Sat, Aug

Putting a smile on your face?

With DirectSmile now in EFI’s domain, should it become part of yours too? Sophie Matthews-Paul considers its place in the wide-format arena.

With DirectSmile becoming a significant element within EFI’s business software portfolio, it’s logical that this cross media resource will be a major area of interest at the next EFI Connect user conference this coming January. But what’s its relevance to wide-format PSPs? 

Put simply, DirectSmile serves as a strong relational component within EFI’s existing products designed with the cloud and ecommerce in mind, and thus has potential for those of you in the wide-format sector wanting to generate stronger marketing strategies with your clients.

There’s an argument that today digital print across all segments needs to be placed so that it can combine marketing automation, including VDP, image personalisation and versioning. Obviously this generates the need for increased integration and the ability to handle data transactions seamlessly while maintaining full control using workflow related products, such as Web-to-print, MIS and ERP. These elements must be balanced and accountable, yet sufficiently far-reaching to encourage business growth via communication tools that encompass not only print but, also, creativity, design and marketing.

Cross-media is increasingly a part of the wide-format sector’s services portfolio, particularly among those whose businesses already provide different levels of online ordering - from accepting jobs via e-mail, or as a PDF upload, through to full Web-to-print functionality.

Developers, manufacturers and suppliers in the wide-format sector are all aware of the above, and one of the challenges understood by EFI is the drive for greater automation through its DFEs (digital front ends), with optimum end-to-end control that encompasses cloud-based operations, JDF compliance, and accountability in all parts of the production and administrative processes. Adding DirectSmile to its users’ capabilities now means that a single software solution is able to generate media personalisation, including images, and automation that combines digitally driven print data, Web, social media and mobile marketing workflows.

Cross media marketing has grown to become a vital element across the printing industry, and the wide-format arena is well suited to providing truly integrated products and services. This development is driven by the urge for businesses to encourage thinking outside the box and to communicate more directly with agencies, marketing department and corporates and entice them into becoming more proactive and learning more about how print services extend way beyond taking an order and generating a result.

Johannes Goebel, marketing manager of EFI DirectSmile, explains: “In the short term, cross media will help existing and new customers from the printing industry to capitalise on new opportunities with their corporate and agency customers. Medium-term, we will also address agencies and corporates directly because cross media also offers distinct benefits for these target groups.

“With the soon-to-be-released integration between Digital StoreFront and DirectSmile VDP, all DSF users will get the chance to integrate seamlessly best-in-class image personalisation and variable print in their ecommerce workflows. Currently the teams at EFI are working on additional unified solutions that will also encompass full cross media capabilities.”

When EFI acquired DirectSmile it confirmed its belief that cross media marketing is now a key dynamic that extends outside the immediate print environment. Within the wide- format segment, the most effective integration comes from clear communication channels that provide transparency for those working within their parameters.

“Using DirectSmile, printers can now offer their clients a much wider scope of services and, by taking over sophisticated data-related projects, they will secure more business, higher margins and increase customer loyalty. There is no other product on the market that offers the same level of integration and ease of use,” claims Goebel.

“Whether it’s the use of PURLs and QR codes, the creation of websites, or the use of mobile and social media, there will be no need for programming. This means that users can capitalise on the benefits of cross media marketing without the need of investing in new skills and new staff.”

With data driven applications on the Web now such an important part of an end-to-end workflow, the principles of marketing communication apply regardless of the size of company or type of printing device being employed.

“Integrating DirectSmile means seizing new sales opportunities,” Goebel concludes. “Wide-format printers have a natural benefit, as they usually have excellent relations to marketing agencies. Now they can speak with their contacts about solutions that go way beyond print. They can position themselves as problem solvers whenever it comes to data combined with designs.”

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