Getting the most out of web-to-print
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By Marion Williams-Bennett, corporate communications manager, Pageflex
10 July 2012
Marion Williams-Bennett warns that web-to-print offers a valuable opportunity, but must be deployed correctly
Printers across Europe are embracing web-to-print solutions, and for good reason. Web-to-print can open up new lines of business and generate new revenue opportunities. And these opportunities are growing. InfoTrends predicts that in Europe, the print volume that originates online is expected to grow dramatically in the course of the next two years – from ten percent to 18 percent by 2014.
But while web-to-print promises so much opportunity for printers, the actual results can be very different. In many cases, organisations who have adopted web-to-print aren't seeing the benefits it promised.
Many organisations buy a web-to-print solution only to have it sit in the box, uninstalled. Some organisations install it, then wait – in vain – for users to come to the site. In other organisations, the web-to-print system doesn't talk to the other systems, so operations can't flow efficiently.
It's important to define what you want to achieve with your solution. Different solutions offer different capabilities, so ask yourself why you're getting into web-to-print. To gain efficiencies and streamline your operation? Or are you looking to grow your business by offering new services like marketing campaigns? Maybe you want to do both?
As part of your goals, you'll also want to decide who you want to be serving with your web-to-print solution. You'll need to look at what types of sites you want to host. A business-to-consumer site? A business-to-business site? A mix of the two? Or, maybe your web-to-print solution is to help existing customers experience a more efficient ordering process.
Indentifying what types of sites you want to offer also helps you choose a web-to-print solution that works for your organisation. A site that offers consumer products like photobooks may have different requirements than a site that offers stationery, so deciding what you want to offer will enable you to make the best choice.
It's also helpful to look at what vertical markets you hope to reach with your services. Perhaps you have existing relationships with a specific market or geographic region? That's a great way to start with web-to-print, as you can build on those existing relationships by adding additional services.
Once you have defined your business goals, you'll need to look at how your web-to-print system supports those goals. You'll need to look at how the solution is offered, what functionality it includes, and how it integrates into your own operation.
First, consider whether a SaaS or a licensed model is right for you. For customers new to web-to-print, a SaaS model lets you get into web-to-print without having to invest in hardware or IT resources. Some SaaS solutions let you migrate to a licensed solution when the time is right. However, if your goals are to offer more complex or high-volume products, licensing the software might give you the flexibility you need, provided you have the IT infrastructure to support it.
A critical question you'll also need to answer is how your web-to-print system will integrate with your existing systems: MIS, ERP, DAM systems all need to be taken into consideration. If these systems don't talk to each other, it could affect your ability to be successful.
Before you choose a web-to-print system, you will also want to define what services your web-to-print systems need to provide in order to be successful in the market you have identified. Document customisation, marketing campaigns, fulfilment – the possibilities go on, but which functionality will help you meet the needs of your market and help your business be successful?
Once your system is in place, you'll need to develop a plan for how to bring users to your site. This is true regardless of what market or type of customer you are serving. Develop a marketing plan to reach out to users and get them to try the services you offer.
You'll also need a sales and pricing strategy that supports your goals. It's important to remember that part of what you are now selling – in some cases a large part – is your services. What you offer your clients has value and needs to be priced and sold as such. This is often the most difficult part of transitioning to web-to-print, but it's the one that can help define your success.
Finally, keep growing. Each project you deploy on your web-to-print system is an opportunity to learn – about things that went right, what went wrong and how you'd do it differently next time. Take the time to apply those lessons, and over time, you'll be enjoying the success you deserve.
Comments in chronological order (Total 2 comments)
26 July 2012 8:57AM
I have gained plenty from your post. The points you have highlighted make good sense and your writing style is very inspiring. I also write for a printing blog and hope to see more posts from you on web to print.
27 September 2012 7:57PM
There is so much to W2P. Analysts are limited as they don't have to vet, purchase, deploy, administer and maintain an SaaS or a server based solution. As a solutions architect having been engulfed in W2P and high end digital print production for well over a decade, I write a blog - http://prowebtoprint.wordpress.com - on the subject for the sole purpose of helping PSPs/CMOs/Brokers/Print Buyers to understand just what W2P is and what they're getting into. You are one of the very few writers who understand just how involved it can be. W2P will not get you new business. It will help you to streamline your processes and eliminate unnecessary and redundant tasks. But by the time a typical PSP attempts to train existing staff and fails, hires new staff (if he can find them), pays the programming fees to integrate the system with their MIS and then tries to force feed their sales staff on how to go out and sell a completely different solution that what they are unaccustomed to, they will simply throw their arms up and scream. It's one of the most heavily sold, yet misunderstood products out there. The variants and slim/heavy composition only confuse.
Congrats on identifying so many of the pieces and parts and decisions required to even consider W2P! I predict that when the dust settles, there will be new and unique breed of service provider with digital print experience, programming and integration expertise along with WAN design experience (cloud) who will end up being the "bridge" service provider between PSPs and their clients to truly conquer the W2P portion. Hopefully at that point, the confusion will have lessened and there will have been a consolidation of the best and most productive W2P architectures into a much more user friendly and robust SaaS suite of W2P offerings.