Most print businesses would recognise the importance today of an online presence, at least to act as a shop window to prospective customers. But in the ecommerce age there’s potentially much more to be gained from an online business model as a means to pull in new work, fill excess production capacity and level out peaks and troughs in production schedules – all while minimising cost of sales and administrative overheads. A strong online offering could even help to expand your customer base beyond the locality, to other regions and even countries.
The appetite from customers to buy print online is certainly strong. Businesses and individuals appreciate the simplicity of comparing products, services and prices online. And they like the convenience of submitting files via an intuitive web interface, and the immediacy of delivery from online providers.
But developing a successful online strategy for your print business is not as straightforward as plugging in a web-to-print tool and watching the orders flood in. The true online market is a competitive one, dominated by a few well-known very large international players and some smaller, national providers.
Alongside highly efficient, ultra-high-volume print factories, online print buyers can also order via online portals which have no printing capabilities themselves but fulfil their orders via networks of local commercial printers.
So, against this competitive backdrop, is it still worth investing in your online selling strategy? The answer is a clear ‘yes’ – to remove barriers for existing customers and prospects, to increase your visibility and attract new business, and to streamline the processes involved in accepting and on-boarding jobs.
But, to reap the full potential benefits of online selling, it’s vital to think beyond the web-to-print interface. You need to consider how to optimise your whole production set-up to provide you with the flexibility to handle an increased inflow of individual jobs, typically involving very short runs, lightning-fast turnaround and, increasingly, personalisation.
Bear in mind also that the additional price transparency that comes from online selling demands ultra-efficient processes to deliver a healthy margin on lower priced products. And you’re likely to have to invest in digital marketing such as SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and social media advertising to be easily discovered by online buyers outside your existing customer base.