Wide-Format Summit Day Three: Ending On a High Note
The third and final day didn't slow down by any means. The day was jam-packed with insightful general sessions, boardroom case studies, and one-on-one "speed dating" interviews between printers and vendors. It's safe to say that the final day concluded with a bang.
Getting Into Web-to-Print
Senior Editor Dan Marx got the day started with a general session panel that tackled web-to-print technology and how Wide-format users can best utilize and benefit from it. Marx was joined by Justin Rammell, owner of Sandy, Utah-based Raspberry Creek Fabrics, and Kristen Lewis Baxter, the divisional merchandising director of print services for Office Depot.
Marx referenced data from NAPCO research showing that 41% of print-service-providers offer online storefronts, but of that percentage, 50% of respondents do less than 10% of their work through online portals.
I think it's important to point out that web-to-print is not one thing. It's important to look into functionality, and the data shows that people are doing different things with their web-to-print services,” Marx said.
According to the research Marx was referring to, people are doing a range of things, from online ordering and job submission to online proofing, job tracking, and asset management.
Because Raspberry Creek Fabrics is a business that offers custom fabric printing, he said that the web-to-print model has been beneficial to his business. “The interesting thing about being online is that you’re able to offer your customers more and different things,” Rammell said.
For wide-format printers, Marx pointed out that one of the biggest hurdles with web-to-print is o the complexity of the breadth of products being produced. Widef-format PSPs are not producing commodity flyers, posters, or brochures– they’re doing stuff that is more involved.
Lewis Baxter explained that because Office Depot is a chain, it has to be particular when it comes to what it offers customers on its website.
“For us, we really need to narrow in on what our media offering is and the size offerings for customers when it comes to what they expect to achieve when they walk into a retail location,” Lewis Baxter said.
She continued, “We may have some clients that have specific needs that want specific colors and things of that nature, and when it comes to that, that is more when that personal relationship comes into play, where we work with our sales team, and our print managers and our client services. And we work on building up quotes and see if that will match the end customer’s SLA and price points.”
As the session approached its end-time, Marx asked the panelists what gives PSPs with a web-to-print system an edge.
“There's an old school way of doing things, and people really like that aspect of being talked to and having their hands held. So, you’ve got to educate them, and once they're used to an Office Depot, infrastructure a Raspberry Creek infrastructure, they like that they know how to use it, and they’re going to keep coming back,” Rammell said.
Employee Retention Strategies
Finding and keeping employees is a paramount challenge for today’s printing businesses, and Adriane Harrison, vice president of human relations consulting at PRINTING United Alliance, presented a series of strategies companies can use to ensure workers stay where they are employed. First, she discussed the realities of today’s workforce, which is primarily members of so-called “Gen Z.” These workers seek a career path, desire workplace flexibility, and prioritize meaningful work over top compensation.
Harrison urged Summit attendees to create a culture of career development, which is likely to increase employee retention. It is important, she said, for companies to share a strong vision with employees and to take steps to make sure everyone is on board. Then, companies should work to help employees understand their possible path to career advancement, and how they fit within those opportunities.
Team member meetings, Harrison said, help define what an employee wants to do with the company and works to reveal their professional and career goals. Can these goals be accommodated at the company? Factors such as physical ability, communication skills, and ability to work with technology will determine so. “Lack of experience does not mean lack of skill,” she added.
Finally, Harrison spoke of the benefits of mentoring, noting that employees who can talk to their managers about their career goals are more likely to feel noticed on the job. Further, 68% who have a mentor at their workplace are more likely to stay. Success in mentoring, she said, requires a willingness on the part of the mentor and open-mindedness on the part of the mentee.
Data and Directions to Tame the Tumult
In an informative two-part presentation, Andy Paparozzi, chief economist at PRINTING United Alliance, and Denise Gustavson, editorial director at NAPCO Media and Wide-format Summit co-chair, provided data and guidance to help wide-format companies survive and thrive in a tumultuous market.
Paparozzi began by sharing recent data about the current state of the wide-format segment. He said the data, carefully analyzed, showed a slowdown has started that will last through the end of this year. This is evidenced by a mix of increased client resistance to cost increases, higher operating costs, and weaker overall sales growth.
In response to these changing conditions, Paparozzi urged attendees to undertake an “all-out, company-wide focus on productivity,” which includes a strong eye to managing risk. With careful strategy, he says, companies can face the unexpected more effectively, perhaps even as an opportunity. “If we haven’t learned anything from the last three years,” he added, “that is a big problem.”
Last, Paparozzi presented “must-do” strategies companies must undertake moving forward. They included creation of key risk indicators and customer health scores, exploration of AI for small business, cultivating company culture, and moving toward data-driven approaches.
Gustavson then presented growth opportunities based on industry data and current societal trends. The top factors driving opportunity in today’s market include:
Privacy Concerns: The increased demand for digital privacy and limits on how personal data can be used are driving some marketers away from digital channels and back toward out-of-home approaches.
Normalization of COVID-19: Conferences and events have come streaming back, along with travel to these events. Commuting is increasing as some return to workplaces, and shoppers are back in stores.
Revenge Travel: With many undertaking vacations and masses of tourists, for example, overwhelming European hot spots, there are many “eyes on the streets,” poised to see and react to marketing messages.
Changing Role of Health Care: With the rise of urgent and primary care locations opening within drug-stores chains, and a desire on behalf of hospitals to use interior design to soothe the mind and body, opportunities in signage and décor are rising in the medical space.
Sustainability: While visual marketing remains a priority, many brands are looking for graphics providers capable of supplying what they need, using materials and consumables that minimize their environmental footprint.
Personalization and Customization: Both print versioning and out-right customization can provide strong opportunities for companies exploring these models – even to individual consumers. Examples include custom textiles and vehicle graphics.
The session closed with a brief but thought-provoking discussion of the implications of AI. As he urged attendees to explore the possibilities of this quickly-expanding technology, Paparozzi illustrated its profundity, saying, “AI is not a new technology. It is a new world.”
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