Key considerations when investing in web-to-print

Canon EXPO 2015

Web-to-print (W2P) is a hot topic in the print industry right now and for good reason. Consumers and businesspeople alike expect to be able to do everything online, and print buyers are no exception.

Demand for W2P services has increased over 50% since 20121, a growth that stems from the range of benefits that it offers print buyers from a simplified purchasing process, faster turnaround times and shorter runs to cost transparency and enhanced control over brand communications.

However, implementation of W2P systems by PSPs has been far from prevalent or seamless, with research in 2014 revealing that only a third of the PSPs surveyed were offering a W2P service2. So what’s holding PSPs back?

Slow adoption can be attributed to a number of factors. In Canon’s experience, many PSPs are unsure of how to enter the W2P market, uncertain whether it’s right for their business at all, or have become disillusioned after falling at the first hurdle when implementing the solution.

Fortunately, these issues and challenges can be overcome (or prevented) by addressing a few key points:

Serve a purpose

First and foremost, a W2P system is much more than a ‘nice to have’ front-end for a PSP’s sales and marketing efforts – it should solve a problem for a customer and/or benefit their business in some way. A PSP can determine if a W2P service is right for their business by analysing their client base to ascertain if there is a company that would benefit from a centralised point of print production. Perhaps an organisation with a franchise set-up – such as a global car manufacturer – which requires consistent branding across all printed collateral for local sales dealerships, or in the case of in-house print rooms, an internal department that is experiencing high print costs due to outsourcing.

Customer relationship

Implementing a W2P solution is an iterative process, so it’s advantageous to work with a customer (or department) that you already have a strong working relationship with. A collaborative dynamic ensures mutual understanding of the challenges that can surface during the adoption phase. PSPs can work closely with the customer to clarify their requirements from a W2P portal and immediately address certain issues that can become a bottleneck in the future. Typically this includes branding, product selection, user access, invoice and payment and digital assets (such as images and logo). This can be solved, however, via a simple form or checklist.

Clear business plan

PSPs cannot simply take a ‘build it and they will come’ approach. They should look to develop a business plan that outlines exactly how they are going to launch and promote the initiative to ensure smooth execution. This includes an allocated portion of the marketing budget, an internal sponsor at a technical level to harness the system’s potential and one at a management level to drive it commercially, a modern web interface in keeping with other e-commerce platforms and a trained sales team who fully grasp how W2P works and have the functionality to simulate projects to prospective customers.

User experience and benefit

The client-side of the portal needs to be simple and easy-to-use. Print buyers, like all online users, want an experience that is familiar, intuitive, involves minimal clicks and that can be accessed via mobile devices. PSPs should consider investing time in training their customers on how to use the software to grow competency, as well as focusing on products and services with a high order frequency during the early stages of adoption so the customer/department can test out the solution. This way the customer can truly see the benefits of the solution and why it’s superior to merely emailing a PDF file to a PSP or in-house print room.

Workflow automation and ROI

It’s important not to neglect the back-end of the system. Here, workflow automation is key in driving productivity by speeding up the process and mitigating the risk of human error. Pre-flighted files can be managed upstream within the W2P system to drive production efficiencies for both the PSP/in-house print room and the customer/department. The system also provides a level of analysis and management, including integration with MIS (Management Information System) for billing and cash flow optimisation, pro-active account management and, for PSPs, conforming with SLAs that can be reviewed by them and their customers. PSPs can also use the data generated to spot opportunities and trends through gap analysis by comparing customers/departments to see which applications are proving most popular and which are in need of further attention.

Laying the foundations

By getting the basics right, a PSP is laying the foundations for a more advanced system in the future that is capable of handling more complex jobs (such as variable data) and even, non-print items. Moreover, once a PSP has found a successful formula for a working W2P portal, they should look to use this formula as a blueprint to develop future systems for other customers or departments, saving time and costs reinventing the process each time.

These considerations should give PSPs the best possible opportunity to maximise their investment and unlock the vast business potential of web-to-print. For further information about Canon’s Essential Business Builder Program and its local workshops on web-to-print, please visit to unlock the benefits of W2P today.

1 Canon, Insight Report: Building your future with print, 2014

2 Canon, Insight Report: Building your future with print, 2014

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