Wide-format Inkjet Trends & Opportunities
The North American wide-format inkjet printing market, valued at over $20.3 billion in 2014 is projected to grow to $24.4 billion in 2018. Growth in wide-format inkjet printing is contingent on two major factors:
- The conversion of traditionally analog printed display graphics into digitally printed display graphics.
- The development of new applications enabled by innovative ink and media that can be digitally printed.
This market condition has translated to a sizeable business for manufacturers.
A new 2015 PRIMIR study, “Wide-format Inkjet Printing Trends & Opportunities,” identifies equipment and media currently in use, explores emerging trends in technologies and applications, and covers both analog and digital processes.
According to the PRIMIR study findings, the top three applications that buyers reported purchasing are banners, posters and signs. By comparison, wide-format print service providers (PSPs) indicated that their top five most commonly produced products are banners, signs, posters, presentation graphics and point-of-purchase graphics.
However, mainstream applications such as posters, billboards, banners and signs are becoming commoditized with the continued growth of wide-format display graphics businesses and increased competition. As a result, PSPs are looking for new, more profitable applications and innovations that drive down the cost of production. Newer technologies such as latex, UV-curable and dye-sublimation inkjet are all growing as wide-format PSPs seek new markets and the ability to produce at faster speeds.
Growth of Versioning
Versioning and micro marketing are among the bigger trends in the marketplace; there is an increasing number of display graphics, but fewer of them contain the exact same message. This plays directly into the strengths of digital wide-format inkjet printing.
In addition, the PRIMIR study findings revealed that more than 40 percent of print buyers have used a QR code or some other interactive media element in their printed display graphics. A large majority of those buyers reportedly plan to continue using these types of interactive elements.
Fewer than 28 percent of PSPs anticipate making an investment in new hardware within the next 12 months. Therefore, shipments may continue to stagnate as wide-format print volume growth has not caught up to the increasing speed on a per printer basis.
Meanwhile, equipment manufacturers will continue to offer price promotions in an attempt to drive investment in newer technology. PSPs indicate that their biggest challenge is maintaining profit margins in the face of increasing commoditization and price transparency by online graphics suppliers.
The second biggest challenge is finding new revenue sources or expanding into new, less price-sensitive markets. Keeping up with print buyer demands for price and quality was cited as PSPs’ third challenge.
According to the research results, there is a large variation between how much the “average” sign shop produces and how much wide-format digital specialists produce. In fact, the average wide-format/digital print specialist produces three times as much monthly as the average commercial printer.
Competition on the Rise
The wide-format display graphics market is always changing. The technology that fuels the market continues to develop to help wide-format graphics providers become more competitive. In addition, the industry players are driven to become more competitive because there is a steady stream of PSPs entering the market.
The continuing growth of the wide-format business is drawing competitors from outside the traditional wide-format sector including companies that had never competed in this market. These companies are either starting their own wide-format business or are acquiring companies that already have wide-format customers and production expertise. Although this merging of different segments of the wide-format printing industry has been happening for 20 years, it is having an increased impact on the overall market as commercial printers are now entering the wide-format market with large investments that enable high levels of production.
Numerous companies serve the wide-format display graphics business, and while many define themselves based on their historical business profile, their common business is wide-format inkjet printing for the display graphics market. These market segments remain important because they still have regional and national events, associations, and trade journals that provide key opportunities for information exchange and networking.
The wide-format inkjet printing market remains a growth business, yet it is challenged by pricing pressures, buyers’ quality and speed demands, and the emergence of competitive digital displays and mobile advertising. To successfully compete, all market players must follow the digital display market and be willing to adapt by developing new partnerships, opening new markets and developing new higher-profit applications.
Rekha Ratnam is assistant director, Market Data and Research, at NPES/PRIMIR. The market research unit of NPES, PRIMIR is a global source of data, analysis and trend information about print and related communications industries. PRIMIR research is funded by member dues as well as through support from NPES The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies. For more information about PRIMIR, visit www.primir.org.