2020: It’s Time to Embrace Change
A Greek philosopher once said, "The only thing constant is change." Successful print service providers understand that change is mandatory and embrace it. As 2020 approaches, developing strategies that incorporate market changes will be vital to print providers’ success. The tools that businesses and consumers use to communicate are ever-changing. While print remains a core communications tool that is not going away, the ways in which it is used and produced are changing.
Customers’ expectations are changing too — they expect providers to deliver more value. During 2020, dynamic businesses must meet these changes head-on, prepare to address the risks of these changes, and have the fortitude to adjust their business models appropriately. Success will require exploring new target markets, emerging technologies, new competitors, and print as well as non-print media alternatives.
A fundamental lesson for print service providers is that change should be perceived as an evolution and not a revolution. The most successful firms in today’s graphic communications market have taken strong traditional printing businesses with a solid customer base and evolved into cross-media companies that are equally focused on print and integrated offerings. Commercial printers and in-plants of all sizes are aspiring to become the provider of choice for a full range of print and non-print digital services.
If you haven’t already started on the services expansion journey, technology still offers a number of options to grow and strengthen your core print services with limited investments in capital and infrastructure. If you have already begun transforming into an organization that offers integrated communication services, end-users are demanding new options and capabilities that can enhance profitability and margins.
Navigating in 2020
Navigating the year ahead starts with identifying the key trends and forces that will shape the business landscape. Opportunities exist for print service providers of all types in 2020. Here are the top trends that will yield the most influence for service providers of all types and sizes.
1. Follow the Pages!
Changes in print demand for a significant number of print applications will drive the transfer of offset produced pages to digital devices (electrophotographic and inkjet). Print demand and production techniques are driven by applications, which change over time. In 2020 and beyond, print service providers will see a shift in demand for certain applications due to economics, changes in use, electronic replacement, and moves to shorter runs. These factors will have a profound impact on the demand for digital printing in competition with traditional offset printing processes. Books will continue their migration to digital technology.
Applications such as direct mail, magazines, catalogs, and brochures will also record very high gains in digital production. Traditional statement volume will decline rapidly as organizations strive to enrich the content of a typical statement with customized promotional or educational messages, leading to record increases in TransPromo volume. From books to brochures to posters and signage, digital printing technologies will take hold. Success awaits those who follow the pages!
2. Digital Printing is More than Four-Color
There are a number of digital print solutions available that have added fifth, sixth, and seventh imaging units, either in-line or offline. This advancement means that with digital presses, service providers can easily offer spot color, gamut expansion, specialty inks (e.g., metallic, fluorescents, white), coating, texturing, and security.
New inks and enhanced printing techniques will continue to have a significant impact on print service providers. Service providers must evaluate new opportunities for creating direct mail pieces and marketing materials that get noticed by adding 3-D texture, high gloss, watermarks, hidden promotions, or a protective coating with added durability, while still ensuring print quality. This is a way to add value to print and drive incremental revenue and profits.
A soon to be released NAPCO Research study Adding Value to Digital Print highlights that print providers are leveraging digital printing embellishment options to improve profitability. The most offered enhancements are specialty color, spot colors, and clear coatings, effects that can be produced on a digital printing device. These are also more traditional and known effects to print customers (Figure 1). While most print providers offer more traditional embellishments, newer effects, like texture, digital foiling, and special effect coatings are starting to gain traction.
Figure 1: Digital Print Embellishments Offered
A big influencer of the types of embellishments providers offer is technology innovations. In the area of print enhancement, equipment manufacturers are adding capabilities and feature sets to digital printing presses, digital enhancement presses, and finishing solutions to simplify processes and reduce production costs for special effects. In addition to enhancements produced on digital printing presses, printed materials can be embellished on digital enhancement finishing devices that utilize inkjet printing heads to create texture, dimensional, and foil effects. These enhancement presses/devices do not require plates, screens, or dies and print service providers of all sizes can utilize the technology.
3. The Right Substrates Enable High-Value, High-Margin Print
Digital printing advancements continue to drive more media advancements, generating new opportunities for profitability. Digital printing has gone way beyond imaging on plain paper. New substrates like synthetics, magnets, textiles, and pre-die-cut stocks enable printers and designers to offer clients graphic options that were previously not feasible. Today’s service providers can participate in new business opportunities that are limited only by the imagination.
Frecklebox (Santa Clara, Calif.) is a Web-based business that offers unique, personalized gifts for children at affordable prices. A number of the company’s offerings are driven by personalization combined with unique substrates. Frecklebox produces personalized gift-wrap for the holidays at margin-rich retail prices of $19.95 per roll. Customers can also order 11x17˝ personalized children’s placemats for $11.95. The placemats are printed on 100-lb. coated cover and laminated with 5-ml. lamination for a waterproof finish. These durable gifts will last for years. While these are laminated, they can also be produced on a synthetic stock.
Figure 2: Frecklebox Personalized Placemats
4. Lean is Still In
In 2020, business success will depend on effective solutions to expand market reach, backed with efficient work processes to streamline document production. Workflow is at the heart of productivity and profitability, and an increasing number of tools are available to help deliver on this promise. Increased automation in your everyday operations is critical to optimizing printing investments and enabling more profitable revenue streams. Print service providers need to continue to focus on e-commerce adoption, continuing migration of print ordering through online portals, ongoing conversion of internally developed proprietary systems, the migration to SaaS models, and integration with cross-media and workflow solutions (e.g., MIS, DFEs). As more and more cloud-based workflow solutions emerge in the marketplace, it is becoming more affordable to implement and execute best practices for workflow automation. It’s time to drive cost out and profits up by streamlining operations.
5. Salespeople Will Be the Business Differentiators in 2020
The majority of print service providers are focused on business-to-business (B2B) sales activities, and sales professionals must deliver insight to drive sales. Matt Dixon, executive director of CEB and author of The Challenger Sale, notes that the decision-making process is almost over by the time the average B2B customer reaches out to a company or is contacted by a sales rep. The customer has already started to benchmark prices and has developed a list of detailed capabilities. Essentially, customers have begun to do the work that salespeople have long been trained to do for them. The key is that sales people need to come armed with ideas to differentiate your business and themselves in the eyes of customers and prospects. NAPCO Research’s upcoming research study Adding Value to Digital Print surveyed more than 600 print buyers and a key message was that a top priority was a provider that provides unique ideas on how to get more value out of the print that they purchase (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Key Attributes for Selecting Print Providers
Regardless of the complexity of your services, sales professionals must develop a thorough understanding of their customers’ businesses and provide business insight that drives a two-way conversation with senior leaders. Online access to information continues to shift power in favor of the buyer. Service providers need to develop well-educated sales forces that possess an in-depth understanding of customers’ businesses, their competitors, and their economic drivers. Sales reps must also be able to identify unknown needs and coach their customers through the buying process. Providers must invest in the expertise to equip sales reps with the insights they need to challenge, inform, and influence their customers in today’s new selling landscape.
The Bottom Line
In 2020, service providers must follow the digital page opportunity and capitalize on offset transfer. Taking digital print beyond four colors means adding value to direct mail and an array of other applications. Specialty substrates can open new market opportunities in a variety of areas, including dimensional mailers, packaging, durable synthetics, and manufacturing applications. Backing these with best practices for selling and manufacturing can deliver incremental revenue and profit. All service providers should be embracing these changes during the coming year.
A digital printing and publishing pioneer and marketing expert, Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave whether it is developing a strategy to launch a new product, building a strategic marketing plan or educating your sales force on how to deliver an effective value proposition. She brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow business opportunity. Barb has had a number of high-profile marketing and sales positions including Chief Marketing Officer for the Kodak Graphic Communications Group, Corporate Vice President of Marketing for IKON Office Solutions, and Vice President and General Manager for the Xerox Document Production Systems Group. She also served as the Gannett chair in integrated publishing sciences in Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) School of Printing Management and Sciences (SPMS). Most recently, Barb was the Group Director for Business Development at InfoTrends. She is currently the Manager of Pellow and Partners, LLC.
Barb can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org (Mobile, 585-734-2228)