Industry Insights: Breaking the Surface: Diving Deeper into Digital Print’s Ocean of Opportunity

It’s funny how rapidly we embrace new technology, but how slow we can be to discover its full potential. Most of us use smartphones, tablets, desktop PCs and digital cameras, on a daily basis. Yet the majority of us will only scratch the surface of what these clever devices can do for us.

Technology advances at a pace most of us struggle to keep up with. Consequently, all too often we use these innovations to do what we previously did, only more quickly, more efficiently.  How often do we take the time to really understand what the technology is capable of? How often do we use our imaginations to explore what could be achieved if we matched our own ideas, passions, and ambitions with what technology makes possible?

So it is with digital print. Since FESPA Digital launched in Amsterdam in 2006, we’ve championed the digital revolution, and printers have embraced it enthusiastically. With five editions of the exhibition behind us, the market tells us that this year will be digital print’s tipping point. More than half of the printers we spoke to in our 2013 global FESPA community survey are ready to invest in digital in 2014. The majority of respondents forecast that in two years’ time over 50 percent of their business will come from digital.

Ever-Decreasing Circles?

Our research also tells us that the key drivers for digital investment link back to the basics of any manufacturing business—speed, productivity, efficiency, job turnaround, product quality.  Clients are pressing harder for just-in-time job delivery, and printers are responding with digital technology.

Of course, these are all very meaningful benefits. They’re helping printers the world over to run better businesses, often blending analog processes—screen and offset—with digital to deliver the goods.

But the printer whose business strategy is limited to driving efficiency gains is swimming in ever-decreasing circles. Feedback from our community affirms that the applications which account for the bulk of the wide-format printers’ business—posters, banners and printed signs—are not growing. 

Making Waves

The great news is that the digital journey doesn’t end when printers install their first digital wide format printer. Today’s digital ‘revolutionary’ is taking their creativity and production capability, using their unique insight into the client’s objectives, capitalizing on next-generation digital wide format technology, and working with their knowledge of innovations in rigid and flexible media to do something extraordinary. They’re not replicating what they could do using analogue processes. They’re not satisfied with ‘same-old’ products and services. They’re seeing new ways to add value for customers. They’re diving deeper.

Over the last few years, we’ve set out to inspire our community of printers by showing them the rich commercial potential that exists beyond printed signage and graphics. Soft signage, creative POP/POS, building wraps, printed décor, industrial applications, vehicle wraps, digitally printed garments and personalized promotional products—successive FESPA Digital exhibitions have showcased the full gamut of applications, urging printers to take the leap, and ‘explore the wider opportunities’.

The market tells us that we were right to give this encouragement. Eightly-one percentof printers in our survey now report handling more textile work, followed by 71 percent for POP, 69 percent for wallpaper, 68 percent for building wraps, and 67 percent for industrial print.

Visitors to FESPA Digital 2014 in Munich will find ample opportunity to go deeper, with conference sessions, hands-on workshops and chances to network with printers who are making a success of these growth applications. Four ‘hubs’ at FESPA Digital 2014 will help visitors to immerse themselves in the areas that interest them—Digital, Wrap, Signage or Fabric.

Unfathomable Opportunity

In truth, the opportunity for the printer is unfathomable. Nobody knows what the limitations are, because still we have so much to understand about how print will be integrated with other media, other decorative techniques and other manufacturing processes in our future. If the champions of 3D printing are to be believed, the technological innovation that gave birth to inkjet printing will be at the heart of everything we touch in decades to come.

Our traditional wide format print world—graphics, advertising, promotional, point of sale—is being reshaped. Brands are re-imagining how to share their messages and persuade us to purchase, both online and in the physical world.  We want beauty, functionality and individuality—in our homes, our leisure spaces, our offices, our wardrobes and even our vehicles. Digital print, with its unique powers to personalise and to be a bridge to the virtual, holds many of the answers.

A visit to Messe Munich from May 20 to 23, 2014 will put you at the heart of the biggest ever showcase of the vast potential of digital wide format print and signage. Four hundred exhibitors, hundreds of new products, four days of insightful conference sessions, dozens of market-leading experts to hear from…

Are you ready to break the surface, and explore the ocean of opportunity that’s out there for your business?