few clicks, to being selling products or services they themselves can’t produce. “Finally, we are the official sanctioned e-commerce partner for Roland DGA,” says Golumb.

 

RocketPrint Software’s RocketQuotes

Storefront systems offered by some competitors don’t fit wide-format’s parameters very well, argues Larry Presnell, vice president of operations for Greensboro, NC-based RocketPrint Software (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10013317). “For one thing, a user needs to be able to plug in his width and length and exact dimensions wanted. And various finishing options, such as sewing and grommeting, also add complexity.

“We set out to build a part of RocketQuotes specifically for wide-format people. It meant starting from ground zero. We consulted a number of wide-format printers for their thoughts on functionality, and have tweaked it for years.”

Customers increasingly expect to go on the website of a PSP and get a sense of a price they would be charged for a printing project. “They get that from bigger online companies, and that’s kind of becoming the norm,” Presnell says.

“By having the quoting capabilities online to cover 80 to 90 percent of your wide-format product, you are catering to that expectation. You’re saving time, not having to report back with a quote. People are usually ready to order; they just need to check the quote off their list, and they can go ahead this way.”

Thus, PSPs can spend more time quoting unique or highly distinctive projects, and also save on production time. In addition, they can expand their product lines, taking on offset and digital projects, because RocketQuotes offers quoting capabilities on those products as well, Presnell says. “And they can build out unlimited B2B portals for B2B customers,” he adds.

 

Agfa Graphics’ Apogee StoreFront

Apogee StoreFront is part of the Apogee family, the core of which is the Apogee Prepress Workflow System from Agfa Graphics (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10003665). But StoreFront does not require the Prepress System. It’s a cloud-based service, easy to deploy, and boasts a low cost of entry, says Mark Gallucci, manager of technology marketing for Elmwood Park, NJ-based Agfa Graphics.

“It’s easily scalable, since users don’t have to invest locally in servers, software and Internet bandwidth at their location,” he adds.

“If they have to increase their capacity, they just upgrade their license, without worrying about increased investment in hardware and software.”

Apogee StoreFront is designed to be easy to use by the existing staff of commercial printers or wide-format printers, using familiar tools.

Both public storefronts and password-protected B2B storefronts are offered, to capture both business clients and a broader base of customers. In the customer uploadable product, users simply upload a TIFF, JPEG, or PDF. “We also support customizable product, in which our online editor would be used to personalize or customize images or text,” Gallucci reports. “And we support print-on-demand or fulfillment items that require no customization.”

One of the key advantages of Apogee StoreFront is its tight integration with Apogee Prepress, according to Gallucci. If a shop has an Apogee Prepress System, that system can pull and automatically retrieve incoming jobs, preflight those jobs, and using a combination of the JDF job ticket supplied by the StoreFront and automated templates set up in the Prepress System, can direct the incoming job to the correct output device automatically.

 

Firespring’s SignPresence

Based in Lincoln, NE, Firespring (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10007416) creates websites and marketing services for vertical markets.

The company created SignPresence as a result of feedback from many sign companies that were using websites created for printers, but wanted a product unique to the sign industry.

“They were coming to us and asking for websites that would allow them to retain existing customers and acquire new ones,” says Tawnya Starr, president of SignPresence. “What we found was that sign companies early on wanted to sell signage online. But after doing research with people who purchase signage to learn how they select sign companies, we understood that someone wanting to purchase a sign is not going to purchase that sign on a website.”

SignPresence is a pre-developed website solution that has content and functionality specific to the sign industry and that ties into marketing ranging from email marketing to search engine, social media and direct mail marketing.

“The website is what we consider the core of any sign business’s marketing today, and leads to them engaging with the sign company,” Starr says.

“We continually work as a company to educate sign companies to use this tool to engage with their customers. We study the trends to make sure we’re coaching the sign companies in understanding how to market their business in the most effective manner for today’s landscape. Just being there and having a Web presence is key when people are reaching out for information.”

Shockingly, only 54 percent of small businesses have a Web presence today, she adds. But 76 percent of consumers go online prior to making a buying decision, to get a phone number, take a look at examples, learn the company‘s hours and locations, and read testimonials about its work.

Moreover, in studies SignPresence has conducted focused on “leaders versus laggards”, the profitable growth is coming among companies with a web presence that is both engaging and offers functionality, such as file transfer, proofing, a current portfolio of work, and order centers for key customers. Sign companies setting up online catalogs for their existing customers are witnessing a 30 percent increase in business for those same customers, she says.

 

HP Hiflex Web-to-Print Solution

A highly refined tool providing a user-friendly online storefront, the Web-to-print solution from HP Hiflex (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10071015), links buyers directly to the production floor, helping facilitate the customization of marketing campaigns with online product design, and secure payment processing. It’s main features include flexible product configuration, online product design, automatic data verification, shopping cart with secure payment processing, a Drupal (open source) content management system, back-office automation, prospect acquisition, search engine marketing, and B2B portals for enhanced customer loyalty.

“The HP Hiflex Web-to-Print Solution enables print service providers to attract customers from around the world via a Web shop that displays products in a simple, dynamic matrix and supports multiple languages and currencies,” says Stefan Reichhart, director of sales and marketing worldwide, HP Hiflex.

“PSPs can offer customized B2C and B2B interfaces on multiple domains for a targeted customer experience that builds brand loyalty with customers. For business clients, PSPs can create exclusive branded Web shops that offer additional convenience to meet those clients’ needs.”

He added the core HP Hiflex Web-to-Print Solution is ideal for general commercial PSPs, while the HP Hiflex Web-to-Print Solution for Sign and Display is adapted to meet the needs of PSPs specializing in the large-format sign and display market.

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