Increasing wide format sales with web-to-print services

“The internet isn’t part of the strategy – the internet IS the strategy.” (Charlie Pesko, InfoTrends)

WHAT IS WEB TO PRINT (W2P)?

W2P bridges the gap between digital online content and commercial print production. This process allows a print house, a client, and possibly a graphic designer to create, edit, and approve computer-based online template designs during the whole prepress phase.

Many customers buy small printed products through the web each and every day. And so we have to ask the question: why don’t print service providers empower their customers to buy large format graphics from them online as well?

W2P is a win-win solution for customers and print providers by offering a shopping convenience for busy customers, while at the same time helping print providers differentiate themselves from the pack, given the fact that large format digital printing in itself is no longer sufficiently distinctive enough to prevent customers from looking around for other print suppliers. So as a print provider, you need a hook to keep them coming back for more.

W2P with its web-based job submission tools can enhance the relationship between print service provider (PSP) and client by making it easier and more convenient for both to do business. There is also an opportunity to change the purchasing dynamics for corporate clients, driving the print business in a different direction away from the classic process of ‘bid, transfer file, proof and print.’

WHY SELL POSTERS VIA ON-LINE TEMPLATE DESIGNS?

FACTS

  • North American retail value of wide format display graphics will grow through 2018 at rate of 4.7% per year to $24B in revenue
  • In 2015, more than 69% of wide format buyers purchased signs, banners or posters
  • 86% of large format graphics are outsourced
  • Every category of business buys large format graphics to support their business.
  • 65% of these print providers sell to retailers and/or wholesalers
  • There are over 830,000 micro & small businesses in Canada
  • According to IDC data report in 2015, the majority of companies, of all sizes, are expecting to spend more on wide format graphics
  • According to InfoTrends, online print sales growth is growing from $30 billion (2013) to $70 billion (2017)
  • According to PRIMIR 2015 study – 76% of PSP’s still did not have an online store.

WHY AREN’T MORE SERVICE PROVIDERS ADAPTING TO SELL VIA W2P?

Well there are primarily three reasons:

  • The cost of the average mid-level W2P system is about $50,000 – $80,000
  • There is a perception that they already missed the boat – but the reality is that only 20% of printers sell online
  • Finally, they don’t know what system is right for them

Although some types of graphics are still better suited to be handled personally by a designer, there are many printed products that fit well into a template-driven web portal workflow. With a W2P solution, the customer can easily specify customized prints based on their own graphics and the PSP format templates, eliminating some of the traditional prepress and proofing steps. And beyond the price of the software (and periodic upgrades), there is the need for server systems to host the W2P software, which only a sufficiently large PSP could afford to set up and maintain with dedicated technical staff.

CHOOSING a W2P SOLUTION

Ideally, the software engine behind a WTP solution would be custom-developed solution where the PSP would communicate exactly how the workflow should be designed. The problem is that this custom W2P solution may be prohibitively expensive (average $158,000), for a small- to medium-sized PSP. To address these issues, some PSPs have turned to WTP providers who host their software. Often called “Software as a Service” (SaaS), this option means the provider not only creates and enhances the software, but also maintains it as a web-based service and provides technical support. It's obvious that for small businesses going the SaaS route is the option with less costs, but which company provides the best e-commerce SaaS solution for a printing shop? Some of the players are Shopify, BigCommerce, EFI Digital StoreFront, and Canon Poster Designer Plus.

It is important to try the software out, as the software interface should be both rich and simple. Custom graphic template design should be possible within the software requiring no design expertise. For PSP, expanding into WTP has been a challenge of balancing software affordability against the ability to merge desktop graphic design tools with sufficient server-based technology. SaaS providers have edged into the market to offer viable options for smaller PSPs. If you need more information, don’t hesitate to email me at – pdulis@canada.canon.com.

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