Tony Hodgson, director of PODi for Europe, provides a heads-up on marketing initiatives you should note for 2014.
In case you didn’t already know, PODi is a global, not-for-profit organisation whose goal it is to increase demand for marketing services and applications driven by digital printing. So here, director of European operations, Tony Hodgson, uses its detailed data bank and knowledge gathering expertise to provide you with New Year notes on the trends and developments you should heed.
B2B customers will behave more like B2C customers
Every B2B customer is also a B2C customer. As we are B2C customers ourselves, we now expect to buy products and services online. The more we buy online, the more we expect to buy any products online. B2B products in general and wide-format printing in particular are no exceptions. In 2014 and beyond the B2B customer will increasingly adopt a B2C attitude and approach. Research has shown that 67% of B2B purchases start with online search. It’s probably higher than that already. Soon it willbe 100%. But what is really scary is that research by Forrester Research last year found that “nearly one- half of B2B companies said that their customers are starting their research at consumer websites”. The greatest change happening right now is not technology, or the media mix, or the economy - it’s the customer.
Think and talk outside-in, not inside-out
Forrester Research has published a book called ‘Outside-In: The Power of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business’. So what’s new in that? Don’t we all put the customer at the centre of our business? No, we don’t. For example, if you offer a ‘Web-to-print’ service, that’s inside-out talk, not outside-in. The customer doesn’t know and certainly doesn’t care what ‘Web-to-print’ is any more than they care about whether you have a telephone or a front door. They simply expect to communicate with you and buy from you however they wish - and that includes online. That doesn’t mean they will only buy online, but they will at least expect to be able to if they want. It’s time to stop talking about Web-to- print. It’s time to just do it, instead.
Customer loyalty is easier to build online than offline
It used to be claimed that a benefit of a Web-to-print service is that it makes it harder for customers to move to another supplier once you have them on board. Don’t mistake this for customer loyalty - it’s more like customer imprisonment. It’s also inside-out thinking again. It’s a benefit to you, not to the customer. But what this also overlooks is the more that customers buy online, the more they want to buy online. Research from Forrester, again, reports that the longer that B2B companies sell online the more loyal their customers become and the more they buy from them. It’s not because it’s hard to move, it’s because they want to stay. B2B companies with ecommerce experience are finding it easier to build loyalty, cross-sell and grow order value with their online customers than with their offline ones.
Make your print site a showroom
Even though customers increasingly expect to be able to buy online they still need to touch, feel and see what’s on offer. Apple understands this, and that’s why, confounding the trend towards online sales, it makes up to $6,000 sales per square foot in its retail stores. And it achieves a gross profit of around 40%. Do a simple exercise: divide your turnover by the area of your print works. What do you get? How much could you increase that by if you followed the example of Apple and some leading wide-format producers who have already realised that turning the factory into a showroom can educate, engage and inspire your customers to buy more. As a wide-format print producer, you are in the business of helping your customers to show off. So show off what you can do, by making your factory a great place to visit, to see innovative solutions, to learn about the latest techniques and to be inspired by a showcase of creative ideas that you can deliver.
Content is B2B king
Of all the new marketing trends that have evolved in recent years - like personalisation, social media and big data - the one that really counts for B2B is content marketing. We know that most B2B buying decisions start with online search, and that Google captures almost 90% of search in the UK. In 2013 Google unveiled an entirely new search algorithm called Hummingbird. It is a fundamental re-engineering of Google search technology which subtly makes the content on your website more vital then ever. Hummingbird is designed to help people find answers rather than just returning results based on keywords. This is great news for B2B services. If your website talks about the solutions you have rather than just mentions keywords like ‘posters’, ‘signs’ and ‘banners’ then people searching for answers to problems will find you first. Case studies and stories on your website which explain what you have done for your customers, how you have helped them, what business issues you have solved for them will bring visitors to you because it answers their questions.
Print is dead, long live print!
Let’s face it, print ain’t what it used to be. For decades, centuries even, print has the been the dominant mass-market medium. No longer. Digital has completely taken over that role. It is the norm. Search, email, mobile and social media marketing scramble over each other to be top dog in the digital world. But meanwhile, smart marketers are beginning to re- discover the power of print which stems precisely from the fact that it is not digital. Consumers of all generations say they like print because it is tactile, has permanence, surprises them and embodies values they cherish. In the here-today, gone-tomorrow world of digital, print sticks, it can rise above the noise and reach the human being overwhelmed by the relentless flood of digital messaging. It can make us stop and think. It can make us look and stare. Marketers don’t bother to use print to reach a mass audience any more, but they are rediscovering that it can touch an individual and make them react when the digital message is lost in the noise. Wide-format printers can, and are, are now leading the renaissance of print as the new medium de choix for marketers and consumers of personal, unique and novel experiences.
Print is interactive now
Print is changing, but it is not alone in that. All marketing, publishing and entertainment media are crossing over boundaries, converging and falling over each other. Consumers inhabit a multi-channel landscape in which they expect to seamlessly move from one medium to the next whilst continuing the experience and following the story. From print to mobile, TV to tablet, movie to game and website to store in any direction. Print can be just as interactive in this rough and tumble as any other player. We call it ‘cross media’ and it started with the humble PURL - a simple way of tracking a response to a direct mailer by taking the recipient online to a personalised landing page. Then QR codes, the ugly-ducklings of cross media marketing, provided a springboard for us to leap from print to mobile. Now, with print enabled by smart image recognition and augmented reality we can jump through the looking glass and experience an extra world of sound, video and social connections. Print isn’t just a point of departure for interacting with other media, it’s a gateway which those destinations depend upon. Show marketers how to look upon wide-format print as an invitation to engage with people in their daily multi-media experience.
Be an environmental printer in 2014
I don’t just mean a printer that cares for the environment. Of course you do already! I mean be a printer that creates our environment and enhances our unique experience of it. Wide- format printers are in the business of enabling people to interact with their immediate environment - perhaps to read a sign, find a way, locate a place, see what’s on or take up an offer. Why not enhance our experience of that printed environment further by enabling it to interact with us? Scanning an image or a QR code in a shop could recall a product on my mobile that I already saw online but now want to find in-store. It could trigger a nearby DOOH screen to respond with some information specific to me. An environmental printer should not only provide the gateway into my multi- media experience, but could create the unique experience itself. As well as the signage on the walls to help me find my way to specific exhibits in a museum, an environmental printer could create the turn-by-turn route map on my smart phone with the help of some iBeacons. It could even ‘print’ the information displays on my mobile in my language because it knows who I am, where I am and what I want to know about. Yes, wide-format is inspiring a renaissance for print, but the renaissance printer can make print a gateway into digital today and can see that the environment for print tomorrow will be an interactive one.