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Focus On


With any successful business, looking at what additional services you can add can be a smart move. Carys Evans explores the options and benefits of adding a web-to-print offering

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A web-to-print offering can help you stay one step ahead

One step ahead

As buyer habits turn to self-service, and wait times get shorter, it can feel like you are having to really work to keep up with the moving tide. In times like this, looking at what additional services you can viably add to your business can be a smart move.

Unlike a traditional print business website, a web-to-print system uses specialised software to streamline each step of the print process.

Through a web-to-print system, print partners and customers can submit print jobs, do online prepress reviews/previews, design things like postcards directly onto a website using rich user interfaces.

Web-to-print allows for online prepress reviews – with a print house, client and designer all working together through an approved computer based online network.

Adding this sort of offering to your print business can provide a number of benefits as it removes the bulk of the waiting and communication, as well as silly mistakes because costs are calculated prior to the order, proofs are instant, and the ordering process is streamlined to a matter of hours.

Enhance your offering

So what are the options for adding this sort of service? David Whiteley of UK software developer, Flex4 says there are two main options: “Seek an off-the-shelf package that can be tailored to suit the needs of an individual print business or choose a bespoke solution designed and developed specifically for a print business.

Buyer habits are turning to self-service and wait times are getting shorter

“Flex4 offers the best of both worlds by offering a range of standard packages that can be customised to suit individual needs and can also be integrated with third-party software platforms, for example, management information software (MIS), accounting and couriers.”

When looking to add this sort of service, Whiteley explains how there are a number of specialist UK providers of web-to-print software and systems with most ‘off-the-shelf’ packages able to work alongside or be integrated with third-party MIS and accounting software.

Based in South Yorkshire, Route 1 Print works exclusively with trade customers from its 147,000sq ft facility. The company offers access to its Connect service which Sarah Kilcoyne, head of sales and integration at the firm says provides solutions to make the print procurement process as simple and efficient as possible. She continues: “We are able to integrate directly with a client’s systems through a number of methods so that their orders can immediately enter our workflow.

“We also work with a web-to-print provider to provide an off-the-shelf solution for those who aren’t currently using a web-to-print system. Unless you have your own development team, using a third-party provider is the only viable option for most printers.”

By 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online

Route 1 uses Vpress as its off-the-shelf offering, although there are other providers available. Describing the service Vpress provides, Kilcoyne says: “They’re very user friendly and the software is regularly updated. Comparatively, if you wanted to create this type of software in-house, it can be very expensive and time consuming, especially if you don’t have the right people or equipment.”

Whiteley continues: “In today’s increasingly competitive online print marketplace, printers need to look closely at how administration costs can be kept to a minimum and over the past 12-18 months, Flex4 has assisted many printers achieve this through both bespoke development and integration with MIS, accounting and courier software platforms.”

Best-known for its business cards, Vistaprint now offers a whole host of marketing services including a range of customisable small business marketing products and real-time expert ideas and assistance. Robert Crosland, EU public relations lead at Vistaprint says its customers enjoy many benefits from using a web-to-print service.

Crosland says: “Customers have tremendous flexibility to shop at their convenience – whenever and from wherever they need to. A web-to-print service can also reduce the time business owners spend on designing and printing their marketing materials. They can handle the whole process – from design to product selection and printing – all by themselves and from a single location. This avoids the need for multiple meetings to finalise and approve designs.

Spoilt for choice

“For our small business customers, it’s important that their marketing materials project a consistent, cohesive and professional look for their business. Our web-to-print service can help as customers can easily pull logos, information and images from past orders and apply them to new products, many of which already have matching designs. Customers are also given full control to use their own templates to ensure that all their printed marketing stays on brand.”

There are various off-the-shelf packages that can be tailored for individual business needs

Describing Vistaprint’s own web-to-print set up, Crosland says: “Vistaprint invented the technology – and the concept itself – of affordable online printing in quantities that meet the needs of small business owners. This patented printing technique allows Vistaprint to maximise efficiency and consistently deliver quality and savings to these customers. Vistaprint then took this process that was traditionally only available offline and made it possible for both business owners and individuals to conveniently create and order their custom materials online.

“This process is now supported by 25 localised websites serving small businesses in numerous countries, and world-class manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and Australia.”

SAXOPRINT has been in the online printing business since 2006 and over this time it has been continuously developing its online shop to adapt to the needs of its customers. Having invested more than £60m in its production plant, SAXOPRINT has recently launched SAXOPRINT.pro. It is a closed online print portal designed just for resellers and was created as a way to give something back to SAXOPRINT customers. In addition to the usual SAXOPRINT service, members can gain access to the best rates, as well as personal support from its account management team.

Philip Foster, senior key account manager for the firm says: “To order from us, simply select and configure product specifications, add it to your basket and order. Then upload your artwork via the website and that’s it. Fast, easy and intuitive.

“In any case, the greatest advantages are availability, transparent pricing and product design, not forgetting the automaton of many work processes. The customer simply specifics which product should be configured and then uploads the artwork after ordering.”

SAXOPRINT offers various software programmes for its printing partners. In terms of how to add this service to your offering, Foster says: “As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to create an online printing portal and then invite graphic designers and other end-users. The graphic designer can then create new layouts and release them, which can be personalised and ordered by your portal members. We also provide a technical solution for large-scale resellers. Through a Standard Reseller Interface print jobs can be transferred to us automatically.”

Why bother?

In terms of why adding a web-to-print service to your print business could be a good idea, Foster says: “Due to increasing automation and digitisation, efficiency is becoming more and more important. An online shop enables customers to access products and prices immediately, which is an important factor in decision-making. Getting the right information quickly is vital in a world where production lead times are getting shorter and shorter.

Robert Crosland, EU public relations lead at Vistaprint

“This is particularly true in the printing industry, where quality is a matter of course and usability and competitive pricing are key factors. Making the entire purchasing process easier is more likely to make people use it. We offer just that with our online shop.”

Making the entire purchasing process easier is more likely to make people use it. We offer just that with our online shop

Mirroring this view, Kilcoyne adds: “I believe there are some potential risks for being left behind. Mainly, because of the efficiency it provides. It could be difficult to compete with the pricing that implementing a web-to-print service can offer.

“Additionally, I think this type of service is becoming more popular. Typically, buying behaviour is moving towards self-service options, rather than having to rely on someone else to place your order. If you want to start running a web-to-print service, it will initially take time to set up, and does require a large amount of effort to set up.

However, because it’s such a streamlined and automated process, it requires minimal to no day-to-day upkeep. Work just needs to be done to update artwork templates as well as adding new products.”

Agreeing that customers are moving further online, Whitely adds: “Increasingly print buyers are looking online and any printer not offering customers the ability to place orders quickly and easily online will increasingly miss out on a large and growing slice of the print marketplace. Similarly an increasing number of businesses demand the ability to place orders online using a branded storefront that their staff can easily access and use.”

O Factoid: According to Statista, in 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online  O

Despite the many benefits of adding this service, Crosland says it is important not to lose site of the customer service nature of building any successful business. He says: “While web-to-print allows customers to engage with companies in a self-service fashion, it’s important not to neglect the personal touch.

“From ongoing customer service and design support to marketing inspiration and education, web-to-print companies should strive to develop long-term relationships with small businesses that go beyond transactions.”

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