As highlighted by InfoTrends’ Tim Greene at FESPA’s Global Summit, their recent ‘who buys wide-format’ research asked 300 print buyers if they’ve ever used an interactive element in their signage and graphics campaigns. Twenty percent of respondents said they have used interactive elements, with 92 percent (61 buyers) commenting that they would use it again. These figures illustrate that it’s still only a small majority of printers that are currently using interactive elements. However, for printers to be in a position to benefit, they need to start thinking like a marketer. They have the opportunity to position their printed products (that integrate with new technology) to their customers as a complete package, providing solutions to clients before they even know that they need them.
Fisher: The sign and graphics industry needs to become more sustainable. Printers need to offer more sustainable products to their customers and educate them on the benefits of using these products. Buyers in these markets want to be sustainable, but often assume they cannot purchase an item that is sustainable or think that the price of that item would become too expensive. Often, the price for the sustainable substrate is not much more than the alternative, so awareness and education about these products is needed.
Green: We are finding that buyers are being cautious with their budgets. They want true value for the dollars they spend and they want more involvement in the upfront planning. More than ever, we have to understand our clients and more importantly, their customers.
Greene: The biggest question for a market like this that straddles the border between commodity and customization is the maintenance of balance between volume and margin. Every business wrestles with the conflicting desire to drive more sales and the need to maintain margins, but this business is perhaps particularly challenged because for many PSPs it is not a commodity business so the production and services required to fulfill wide-format digital printing shouldn’t be positioned as such, yet they often are. Addressing the issue is really a matter of the leadership of these companies deciding, not in coordination, but as a matter of their own survival, to not position their businesses as price oriented suppliers, but as service oriented strategic partners.
I’d also add that for supplier manufacturers and printer OEMs there is a very important supply chain issue that is extremely important right now—how do you get dealers to “sell” your premium branded product as opposed to making the “easy” sale of the less expensive private label product? This must get sorted out because the sale of those premium products is what allows innovation on the ink and media side, which in turn drives development of new applications.
Hanulec: Printing companies recognize that they need to be part of a trend where their work continues to offer increased relevance. Just about every print product faces some sort of online or social media competition, and many print-based businesses have become experts at vertical integration to establish strong, multi-media offerings. In signage, I think we see some of that integration with mobile QR code and augmented reality applications.
Staying relevant is also about offering the right medium to get a message across. Printers know that standard billboards that were the mainstay of the industry don’t work in every situation as a marketing vehicle, so they continue to innovate and explore with new ideas for wraps, in-store displays, and other types of installations. And that means really opening up the market for what printers can print on. We need to make digital print work with as many different media as possible. That type of versatility made screen printing an important part of the signage market, and it shows what those of us in the digital space are going after.
Bill Hartman, VP Business Development Digital Finishing, Esko: PSPs need to create value before and after print and differentiate themselves from their competition.
Monson: The lethargic growth of the economy caused by increased government regulation, taxes, and rising health care costs is faced by all industries. To address this, each business owner needs to remember the lessons of 2009: manage cash and expenses, proactively build sales, and maintain a healthy quick ratio. Specific to the sign and graphics industry, increased competition is significant. To address it, the business owners need to differentiate themselves in the market and provide greater value and service to the customer while increasing efficiency and managing expenses.
Moore: The economy, as it impacts marketers’ advertising spend, is the single biggest issue facing our industry at a macro level. It relates to many human capital issues, as well as other business decisions.