E-Procurement and your bottom line

The technological upheaval of the printing industry over the past 25 years embraces pre-press, digital prmtmg, computer-to-plate, computer-topress and work flow management. But there is one crucial area that has lagged behind – how printing is sold and how printers serve their clients.

E-commerce is changing the world of business. Yet the percentage of printers using online services remains low compared to other industries. In 2003, Statistics Canada reported that only 33% of printing firms had a website.

E-business is a way for the printing industry to catch up. It embraces emerging technologies and business models which take advantage of instant online communication. Printers can now short cut the area in which they currendy lag behind – the online selling of printing and servicing their clients. The bottom line is that printers offering the convenience of ecommerce to their clients will immediately reap the benefits of their investment.

The move to e-business should be part of an overall business strategy since it changes the way of doing business by using the Internet. It must be treated as the acquisition of an asset, reviewed and planned with input from all departments and with an appreciation of the benefits.

Printers’ objections to the adoption of ebusiness include comments such as:

  • “Our clients prefer to call or fax their orders.” Do they really? What client prefers a five-minute phone call to the convenience of a couple of keystrokes?
  • ‘We have a website so we have ecommerce.” There is a difference between a static informational website and a dynamic e-commerce application.
  • Many printers claimed to offer online proofing but were in fact simply e-mailing PDF proofs.

Today’s print buyers are savvy about using the Internet to find products and order online. In 2003, the Canadian business-to-business ecommerce sales were $13.1 billion – and increasing at 100Al annually. E-procurement works to the advantage of both printer and client. The first step is for printers to ask themselves what will best serve their business model. Should it be an informative static ebusiness site or a site with dynamic ecommerce benefits?

For an e-business site, there are several points to consider.

1. Write a great message. The information should be simply written and industryrelevant. Visitors should be encouraged to state their needs and the option to receive regular email press and printing tips.

2. The site should be easy to use, creative and graphically powerful. The best e-business sites put the company above the others. Your e-business site should convey the reliable and positive character of your company. But it stops there. An e-business site is just information, with a few basic communications functions.

What’s on an e-commerce / e-procurement site? Here are nine quick benefits to look for:

1. Ordering online with a shopping cart. Your clients should be able to go online 2417, browse their personal e-catalogue of printed products, make a choice, generate a purchase order and monitor the work in progress, all with a few keystrokes.

2. Personalize your client’s e-catalogue with their logo. Personalization is a powerful marketing tool and will create a strong link for future business.

3. Make updates and changes quickly and inexpensively. Some e-procurement services charge for changes and adding clients to your database. You don’t want to be penalized for your success.

4. Allow clients to input variable data into pre-designed templates. For example an easy to use business card module is critical. The business card is reordered frequendy and the procedure must be very user-friendly. Although there is only a small margin of profit in many stationery items, this often opens the door to bigger projects with higher margins.

5. Online proofing is ideal for a quicker turnaround. Your clients should have the opportunity to view the result of the printed piece immediately. In most cases, CTP or digital printing can be conducted direcdy.

6. File transfer is an excellent time-saving tool. Your e-procurement service should sidestep the time consuming and complicated FTP upload. Your eprocurement service should offer a much more streamlined file transfer at up to 500 megabytes per upload.

7. Accurate estimating is the heart of the process. This is where you control revenue (sales) and expenses (production costs). Your e-procurement must enable you to offer quick, easy online estimates to your clients. This is a huge time saver at both ends.

8. Make sure your e-procurement service is easy to use without the need for an IT Manager. Ideally your staff should be trained as a part of their workflow.

9. Some printing integrated software can cost as much as $50,000. You probably don’t need that. For a small-to-medium sized printer, you should be able to take advantage of the complete e-procurement process for about $5 a day.

Before investing a lot of money in e-business, clear objectives should be established and options analyzed Should your e-business presence have e-commerce functions, supported by an e-procurement application? Make sure you get what fits your business model and don’t pay too much to features you’ll never use.

E-procurement will never replace a warm handshake. Many printing functions will always be done in person, like choosing paper samples or colours. However, the basic standard printed items, which are timeconsuming and yield minimum profits, can be processed far more quickly with an eprocurement online application.

With tightening profit margins it is comforting for a printer to look over and see their computer earning money with eprocurement. It is the fastest way for you to catch up with technology and get your share of the swelling e-commerce windfall.

Pierre Fournier has 25 years experience in the graphic arts and printing industry and the CEO and founder of Printing e-Procurement Inc. Pierre@printine-procurement.net