E-commerce - Big Interest, Little Action
In-plants are cautiously examining e-commerce offerings. But many aren't ready. And others already offer the same services.
You might expect a state-of-the-art in-plant like the Brigham Young University Print and Mail Production Center to have all the latest e-commerce solutions in place. But look all you want; you won't find Noosh, printCafe or any of the other e-commerce vendors in BYU's Provo, Utah, facility.
Instead, BYU uses a home-grown solution to provide online ordering for business cards, letterhead and stationery.
"The whole bottom line is, there's nothing new in what these guys have to offer," says Director West Barton of today's crop of e-commerce vendors.
And he's not alone in this thinking. Many in-plants have had Web sites for years and already offer online ordering. Their print management systems let them track jobs and handle costing and estimating.
"Those services were something we already had in our infrastructure," notes Jerry Grouzard, print operations manager at the Allstate Print Communications Center, in Wheeling, Ill. Allstate examined the services of all major e-commerce players before deciding to retain the systems it already had in place.
"There is some value in what they're doing," Grouzard concedes. "Unfortunately in our case it's not going to be much of a benefit."
It's true, the value is there—especially for in-plants that aren't as large or advanced as Allstate and BYU. These shops could surely benefit from the services e-commerce vendors provide. But for the most part, they've been holding back. The marketing campaigns and successes of these vendors have piqued their interest, but they're waiting to see which companies survive the inevitable shakeout. They're waiting for their customers to become more 'net-savvy.
They're waiting for e-commerce to prove it can benefit them.
But the proof is out there, insist the e-commerce vendors. They point to the time savings and improved coordination and communication offered by job management sites like Collabria, Impresse, Noosh and printCafe. They stress that auction sites like 58K.com and Printbid.com are saving print customers money, as are online suppliers like PrintNation.com and Prepressmall.com. Satisfied customers abound, they say.