Is There a Synergy With Web-to-Print and Digital Printing?

By on June 18th, 2010

In the most recent NAPL State of the Industry report, when the question was asked, “Which of the following do you expect to grow fastest over the next 3 years,” the number one response was Digital Variable Data Printing. While variable data printing will increase the effectiveness of pieces sent, another way to increase the value of the work is by automating the ordering and transaction process using web-to-print solutions.

Web-to-print is a group of technologies that allow the customer to work with the print provider in a faster and more convenient way. Web-to-print allows a printing customer to create, edit, monitor and approve computer-based online work during the ordering and manufacturing process. It can include online storefronts or catalogs to facilitate the ordering and reordering process.

Web-to-print systems are also expanding to handle variable data printing and distribution of other marketing materials such as presentations, seminars, logo items, and even email and other electronic media. This change is driven by enterprise clients seeking a single repository/tool to manage all marketing efforts including print. The second highest response in our State of the Industry report was web-to-print. In fact, web-to-print has skyrocketed in the listings from ninth place with 19% in 2006 to 41% this year.

And there may be a synergy created when a web-to-print solution is combined with a digital press. A report by InfoTrends stated that volumes of color digitally printed pages increase after implementing a web-to-print solution. The increase was different based on the speed of the device but for the fastest devices it was about 25%.

In seminars I discuss my experiences with clients that show that web-to-print increases your value and often increases volumes. But in a recent seminar a conversation was started with people in the audience who said that they were not seeing increases in volume with their web-to print-solutions. Now to be thorough this would require more in-depth research into which web-to-print services they had implemented (shopping cart) and how fast and user friendly was the service.

But lets take an informal poll. If you have a shopping cart or ordering type of service, what do you think? Has your web-to-print solution increased your digital printing volumes?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

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    5 Responses to “Is There a Synergy With Web-to-Print and Digital Printing?”

    1. Slava Apel Says:

      Having experience with both shopping cart, ordering type of service, on account and coupon based systems, what makes the difference in order increase is the amount of traffic you are sending to it. Web to Print system by itself won’t get your digital volumes up, marketing your web to print system will.

    2. Chuck Gehman Says:

      Slava is absolutely correct. All too often printers think they can sign up for a web-to-print solution, and the orders are going to start rolling in. And Slava is right on the money about the fact that the Printer must market their new capability– which in the online world means SEO, something most printers are ill equipped to do. You have to be very clever about this and really know who the customers are you want to attract. Then, you have to sell the W2P solution to customers! And even that is a different endeavor than most printers are used to versus having sales people dialing for dollars. Having said all this, my opinion is that implementing a web2print solution and employing some new selling techniques would be far more accessible for most printing companies, and I highly recommend it as a course of action, versus (for example), attempting to become a “Marketing Service Provide.”

    3. Howie Fenton Says:

      @Slave & Chuck

      Thanks for your feedback. It sounds a lot like the Field of Dreams sales philosophy “If you build it – he will come.” But just like buying a digital press… its not just about signing a equipment contract, placing it on your floor and adding it to an equipment list- and then magically you will create new and sustainable business.
      I wonder if anyone else is willing to talk about “employing some new selling techniques” for web to print and digital printing success?

    4. Hadrian Says:

      I thinks some times printers are also forced to “fit the square peg in the triangle hole” with acquiring a w2p solution. We have seen that some of our clients whether savvy to the idea of w2p choose to use our w2p services as an ancillary part of doing business with us. That can and cannot be detrimental. In one instance you have your foot in the door and hope they see the value added service you are providing and on the other you end up not properly going after the true volume you want. I think ultimately the “selling technique” we all might be keen to is making sure our clients are educated in w2p if they are not and also truly understanding their immediate to long term needs. Mapping that kind of road map has proven useful to us as we have successfully mapped out a scalable w2p solution for a number of clients. Understanding what w2p from a printers standpoint does not hurt either.

    5. Carlos García Says:

      First of all excellent subject and blog. As with any new technology in this printing industry, for the ones who been in it for a while (20+ years), we know that is not just buying new equipment and the jobs will come. Maybe that worked 25 years ago. But with so much competition as it was mentioned already marketing is the key for web to print in order to impact volumes. And with that in mind, 2 names come to me when wtp is mentioned: printing4less.com and Vista Print. The both have been very agressive in the marketing online for their wtp solutions and very successful at it too.
      There is a huge market out there of small businesses underserved with need for printing services that this type of companies are satisfying. So if you want to succeed in this printing industry you should start thinking of a wtp solution serving nationwide. You can’t keep thinking in a local market share customer base anymore because your pricing will be too high with what is available online. Do the research, simplify the ordering process, speed up the deliveries and market your wtp solution.