In the not too distant past, printing services were for most part, all about the printer and very little about the customer. The fault, in large part, lay at the doors of the customers. They did not really concern themselves with the process of printing and very few if any, had an opinion about what their business cards looked like or whether their greeting cards looked beautiful or for that matter whether their calendars made the right impression or not. The fact that these items were getting printed was enough; the design was secondary; what the printer suggested was gospel and what the printer delivered was accepted without any complaints whatsoever.
But the evolution of technology, the growing awareness about printing and the increasing tendency of customers to be more discerning about their designing choices, has changed printing forever. More importantly, it’s become a buyer’s market out there and customer is king. Contemporary printing businesses cannot afford to take the customer for granted. They need to deliver on the customers’ expectations or get left behind. As can be imagined, this is easier said than done.
One of the biggest problems that these businesses face is with respect to the design. Designing a print product as per client expectations is one of the biggest challenges faced by the printing industry.
This mock dialogue between a client and a printing solutions provider (PSP) illustrates this difficulty best:
Client: “I want to print a label that says ‘xyz’ and it should have design that looks like ‘abc’; actually I am not very sure about the design, but it should look like ‘abc’.”
PSP: “Do you want the design to look like ‘this’ or ‘that’.”
Client: “No, I want it to look like ‘abc’.”
PSP: “Does ‘abc’ look like this?”
Client: “No it doesn’t, work harder on it; I want ‘abc’, nothing but ‘abc’”
You get the drift. And after all that back and forth, you still might not be able to provide a print product whose design is as per client expectations.
The problem is that clients are very specific about the designs they want, and if you aren’t able to deliver on their expectations, you have one irritated, dissatisfied and very unhappy client on your hands.
So what do you do?
Don’ worry. Evolution in the latest technology has thrown up a lot of answers for enterprising printers and one such solution is web-to-print. This solution puts the reigns of designing a print product solely in the hands of the customer. The printer’s job is to take the print order, process it and deliver the prints. Nothing more, nothing less!
The Rise and Rise of Web-To-Print
Evolution of web technology and its integration into print has happened rapidly in the last few years and the reasons are very self-evident. Let’s take a look at them:
ü The increasing awareness of clients about the importance of design and the role it plays in improving brand awareness, enhancing brand reputation and increasing credibility.
ü People adopting a culture of personalization where they want their products to be more about them rather than anybody else.
ü Availability of advanced printing systems that can process personalized printing orders quickly and effectively.
ü The rise of print solution focused web development companies that are aware of the needs of printing businesses and their customers and deliver solutions that meet the expectations of both stakeholders.
ü A growing number of customers who prefer using web-to-print solutions and want to do business with print companies who offer such solutions.
ü An increasing willingness of printing businesses to try out new technologies for client benefit.
These and many other reasons account for the fact that the web-to-print software market is all set to touch a mammoth $869 million by the year 2017. Of course, this figure might change, but there is no doubt that it will only go up and not down.
Easy-to- Use and Easier-to-Master
Here’s a question for you – what is that one reason why a person will use software to design a label, banner, calendar, greeting card, photo album etc. over talking to a printer directly to share his design idea. The primary reason here is that the software is very easy-to-use and can be mastered without any difficulty whatsoever; this is the kind of software that doesn’t make people apprehensive about using its features and functionalities. The functionality and features are self-explanatory allowing you to create great design effortlessly.
But will this software work for the creatively challenged? Of course it will. Web development companies create this software keeping the least common denominator in mind – the creatively challenged and the people who have their doubts about using this software. Users are offered a wide variety of templates that allow them to craft great looking designs without any effort at all. That’s what makes users want to try out the software – the fact that it is not too much trouble to use and they can create some spectacular designs even if they don’t know the ABCs of design.
A View from the Printing Business’s Perspective
So how do printing businesses benefit from this software; because therein lies the rub. Why would a printer, who’s been making do without the use of printing software, decide to use one? Moreover, what if his business is doing well? Why would he want to make an investment in this software and its ancillary expenses?
The answer lies in making printing solutions more about the customer. The answer also lies in the fact that by giving the reigns of the design to their customers, printing businesses are no longer worried about the design part. All they need to focus on is ensuring that the designs are printed to perfection and delivered within the predetermined time frame. It’s a win-win situation for printing businesses and it allows them to provide printing services that are more engaging and far more intuitive than their normal services.
A Big Opportunity for Small Businesses and Start-ups
There is no doubt that web-to-print software has shaken up the print industry for the better. But what it has also done is that it has given small printing businesses, start-ups and even home based businesses a huge shot in the arm. They no longer need to make a substantial investment to offer diverse and comprehensive printing services. Purely internet based businesses can offer the same range of services that the bigger players in the niche provide. More importantly, the fact they are web based means they have wider reach and can market their services to a wider audience. For e.g. if you are operating out of your home in Atlanta, you can still reach a customer in New York, who can proceed to design a print through the web-to-print software up on your site and place an order.
It’s all about Control
When it comes to web-to-print, apart from the quality of the print, the customer is in control of everything. Control is what customers want, especially over the way a particular product looks or the way a particular service is delivered. When it comes to web-to-print solutions, customers have nobody to blame but themselves if the design is not what they wanted. Also, the fact that they are in charge means they can get as creative as they like, and they get a very clear idea of what their design looks like. Only if they are very sure that the design will look good on their calendar, or label or business card, they press the order button. This means they can get their hands on a product of their choice, their way.
A Continuously Improving Experience
The world of web technology is continuously evolving and that too at the rate of knots. What seemed impossible today, is more than just possible today. The same can be said of the printing industry. Something that couldn’t be printed yesterday can be printed in all its glory today. What this essentially means is that web-to-print technology is all set to become even more advanced in the near future. In fact, all you need to do is enter the phrase ‘web-to-print’ on Google, and you will come up with a range of news stories about the web-to-print industry and the latest products being released. What you will realize is that innovation is happening at a rapid pace in the industry and the various stakeholders are not afraid to try something new.
The future of the web-to-print industry is in really good hands and things are all set to get better and better for customers. Web-to-print technology, by its very nature is something that can help printing businesses achieve sustainable business growth. More importantly, it can help deliver the perfect print. Take together these are benefits that just cannot be ignored by printing services providers and their customers. This is the reason why the buzz about web-to-print refuses to die down and will keep going on and on for a very long time to come.
This is Ekta Jain working with Design’N’Buy, leaders in Web to Print turnkey solutions. I always test the products I write about and say All-In-One Product line is just awesome for both the end-user and the store owner in terms of business growth. You can follow Design’N’Buy on Twitter @designnbuy.