Tue, Jul

Way to go with W2P

As a wide-format PSP that runs a W2P service, the Simpson Group is well placed to offer advice on how to successfully integrate the offering. The group’s online print manager Rachel Tait explains.

When people think of Web-to-print they tend to think about two specific markets:

a B2C market that is gradually filling up with those offering birthday cards and business cards, simple products on a hosted site; and perhaps larger corporates with a B2B print portal through which customers can regionalise and personalise branded print to ensure their marketing message is consistent and correct.

There is a way to get the best of both worlds and with effort, succeed in both markets, but the implementation of such a system into an existing workflow can be a steep learning curve. Getting the right balance of technical expertise and customer buy-in can be tricky.

The Simpson Group has been through the process setting up its own shop4pop website at http://www.shop4pop.com, and here shares its insight.

1. Get the integration right

You can offer your clients the most elegant interface and most sophisticated product options but if your W2P software doesn’t integrate with your MIS workflow you can cause carnage for your operations department. Your job creation, scheduling, despatch and invoice functions must all be automatic or you will lose any benefit from the online ordering system, along with the goodwill of your colleagues who will struggle to justify the noise from short run jobs!

W2P brings cultural change, so make the transition as smooth as possible. You cannot function with two separate workflows. Make sure you research all the software available and give system integration the importance it deserves.

2. Stick to what you know

If you are creating great POS and POP products for your existing clients through the traditional channels then these are the products you should choose to implement on your W2P system. Large-format posters and 3D units can be produced using your existing printers and finishing equipment with the experienced production team you have in place. It’s easy to do more of the same in shorter runs when the workflow is automated.

3. Start in calmer waters

If you can roll-out your first deployments to existing customers then this is the easiest path. Don’t fall into the mindset that because you are producing the same products by a different channel that the benefits will be limited to cutting down internal admin (though this is a major benefit of W2P). In our experience even well-established clients will find new and interesting ways to use targeted print, and with a little guidance they will increase their spend with you. Once these key clients are comfortable with the new service they will relish the fact that they have more regionalised control of their assets. You will also have locked yourself in more securely as a supplier.

4. Have the right team in place

Knowing about software is not enough to implement a successful W2P offering, especially in the POS market. You need a team with technical experience certainly, but a strong print background is needed to understand the limitations of what can be produced through W2P, and what should be avoided.

With POS many products are far more bespoke than with other commercial and digital print. 3D units rarely fit the same cutters and knowing what can be packed flat for easy assembly is half the battle. Your W2P team has to understand the intricacies and pitfalls of production before it can ever offer a solution to the end user.

5. Steer, guide and keep it easy

Setting up 3D POS units can be challenging but the key to success is to keep the customer choices to a reasonable limit. You need to give enough choice (different cutter styles, themes and variables) whilst keeping things simple. Once your time-served clients are all on board you may choose to cater for a wider B2C audience. A market of global, non-technical, first time print buyers can be a jungle without the clear step by step systemisation that W2P can provide. Limit the options enough to prevent the user going off on a tangent, but let them feel that they have created their own masterpiece. They will come back and order again if the experience is rewarding enough.

6. Keep internal expectations in check

W2P integrations are not always a success. One of the main reasons that they fail is unrealistic expectations from stakeholders. It’s easy to dream of your W2P system becoming an overnight success and making you a fortune. The truth is that it takes time to gain traction. It takes months to set-up your system, followed by a period of customer acquisition and growth. It can take a year or more to start feeling the financial effects W2P can bring to your business. Allow for time and resources for a long-term strategy rather than a quick win.

7. Marketing and sales

Your salesforce is key to the success of your W2P service - particularly your B2B offering. In a stubbornly traditional industry it can still be hard to convince your sales team of the benefits of W2P. Those who embrace it can sell it for you to existing and new clients; those who are wary of the technology will fail to sell it anywhere! Without buy-in across your whole workforce, online purchasing can be an uphill battle for your W2P team and can even cause you to fail.

For a B2C service, strong marketing is crucial. As with any online solution your B2C offering should be treated to some serious time, thought and investment. You will need SEO and paid search investment to allow people to find you.

Unique product offerings can really help but only if they are marketed correctly. If you do not have a marketing executive who will champion W2P then recruit someone! They need to be excited and enthused about your investment to clients and your own employees.

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