Roland: Any printed material that is going to be outdoors or have contact with people needs lamination. For example, trade show graphics are wrapped, packed, and thrown into vehicles, where they are subject to abrasion. Your local school district or municipality may fold up your banners when storing them. Lamination will help protect these and other types of graphics from being damaged. In addition, you need to know how to trim, mount, hem, and grommet graphics. The good news here is that finishing is another line item you can add to the sale to further increase your margins.
Canon: Many shops start out with just the printer to first build their wide-format business and then add a digital cutter once the workload increases. Those shops that have both printing and finishing can produce a higher quality and volume of work in a given amount of time and with less labor costs.
Fujifilm: At Fujifilm, we feel that finishing is significant. Finishing capabilities can enable print providers to produce uniquely shaped and sized signage as well as 3D point of purchase displays. Print buyers are looking for these unique executions, and uniquely finished graphic displays often generate higher margins compared with simple square or rectangular shaped graphics.
QP: Is the wide-format sales cycle different than that for traditional commercial printing?
Canon: It’s all relative to what you consider normal, but in a nutshell, you are still selling printing and print-related services. The biggest difference is wide-format presents new applications and services (such as installation) that you may first need to educate your customers about so that the proper expectations are set between customer and print service provider (PSP).
Roland: Customers for wide-format vary widely, from the sports team that needs a banner and jerseys to the small retail business that needs banners, posters, POP displays, a vehicle wrap, or menu boards.
Not only is the sales cycle shorter, but your customers can expect a shorter turnaround time for wide-format work. Wide-format jobs are very high margin, though, compared to traditional quick printing applications, making what might appear at first to be a rush job well worth the effort.
Fujifilm: Both are short and getting shorter, so I would not suggest that they are that much different. Digital inkjet has changed print buyer expectations for fast turnaround.Some wide-format work such as store remodels, large regional or national promotions, and events have longer sales cycles, but most promotional signage has a very short cycle. Print buyers want to see the impact of a campaign, and quickly change if the campaign is not generating results.
QP: As commercial printers turn more to providing marketing services, where does wide-format fit in the mix?
Roland: What customers are finding is that digitally customized products, packaging, and branding materials are more effective and yield a better return on investment. Digital wide-format technology has allowed end users to have high quality, customized output in short runs, and is the best technology for customizing a graphic for a specific consumer. So it fits well in today’s marketing mix.
Canon: As a commercial printer, rather than just printing brochures and direct mail, etc. for your customers, now you can offer POP, displays, and a wide variety of other offerings through expanding into wide-format printing. There is a very good chance those customers are already sourcing their wide-format printing elsewhere. Offering wide-format printing allows the PSP to become a one-stop provider.
Fujifilm: There has been a lot of talk about printers moving from being print service providers to marketing service providers. Fujifilm sees this as an opportunity for growth and expansion into new areas of production and profitability, and that’s where wide-format comes into play. Wide-format is just one of the elements of a marketing campaign that may involve multiple printed pieces. We are also seeing more use of QR codes and integration with mobile marketing.
QP: Any other thoughts on the future of wide-format in the commercial printing industry segment?
Roland: One constant in this industry is change. The key to survival is to differentiate your business and to sell your capabilities well. The right digital wide-format device can help you capture new revenues, serve your customers better, and build solid profit centers to take your business to the next level.