One of the big issues with Web-to-print in the past, says Golomb, is that it was so expensive, printers had to bill it to the customer. But now there are solutions that are very affordable, so it’s not something printers have to bill as a service. Instead, it becomes a competitive advantage; printers with eCommerce capabilities give their customers a convenient way of placing orders, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
At Graph Expo 2012, Keen announced new offerings—Keen Design Studio, Keen Files, and Keen Boost Marketplace, which allows printers to expand their offering to customers by reselling products and services they don’t produce in-house. Expected to go live later in 2013, the upside for printers is that customers won’t see a difference between what is produced in-house or sourced elsewhere. The printer retains control of the order flow and relationships.
“The idea, is to allow printers to create a real hub for their business,” says Golomb. “PSPs can rely on this is the heart of their business; it gives them relationships with all their vendors and customers in a neat nice way.”
This type of multi-partner capability is also a core attribute of HP Hiflex’s Web-to-print platform. “Our solution helps printers function as production partners, allowing printers to offer one-stop shopping capability, even though their actual equipment may be limited,” says Deboyace.
Looking ahead, Web-to-print also is also extending beyond print, to include integration with additional media platforms for cross media marketing campaigns. Note, for example, EFI’s October acquisition of Online Print Solutions, allowing EFI to integrate OPS’ cross media and variable data solutions into its Digital StoreFront platform and MIS software.
Tips of the Trade
For those looking to implement a Web-to-print workflow, here’s what you need to consider:
- When developing your eCommerce platform, “create a 360-degree integration,” says Starr. “A well developed website is at the core, which allows for receiving files, incoming jobs/orders, order approval, online proofing, etc. It is critical that the site tie into all aspects of marketing—direct mail, social media, search engines, etc.”
- Before investing in a system, says Jessica Formosa, director of marketing, Satori Software, “make sure you know how your Web-to-print system will be used, who your audience is, and have your go-to market strategy worked out. Investing in these applications without a complete understanding of how it will be used can result in under-utilization of the system. Do your research to ensure success and a nice ROI.”
- “Determine a budget, both monetary and time,” says Starr. “Over investing in a technology and under utilizing it is a recipe for financial loss.”
- “Understand your business model, look for a Web-to-print solution that fits your business model and will allow you to grow into other markets,” says Minnick.
- “Simplify your process from start to finish as much as possible; don’t complicate things for the customer,” says Formos. “Begin with limited features and grow the options as needed; make uploading lists easy. Requiring a specific data format may seem like an easy solution, but don’t fall for it. At least provide interactive field mapping. By putting in some initial effort, you can avoid user aggravation that might otherwise drive your customers elsewhere.”
- When you are new to Web-to-print, don’t start out with a difficult customer, advises Minnick. Instead, choose a customer where things are going well, one that doesn’t require a lot of handholding or is fairly straightforward, especially from an automation standpoint. Use that easier customer to understand your platform, realize the value, and them move ahead to the more difficult. Another benefit of this approach is that it frees up your CSRs to deal with the more difficult customer.
- Look beyond print to increase your Web-to-print business,” says Minnick. If you are printing a brochure that will be sent to a tradeshow, for example, find out what else the customer needs for that tradeshow. Become the fulfillment partner.
- Use Web-to-print to sign customers up for multi-year contracts. Leverage the front-end solution your offering to your customers, offering a contract discount. “Use Web-to-print as a value proposition to lock-in a multi year contract,” says Minnick.
- Don’t wait for the perfect technology to come along, that will do everything you want, says Starr. “If you do, you may be waiting a long time; every day you wait to implement a technology is potentially lost revenue. A recommendation is to use a solution that gets you 70-80 percent of where you want to be.”