Web-to-print is get to gain a real foothold in the digital wide-format space despite print buyers wanting to use it. John Taylor considers the issues.
Why is it taking so long for wide-format PSPs to jump on the Web-to-print (W2P) bandwagon? On the face of it there are no real technological issues so why it should be the case?
OK, wide-format inkjet may be a speciality compared to general digital print where W2P take-up is higher. Its template aspect is mooted as not being all-encompassing and thus a hindrance, but is that a mere excuse? W2P does not have to use templates! And increasingly there are systems coming to market for wide-format built into the development and thinking so perhaps it’s time to seriously rethink your W2P position.
There are those, like Cestrian and the Simpson Group to name just two, that are benefitting from including it in their service portfolios. For print buyers, W2P gives them control. It is efficient, from faster ordering through to faster delivery. And many want it.
For PSPs W2P can deliver significant and well documented savings and efficiencies as well as new revenue streams, but so often the research requirements, development and implementation costs, concerns over integration and workflow, and simple fear of venturing into e-commerce put a halt to W2P before it even reaches the stage of solid investigation.
The thing is, W2P is full of options, and therein lies the rub. Do you integrate your own system into your existing website, buy off the shelf software, go SaaS, or commit to a bespoke solution?
What’s essential to consider for W2P large-format printers, according to Just Digital online manager Rachel Pomfret, is a system that incorporates a corporate ID matched website with seamless logging in, 24h access for ordering, order tracking, multi-level approvals, stock control and regular ordering reports. You may also need to consider multi-language capabilities for overseas users, unlimited users and products, and total product personalisation.
Just Digital is a 100 strong digital print company set up in 2003 exclusively for digital, including large-format. W2P was an early on consideration for the company, investing in the concept soon after inception. According to Pomfret, there have been no serious problems or issues in operating W2P, from either its own or customer points of view.
The outfit designs, hosts and administrates its own W2P system (www.justdigitalprint.co.uk/services/web-to-print), while its print department produces and dispatches orders placed via bespoke online stores. It also backs up the service with a dedicated telephone support line. Its sites allow personalisation and online instructions guide users through data entry and uploading files and images, with a proof displayed prior to ordering. For Just Digital this works.
Red Tie sales director Mike Hiscox reinforces that large-format printers need reminding of the benefits of W2P. He feels there are not enough success stories. And he understands that perhaps PSPs require more help when it comes to navigating the ecommerce landscape – that many PSPs just do not know where to start.
Even for those that are technically adept, W2P can be a challenge though, because it’s not just about the technology. According to Hiscox it's about finding needs, building relationships and creating new business.
“The key,” he explains, “is creating demand. I believe business owners get bogged down with being far too reactive and don't always pro-actively see that unless they create new demand, they will always be chasing their tails.
“I see printers doing the same things with W2P: yes they do them quicker and cheaper but they're still missing a key factor. W2P needs new markets!”
The latest addition to the Red Tie W2P software portfolio is RTT Plus, delivered as a direct result of feedback from wide-format companies. It provides PSPs with a customer facing pricing tool.
Red Tie starter software costs around £2,000 per year, and is payable monthly. For larger commercial printers, Web2Print can cost between £4,000 and £6,000 per year. But payback can be fast. One large-format printer specialising in construction and building wraps and drapes, extended to RTT Plus and is flying as a result.
With Red Tie software, printers can specify their products in a simple to use Webstore, generating instant prices, saving time and not needing to produce print estimates. They can set business rules for each portal or storefront including different client discounts, payment methods, product types and file formats. Customers upload their own artwork files in any format and are not limited to templates. The system can be set up to accept certain file extensions only.
“This gives seamless completion of orders within the storefront for bespoke and one-off items, and we are told this is increasing online print revenue for printers by capturing more orders for both B2B and B2C,” says Hiscox.
Red Tie believes it does things differently. The company spends time and effort on education, not just on how to use the software but how to position W2P for its customers through sales training and business development support. Its Online Academy covers Web2Print in general and is open to everyone: customers and non-customers alike.
Taking the ‘buy the solution’ route, we also talked to Workflowz the UK Chili Publisher distributor. CEO Alan Dixon reiterates that W2P needs sound planning, and additional skills.
Chili Publisher is a complete system - no add-ons, no limitations, no pay per PDF or user. It can be integrated into existing Web applications and used to design, create and collaborate on print documents. Output can be generated for print as well as for interactive media.
The online publishing engine combines easy to use, online document editing, for freely designed and template based solutions. It also provides comprehensive visualisation of the designed print/product in context.
Documents are easily uploaded from Adobe InDesign, for example, or created directly in the online editor. “Adding variables and rules is a simple but powerful process, great for one off iterations of mass produced items when combined with an uploaded spreadsheet containing the clients own data for retail or POS campaigns,” says Dixon. “Dynamic resizing also proves that one size can fit all! Documents can be repurposed into a variety of formats also suitable for digital signage as well as online versions.”
Chili Publisher is not modular, you get the whole thing for a one off £35,000 payment. Everything is incorporated and for an annual maintenance fee, support and product updates are provided. So, the important question is what’s the payback? Dixon cites companies achieving payback in a year!