How print business will thrive in digital age

By: amy watson
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The question of surviving and dying has been already answered by the printing businesses still operating and adapting to new technologies. Print has survived till now even after two decades of dotcom boom and will continue to do so. But as said by Clayton Christense, HBS Professor and Disruptive Innovation Expert, the reason why it is so difficult for existing firms to capitalize on disruptive innovations is that their processes and their business model that make them good at the existing business actually make them bad at competing for the disruption.Printing businesses are doing good printing jobs but they have not updated yourself for disruption that is following every industry, business and human life.

According to SmithersPira, the global printing output is forecasted to reach $980 billion by 2018 as compared to $870 billion in 2015. The numbers suggest good growth but not tremendous growth within three years. The global industry growth is predicted at 2% per year until 2020, driven by growth in package printing, increase in demand in emerging economies and the added-value opportunities associated with digital print.

Printing is used to communicate information and as digital information age has taken over, print mediums are facing stagnated growth but they are still growing. This shows that even after two decades of full-fledged of digital age, print mediums are capable of delivering that tangibility and credibility of information. Digital age has created a boom for information that lacks proper credibility and authentication whereas print mediums are still considered more credible. Digital advertising has taken over major share in marketing departments but still the exchange of humble business cards is the first thing that happen in meetings worth million dollars.

Print is there to stay but print manufacturers and print service providers have to look for more new and innovative ways to connect to the new generation of customers. Printers have to extend boundaries to create products and services leveraging the print digitization technologies to create products that can work seamlessly in physical and digital world. Here are few tips that will not just help to survive but thrive in digital age –

#1.  Adopt Print-as-a-service model

Customers prefer business models that combine product with services like maintenance, timely up gradation, one-stop-solution and managing periodic renewal services associated with product. Managed print services has been successful model with lots of companies and customers have adopted them to reduce costs, efforts and time that goes in managing print. Print service providers have to adopt model that allow customers to place repeated orders with the same vendor or renew their services automatically. This creates a regular income revenue for customers while less hassle at customers end to place printing orders every time. Regular printing items for business customers like business cards, brochures, sales flyers, and letterheads can be grouped in this service models. However, depending on the customers and business lots of business models can be innovated around As-a-service model. 

#2. Leveraging matured visualization software or online design software

The upward trend in web to print adoption accelerated market for the adoption of visualization and online design software. Printing has drawback of getting idea about the final product only when it is produced and if the outcome is not as expected it leads to wastage. This costs revenue and also printing material, costs and sometimes even clients. Advanced product design tool allows customers to have a 360 degree view of designs before production increasing the chances of buying online. 

#3. Print MIS and web to workflow solutions

Apart from attracting more customers, printing industry needs more efficiency and less wastage to drive growth. Many printers have adopted order-print-ship model but failed to drive it efficiently. This is where print MIS and web to workflow solutions can help right from order receiving to shipment. The print jobs automations and increasing efficiency across the processes improves productivity, leads to less wastage, allows shorter runs and more volumes projects. This will not attract more customers but uplift better web to workflow leading to delighted customers. 

#4. Online Print Marketplaces

Online print marketplaces is one underrated technology that is expected to gain traction in coming years. The online printing marketplace eliminates the need of online print brokers saving commissions and margins and also avoid vendor-lock in reducing dependency on single print service provider. These platforms allow to connect print buyers, sellers, brokers and designers from different geographies on a single platform allowing them to have transparent pricing and jobs. While few web to print service providers started providing full-fledged marketplace on leading ecommerce platforms this technological platform can also be built using API to plug in and automate job taking and routing them based on geographical location or print capabilities of different vendors.

Print service providers prefer to adopt this model rather than having their own web to print websites and making marketing efforts for customers and orders. This removes the challenges of implementation, adoption and marketing of web to print initiatives and focus on core printing business.

One more model that has been weaved around print marketplaces is to venture into new type of printing without owing the right hardware and equipment by outsourcing it to suitable vendor over online marketplaces. These kind of new models in printing businesses can help industry in expanding footprint globally while catering to local markets.

Conclusion – Winning the digital game

Winning the digital game is not going to be very easy for printing businesses, the way businesses work has to change and look around to find new opportunity for different business model.These tips from adoption of service models, online print marketplaces, advanced print digitization solutions represent slight shift in how businesses work till now but offer a tremendous opportunity for print service providers to digitize their business creating positive impact by syncing them with digital age. The answer to question of thriving or surviving in digital age for printing is to work in sync with disruptive technologies while sticking to basics of printing.

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