According to the PRIMIR 2012 study “eCommerce & Print Business Models” conducted by InfoTrends, eCommerce sales accounted for about 12% of print revenues in 2011, assuming total printing industry revenue of approximately $150 billion. Sales generated by eCommerce are expected to experience a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3 percent between 2011 and 2016.
That being said, 50 percent of North American commercial printers have some type of Web-to-print system, reports David Minnick, EFI product manager, Web-to-print. “There is opportunity there, but from a print supplier’s perspective, you need to get out there,” says Minnick. “You can’t take a back seat or you’ll miss out.”
Tawnya Starr, president of PrinterPresence, agrees. Printers shouldn’t “wait for customers to ask for Web-to-print capabilities,” says Starr. “If print service providers (PSPs) wait for clients to ask for this capability, their competition will have the advantage. Based on our studies of PSP's who are growing and profitable in today's environment, a key differentiator is they use Web-to-print technology as a sales tool, introducing the concept to every client, large and small.”
Web-to-print, or eCommerce, is not the simple online ordering system of 15 years ago. Evolving from more than just an alternative to more traditional methods of acquiring business, the concept is now an end-to-end system that touches all part of the workflow with as much automation as possible, says Minnick, citing EFI’s Digital StoreFront solution. This includes everything from online credit card payment order entry, to integration with a MIS system, to automatic status updates emailed to the customer, including shipping and invoicing information, to integration with digital front ends, and finally, to fulfillment.
“You need as much automation as possible,” says Minnick. “Otherwise it becomes too much to manage.”
Of major importance, adds Minnick, is that the Web-to-print solution is cloud-based, especially as businesses and consumers migrate from desktop computers to devices like tablets, which are not meant to store data. These devices also give businesses and consumers great mobility—securing another advantage to implementing a cloud-based, eCommerce workflow.
“Cloud integration in Web-to-print is absolutely critical in moving forward in the B2B environment,” says Minnick.
Keen Systems’ CEO Vitaly M. Golomb sees Web-to-print as providing printers with a pipeline—one online system, for all customer transactions; either the customer sets the process in motion, or the printer does it for the customer. According to Golomb, this reduces errors and customer service overhead, while increasing customer satisfaction and sales efficiency.
“Don’t consider eCommerce as an add-on, as something extra,” says Golomb. “Regard it as a core competency, as a way to communicate with clients online. The future is moving to doing everything online.”
The most basic systems from EFI, Keen Systems, HP Hiflex, PrinterPresence, among others, help printers create private branded storefronts for their customers, which lets “salespeople spend their time developing new relationships, instead of participating in the minutia of managing production,” says Golomb. “Plus, an advantage for the shop owner is that in this scenario the salespeople don’t own the relationships with their customers; the shop owns it. Even if the salesperson leaves, the customer stays.”
HP Hiflex’s Web-to-print platform is based on an Open Source, a Drupal content management system that allows printers to easily make customized websites, says Daniel Deboyace, marketing manager, HP Hiflex. “Our platform also features customized estimating, so the customer doesn’t just encounter price lists. Our system uses information based on the printer’s actual equipment to estimate. If you are taking in all these orders online, it is a waste of time to estimate each order. Our system can do a pre-estimate, so the customer knows exactly what they are going to pay; the printer doesn’t have to waste his time.”