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The Future of Web-to-Print

Web-to-print has been around for some time, but many print-service-providers continue to sing its praises. Rob Fletcher looks at the main benefit of having this type of system

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Consumers are able to access and pruchase print easier than ever before

Web of opportunities

Print is enjoying something of a resurrection at present and industry experts have cited a number of key reasons for this. While some have highlighted the uptake of print in marketing campaigns, others have picked out the ongoing development of digital print as a major driver behind print’s re-birth.

Arguably, one of the other main factors that has contributed to a more positive print industry is the internet, with consumers now able to access and purchase print easier than ever before. Web-to-print is a key tool for many print companies as they seek to take advantage of this trend and gain business from a new breed of customer.

Here, we examine the key benefits of having a web-to-print system in place, and speak with some of the leading names in the market to find out more about this technology and why it could be worth investing in.

Gaining an advantage

Vpress is one of the key players in this market, with Kelvin Bell, sales director, saying: “The future looks bright for web-to-print as customer expectations grow. Globalisation has provided so many opportunities to reach new markets anywhere in the world, but with that also comes the expectation to be ‘always on’. The requirement to access everything online 24/7 in any language from any platform or device is now the standard, not the exception. With web-to-print in place any printer can now perform in that global arena.

“It is a vital marketing resource management tool, using data and images to produce high-end, personalised content that’s ideal for print. Web-to-print’s future could also see printers bypassing the traditional management information systems (MIS), but whatever happens, it is essential that integrations with ERP and CRM platforms become the norm and included for the customer—from here, web-to-print can really excel with personalised items that offer instant and real pricing at any time of day or night.”

Digital and litho trade print specialist Route 1 Print is one of many print-service-providers (PSPs) that operates a web-to-print system. Adam Carnell, managing director at the company, says trends within buyer behaviour show that consumers are making the move to online purchasing, which in turn makes a web-to-print system so important for the company.

Adam Carnell, managing director at Route 1 Print, says a web-to-print system gives users the opportunity to serve large numbers of people without being held back by their geographic location

“It gives you the opportunity to serve large numbers of people without being held back by your geographic location,” Carnell says, adding: “Furthermore, as a web-to-print system enables you to serve more customers, you gain the advantage of economies of scale due to the mass market approach.

“Here at Route 1 Print, we serve thousands of companies a week by using our website as our sales team. Consider how many people would be needed to match this without a web-to-print system in place. The web-to-print technology does drive the business as it allows us to be more efficient when serving customers.”

Carnell offers further insight into the web-to-print set-up at Route 1 Print, explaining how the system integrates directly with the company’s MIS, thus creating a simple process for customers to order and receive their print.

“At every point, it transfers data meaning that we have some features that we wouldn’t be able to utilise if we were selling face-to-face,” Carnell says, adding: “This data gives us insight into what is working, where we can improve, and also if we have any issues. This all helps us to speed up the processes we have.

“For example, our 30-point artwork check can be done in under a minute instead of waiting for this to be manually set up. If approval is given instantly then our artworkers will do one last manual check and it will hit the press.”

With this in mind, Carnell goes on to issue a warning to companies that do not have some sort of web-to-print system in place, saying this could be costing them profitable work.

Route 1 Print utilises its web-to-print system to help thousands of companies every week, using its website as a sales team

“The first obvious danger is the cost of not implementing one,” Carnell explains, adding: “To serve large quantities of customers, you can either use a web-to-print system or have a large team to manage the service.

“Secondly, the data provided by the web-to-print allows an order to be placed and passed through the system onto the factory floor almost instantly, rather than physically creating a job ticket and manually transferring it to the printer. Therefore, a web-to-print system can streamline the process and pass print jobs from one person to another more efficiently.”

Make it work for you

Elsewhere, Wayne Beckett, sales and marketing director at Imprint Business Systems, also speaks about the benefits of integrating web-to-print with MIS. Imprint specialises in MIS solutions and is able to connect with all web-to-print systems.

Wayne Beckett, sales and marketing director at Imprint Business Systems, speaks highly of the benefits PSPs can expect when integrating a web-to-print system with MIS

Beckett says: “I think we would all agree that receiving orders from the internet is a great idea. The internet is vast and can open the door to millions of potential customers who can simply pick a product, or upload some artwork, pay for it, and send you the order.

The internet is vast and can open the door to millions of potential customers

“Many, if not all, PSPs dream of having a web-to-print system that sends them hundreds of pre-paid orders every day, who wouldn’t? But the reality is, it’s not quite that simple.

“The first thing I discuss with PSPs is what do they want to achieve and what is the benefit for their customers? To go down the B2C road, for most PSPs, would be far too competitive, there are far too many of the big boys out there offering 500 four-colour business cards for £10, therefore the best route initially would be for B2B customers to have a system whereby they can call off stock products and place fairly straight forward orders online.

“This creates two kinds of orders, pre-produced stock items where the order received will be a simple pick and pack and production jobs where artwork needs to be received and produced.”

Beckett goes on to say that this works well and gives the PSP an added benefit for existing and potential new customers for working with them. However, when the PSP has received the order, this is where issues can crop up.

Beckett expands: “I would guess a large amount of PSPs that have gone down the web-to-print route haven’t yet integrated their system with their MIS, so when they receive an online order all they get is an email and the automation stops.

O Factoid: Although the origin of the phrase ‘web-to-print’ is unknown, the term came to the attention of the online community in a 1999 article by Jim Frew. The piece, first published on Webmonkey, offered advice to web designers about desktop publishing and print from commercial, technical, and design aspects. O

“For me, this cancels out the main benefit for having a web-to-print system; if you’ve got to manually input the order, you may as well just receive orders by email or over the phone.

“We have worked with our customers to fully integrate the two systems; for pre-produced/call off stock, when an order is received, Imprint collects the data and automatically creates a job on the system. Imprint then creates a picking note and deducts the stock from our finished stock system. Once the stock has been picked and packed the system then generates a delivery note and invoice if required and will post this information to your accounts system.”

A new level of efficiency

The Online Print Solution (OPS) developed by Flex4 allows printers of all sizes to take advantage of the many benefits offered by web-to-print. Flex4 provide a complete range of web to print solutions that meet customer requirements and are affordable for even the smallest printer.

OPS is made available in a range of flexible packages and the fact that UK-based Flex4 developed the solution in-house means that bespoke customisation is available, to ensure the solution meets both your needs and those of your clients’.

Web-to-print technology intro-duces a whole new level of efficiency to any print business, while also offering a positive experience for customers. The functionality allows you to speed up print production while also reducing costs and increasing revenues with 24 hour online ordering.

A professional online presence will make it easy for customers to find your business, browse through your product catalogue, and easily place orders online. Print eCommerce includes instant quotations, artwork upload, and online proofing which guarantees an efficient ordering process.

Private storefronts allow printers to provide key customers the ability to easily place orders online. Brand consistency is key across all print literature and pre-prepared online templates allow for simple edits before the instant creation of a print ready PDF.

At The Print Show in September, Flex4 will be launching its new IDML import process. This dramatically reduces the time needed to create an editable template from a design created using InDesign software.

A back office system then enables print businesses to manage their online operations from one single interface.  Secure online payments and shipping can be managed through seamless integrations with an MIS system, accounting software and couriers.

Your customers now expect to be able to order their print online and a web-to-print solution will continue to meet their expectations long into the future.

Red Tie’s web-to-print solutions help printers adopt the next generation of technology, driving profit.

Jonathan Silvester, web-to-print specialist at Red Tie, explains how its products help a range of companies: “We have supplied charities that needed to set up a fundraising portal where volunteers could personalise print collateral and order it. The template system allows control over fonts and formatting but allows thousands of users to edit a range of products.

“The system also allows campaigns to be prepared in advance and then switched on and off according to the season or event they are related to. The inventory functionality allows SKUs to be assigned to products and integrated with third party systems and suppliers.

“Many of our end users are high profile organisations, some with hundreds of branches that need the ability to upload images and edit text on templates that are controlled centrally. Others have a large number of users spread across a few sites in close proximity but the philosophy is the same, the labours of the few fulfil the needs of the many.”

Connection is key

Connecting with more customers online is clearly one of the main benefits of a web-to-print system. Sébastien Hanssens, vice-president of marketing and communication at Caldera, agrees with this, saying that customers can enjoy a better experience through web-to-print.

Hanssens says: “PSPs are looking to connect customers and their orders to their production systems in order to avoid too many processes, which can lead to more errors in production.

Caldera works with customers to develop a web-to-print system that best suits their business. Pictured: an example of a Caldera web-to-print system shown at FESPA 2018

“The World Wide Web is now a standard interface for any individual or customer to order any product or service. As customers, we want to avoid spending time talking to a sales rep and want to get straight to the point: what is available, what is the price, and when can I get it?

“PSPs without web-to-print risk losing customers to a competitor that makes it easier for them to order or have a better experience.”

PSPs without web-to-print risk losing customers to a competitor that makes it easier for them to order or have a better user and customer experience

With this, Hanssens draws attention to how Caldera can help PSPs. Caldera offers tailored web-to-workflow solutions where the company works in project mode on shaping a web-to-print that is best suited for the PSP.

Hanssens says: “We have noticed that each PSP has their own unique workflow adapted to the device configuration they have in place. We are moving from out-of-the-box products to a hybrid core product and project, which is much more suited to what our customers are asking. What they are looking for is something fitted to their need, something scalable and modular, and also something that is simple and effective.”

The message is seemingly clear: ignore web-to-print at your peril. Although a lot of PSPs continue to prefer a face-to-face approach, the benefits of web-to-print are almost impossible to ignore.

Beckett of Imprint concludes: “A good web-to-print system can offer some massive benefits for your customers, but the secret is to make the system work for you. Software integration can make a massive difference not only to your workflow, but ultimately your bottom line.”


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