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Print Marketplace: Are We Trying To Encourage Print Or Kill Margins That We Earn On Printing?

The term marketplace is commonly used for a web-based module where any vendor can register and start offering their products. In this way, visitors or consumers can get different rates for the same product, while the e-commerce company running the marketplace usually earns commission out of each sale.

We are familiar with international e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Alibaba as well as the domestic platforms like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Shopclues, etc. Well, this might be the digital way to offer standard products with heavy discounts, and, at times create exclusive launch offers on a particular site. For example, Motorola launches its smartphone on Flipkart; this way, users can only acquire it online and not from physical stores.

We have seen online shopping / e-commerce portals as being the best platforms for bargain deals, heavy discounts, and buy-now-and-pay-later schemes. While facilities such as cash-on-delivery, return policy, etc. might work well in the long run to attract unconventional buys online, for now, people are habituated to ordering standard products like apparels, electronics, furniture, medicines, footwear, books and so on. Mostly, even these are offered at heavy discounts and with other bundle offers.

After this brief about a standard marketplace, let us try to replicate this scenario for the printing marketplace, wherein few vendors are promoting it as a major tool to earn large print orders.

Several trade printers want to offer this online printing service to their reseller and designer, while many software companies want to offer the web to print based mechanism for printers to upload their print product and earn commission on every sale. They will list not one printer but all printers across the country and display printing rates for the users to select the lowest possible rates offered in their locale.

Lastly, the so-called w2p online editor selling company wishes to integrate its web to print solution with the marketplace. Their primary interest is to push their US$ 6999 editor, and charge thousands more to present customers with magneto-based open source marketplace for print.

While the idea sounds good and sells, the print product often does not. In most cases, the printer gets carried away and spends millions for this type of open source print marketplace. However, he does not foresee how it can be implemented for print, as it is not a standard product with standard specifications and fixed price.

The w2p online editor is offered to the printer with an idea that their re-seller too can run an online printing site and generate orders, which is finally sent to the printer for printing. This could give them the liberty to key in their own print product and fix print rates with suitable margins as agreed between the two parties.

In some cases, it is offered to investors as an idea to run online printing marketplaces where they expect to get registration from printers across the world and offer their print rates. When the user selects a particular item and area of residence, he will see a list of registered printers. For example, if someone in India searches for business card printing, hundreds of printers offering a variety of templates and style at competitive rates will show up.

In both cases, we fail to think that unlike standard e-commerce marketplaces, here, printing products are not standard; each of them need multiple variable options like paper quality in form of GSM, cuts, lamination, front / back printing, quantity, etc.

Once an order is placed, the product is not shipped directly. It first needs to be printed. There cannot be money-back guarantee or cash on delivery unlike standard product returns, since a dissatisfactory print order involves the risk of being a total waste if the requirements are not adequately met.

Overall, the entire printing industry is struggling to generate new print ideas and more print orders. This being the focus, they neglect the need of creating competition among themselves for products that have wide scope for variation, not limited to cost factors. Consequently, it affects their margins.

Those printers who offer online printing to their resellers initially spend millions to build a marketplace solution, which cannot be used easily by their resellers. The re-seller's margin is further reduced as they start passing the discount from their margin to procure online printing orders. This entails that the trade printers indirectly create competition among their own resellers. The bait that whoever grabs the order finally comes to the trade printer to get it printed at their B2B fixed rates fuels the unwanted competition.

The crux of this topic is to create awareness in the printing industry that standard marketplaces cannot be blindly replicated for printing. This holds true, especially when aiming to encourage people to earn more instead of offering printing at discounted rates.