Insane Inefficiency in Print Procurement Remains the Norm.
By Barry Feldman, creative consultant
A recent InfoTrends report stated only about 15-20% of today’s print volume is managed and executed with web-to-print technology and will grow to approximately 30% in two years. So I thought, “Bummer. A huge majority of companies with print needs are still doing things the hard way.” I could almost smell the money burning.
I knew I had a compelling thesis: traditional print is inefficient. However, I wanted to get as specific as possible and point out exactly how and why enterprises are blazing through big bucks with old school methods. I was able to get Jennifer Matt of The Web and Print Blog on the phone, one of the world’s foremost experts on web-to-print (W2P).
She really ripped into the subject. Here are the highlights…
Jennifer, is it fair to say traditional print procurement is inefficient?
“It’s insanely inefficient—for printers and even more so for the customer. How many interactions does it take to get a simple brochure printed? How many things does the printer say to you that you don’t understand? Then you go to their website and the only thing you can read about is what print engines they have. Or you get info about dots-per-inch. Probably all of this stuff means nothing to you.”
But doesn’t the customer value the higher service levels they get from traditional print providers?
“In the digital economy we’ve learned if you don’t make it easy, it won’t gain mass adoption. The focus is on self-service. Still, printers often sit there and say, ‘It’s my personal service that makes the difference,’ which is usually BS. Who has time for your personal service? If you don’t web-enable the print procurement process, you essentially waste the customer’s time.”
Correct me if I’m wrong. Customers want a good price and personal service.
“I don’t think people are going to VistaPrint only for price. They go because they can do it in their boxer shorts. Before, just to get a business card you had to go talk to somebody then find time to do a press check. You had to fax documents. It was painfully hard. The reality today is the customer doesn’t want to talk to you. As a customer, I want to order my stuff and have it show up. And, yeah, I want a competitive price.”
“I like to make the analogy to the ATM… Wouldn’t we be livid if we could only get to our money from 9 to 5, just Monday through Friday? So I ask, ‘Is the bank trying to make its customers do the work?’ No. It’s called self-service and it gives us more control and convenience and it lowers the costs of banking. The bank saves a boatload of money on tellers.
You’ve introduced the idea of 24-7 access…
“Absolutely. The asynchronous communication is a big thing. We don’t have to communicate in real-time. The full service print model introduces the need for this and it’s a huge burden on the customer. I get to order, review my proofs, access my order history and all kind of things when it’s convenient for me.”
Isn’t the web a powerful tool just for finding a printer in the first place?
“You can go that route and when you do you’ll do an online search and come to find the printers who understand how to get near the top of search engine results. Next, you’ll be calling or emailing because most printers don’t have a way for you to submit stuff online even just to start the conversation or to figure out if they can do your job.”
(Jennifer kept rolling…)
“Most printers don’t have a way to accept jobs from their customers online. They may have an FTP site. You may have to communicate by phone or fax. You’ll use multiple communications methods to get an order started. The onus is on the customer to track everything.”
“Flash forward now… The job is received. Now I have questions. Did I get an accurate invoice? Does it have the detail I need to do the billing part on my side? If not, I have to call again and request more information to clean up the accounting after it.”
“Then you may need to go back to the same printer and do the same job, or a similar one, and you basically start from scratch again.”
“Look at Amazon. There, you can practically just say “yes” and command it to accept your payment with your voice. They’ve figured out how to reduce every single obstacle and you can see where that’s taking them.”
Web-to-print includes more than just print solutions, doesn’t it?
“Yes. There’s a sequence of pre-press processes involving a lot of technical stuff that you may or may not be comfortable with. Then, once you get the physical product, you usually have a post-production distribution problem. I ask: ‘Is it best to take delivery of the project or better to have the printer allow you to order it on demand?’ Think about it. Even after the project is ‘done,’ that’s just the printer’s part of the project. Now, the customers are forced to figure out the distribution of the material on their own. The solution could have come from the printer if you offered them an electronic commerce system, they can solve problems beyond the press. They can be more than just the manufacturer. They can handle the logistics.”
Bottom line: what we’re talking about is the bottom line. Yes?
“The money thing is a huge part. Let’s say I’m handling this sort of thing as a franchisor at company headquarters. I want to pay for part of it, but want franchisees to pay for part as well. That’s a mess to keep track of. What a W2P system does is break the labor up and make it so each franchisee just has a few minutes of work to do for the ordering process and you might remove 1 or 2 of more centralized full time equivalents whose job is to handle marketing materials. And each franchisee is far more empowered to get what they want when they want.”
And then, you mentioned with the next job you start all over again?
“Yes. Web-to-print processes are easily repeatable and quality is maintained. Without it, a simple re-order is a pain in the ass.”
Jennifer Matt founded Web2Print Experts and provides consulting services to convert traditional offline print businesses to successful online print businesses. The company helps its clients create new revenue streams by leveraging a combination of innovation and technology expertise. For more information, visit http://thewebandprint.com