Surprisingly, most of digital and offset printing companies see web-to-print solution as a new venture, hoping that they will generate lots of immediate printing orders from all across the country or sometimes from all over the world. They want to invest minimum for setting it up or implementing it without keeping a serious budget for promotions and still start measuring ROI from the very first month of going live. Then, they quickly treat it as failed idea and shut it off.
They are possibly looking at success story of a multinational online printing company like Vistaprint, who were one of the pioneers or early movers to adopt technology and now backed by hefty money from international stock exchange or other public listed companies like printing.com, moo.com, etc. They have built their presence and meet their targets by capturing offline market using their online model of printing.
Most of the printing companies see them as a threat whenever their venture is launched in their country of origin. They experience that their printing volume at their retail store or their offset setup reduces because of these online printing giants. They might be right! Or they can prove this wrong!
This kind of self-study/ observations removes the focus from thinking of offering technology to existing customers. Instead, they just worry about the companies that use technology might take away their existing customers.
Needless to say, it differs from country to country, the local business culture, population, demography they can cover within their own country, the availability of good quality printing press and so on. One needs to really study how the retail printing market works in their area.
At printing industry we do think of quality, cost, delivery time and so on. Possibly, your end customer who are SME, needs to print some of the material as mandatory or compliance requirement by their government say letterhead, envelop, invoice and so on. Point is, though we are moving in the digital world, at many places it’s a must to generate printed invoice in 2 copies, send it to the client as well as preserve it in your records.
In this scenario, your existing client is not much bothered about cost, technology, ease of use, etc. For him, it is just compliance (kind of pain area) which he must adhere to, in order to procure his day-to-day stationery. At this point of time, not cost but convenience is on his mind.
He can still rely on local canvasser or print agent, who takes time to deliver the product. He ends up wasting time on stuff which is not really important for his actual business, but he is getting involved as it is forced upon him as compliance.
He might not be really interested in fancy stuff/ personalised gifts, t-shirt embroidery and so on. His focus is to procure print material he needs in the minimum possible time (no nonsense).
Here is where he opts for web and online printing and possibly ends up settling with some remotely located service provider as nobody in his area is providing this facility. Those giants have lots of conditions on days of delivery, quality, and minimum order quantity and so on. The client does not understand much of this as his target is to procure and move on for his business.
This is where the point comes for digital/ offset printing companies to think of others ways to implement these solutions for their existing customer or even market themselves to SMEs in their local area. Carry tablets with them and demonstrate live how small printing requirements can be easily ordered using web-to-print/ online printing.
The market is untapped. If you don’t believe this, speak to your local printing association. They might have statistics or data on retail printing generated from particular region in a particular year. We tried this in India (we know we are 2nd largest populated country and the figures were so massive that a single brand can’t fulfil the same).