It may not be print…but it sure is profit!

The internet is here to stay. While that statement is far from revolutionary, it has taken printers some time to accept and deal with the repercussions of that fact, and then to move on to exploiting the web’s advantages.

Printers are now offering many types of e-print solutions. Business models similar to Vista Print’s have been very successful, driving profits during these difficult times. Increasingly, we see the industry open to various means of delivering the printed product to consumers. Advances in digital print have been great enablers in this change. And while we quickly catch up on e-commerce solutions, Japan has given birth to a whole new beast—m-commerce (Mobile Commerce). New internet-based business models are a step in the right direction, but the shift to mobile commerce cannot be ignored. As a result of a cutthroat market, telecom has emerged with high value-add cell phone solutions. These solutions are creating new revenue streams for advertising.

We know that e-mail in the business world has long drifted away from the computer screens and onto the Blackberries of constantly on the run professionals. However, with the evolution of 3G phone standards, we have the ability to do much more than text on our phones today. Leave it to Apple to create a device that behaves like an entertainment centre—housing music and movies along with the usual business blah blah blah (I’m speaking, of course, of the iPhone). The result, as believed by the Gartner group, is that by 2012, 50% of traveling workers will not take a laptop with them on business trips, preferring to use a PDA phone instead, and in particular the Apple iPhone. Generally, both the desktop PC and Laptop are in decline as Internet devices.

Media will of course go where the people are. If end-users are on their phones, instead of the Internet, that is where spending dollars will drift. There have been two very broad trends emerging in advertising over the past several years. There is a convergence of campaigns, with increased pressure for individual companies to manage everything from PR, to print, to web. Secondly, there is a much higher emphasis on ROI, with measurable results preferred.

M-commerce has the potential to replace many business models across various sectors while satisfying the above trends. For example, in Japan, your phone has become your wallet, allowing you to pay for various items with the device directly. 3G phones allow users to surf the Internet on their phones at much higher speeds. This means fewer coupons and commercials in their usual form, and more of them on your phone, in the near future.

A perfect example of the ways that m-commerce may affect print is ticketing. With better technology, and improved security, ticket delivery can be sent directly to your PDA. Further adding value to this function is barcode technology. The same technology that allows you to scan a skid of paper or a job docket is now letting people in to see their favourite band. This has been the case for many years of course. The key point of difference is the ticket—there isn’t one anymore—your phone is scanned directly.

The evolution of ticketing has long been moving away from traditional printing. Many companies eliminated printed tickets by enabling users to print their stubs from their home ink jet. The purchase of tickets for entertainment and travel has also moved largely online. Today the top five ticketing companies in the world have already launched, or are just about to launch, their mobile ticketing services.

The actual transaction occurs on the phone directly, without the customer needing to use a computer. In Canada, Rogers Wireless has recently partnered with Live Nation to allow users to browse the ticket database free of charge, and purchase tickets for delivery directly to the phone. The delivery charges for the mobile tickets are only $1/ticket.

According to Juniper Research,

  • 2.6 billion tickets will be purchased by phone by the year 2011
  • Mobile boarding passes will soon save the airline industry $500 million annually
  • The largest presence of mobile ticketing is currently in Europe and Asia

What is a printer to do?

The last thing we want to hear about is yet another market moving away from print. Short and long term solutions are necessary. In the short term, we need to add value back to the printed ticket. Some ideas include partner coupons. A good example of this is the Pizza Pizza slice you get if the Raptors score over 100 points. You take your ticket and walk into any Pizza Pizza location to redeem your prize. Notably, the value-add for the customer (Raptors fan) is through third party advertising (Pizza Pizza). This value add is a result of little value existing for the ticket issuing company—for this company tickets are just another added cost.

In the long term, we need to provide mobile solutions in the same way we have adopted solutions for the Internet, which may mean further prepress sophistication. Since Europe and Asia are currently the main markets for mobile ticketing, we can use this lag time to gear up our capabilities—training staff on software such as Adobe’s Device Central CS3, which allows for mobile content generation.

When mobile commerce arrives, we should be ready—because though it may not be printing, it sure is profit.

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