Saturday, 24 Aug 2019 20:40 GMT


Thanks to the growth of online purchasing, Genevieve Lewis weighs up the benefits of investing in a bespoke web-to-print solution or an off-the-shelf product for your business

Smooth operator

Choosing a service that is going to mostly run your operation can be a stressful decision – it is a key component of your business. With so many options available, how do you make your choice? What are the benefits of investing in a bespoke solution compared to an off-the-shelf option?

Kelvin Bell, sales director of Vpress, is in a position as good as any to shed the light on how a bespoke or off-the-shelf web-to-print option would benefit your business. To start, Bell outlines just a few of the benefits of investing in a specially made system. He explains: “A bespoke, personalised solution if created correctly for the client is more likely to meet their expectation thus tie them into a longer term. A client who has a stronger connection to a solution that is more tailored to their needs is more likely to use it as their own and further secure orders to print suppliers offering the solution.”

On the other hand, are there any benefits of using an off-the-shelf product? Bell continues: “An off-the-shelf solution is more proven and able to work with any browser upon any device (mobile responsive) as it will have as standard. It is also easier to offer customer support if a standard interface is use as opposed to having a different portal for each customer.

An off-the-shelf solution is more proven and able to work with any browser upon any device (mobile responsive) as it will have as standard

“Cost also plays a large part as a standard offering reduces the amount of bespoke development required which also impacts on time to solution delivery. With a system that exists already, there is a greater likelihood that it already connects to other complementary workflow solutions.”

Flex4 also offers web-to-print solutions, and director at the company, David Whiteley, says that users must truly understand what the term ‘web-to-print’ means before they can fully enjoy the benefits.

An example of a bespoke storefront using Flex4’s Online Print  Solution (OPS)

“Before understanding the full benefits of web-to-print, it’s important to understand how the definition of web-to-print evolved, and what printers are wanting to achieve by utilising web-to-print technology,” says Whitely.

“Traditionally for many printers, web-to-print is the process of using customisable templates to generate print ready PDF’s, and this has certainly continued to be an important feature. However, thanks to the continued growth in both businesses and consumers expecting to source products online, the definition has been broadened to encompass all web technology a print business needs to sell print online, reduce costs and improve customer service.”

Whiteley continues: “Today, many printers who are sourcing web-to-print technology are in fact looking for a complete print e-commerce solution. This allows them to both advertise print products online and increase revenues with 24-hour ordering. Both can be achieved through a public e-commerce website and private client storefronts.”

Maximum Efficiency

Bell highlights how a web-to-print solution can benefit a printers’ operation, he says: “A web-to-print solution that already has connectivity into production workflow or an existing framework to support a non-automated production environment instantly has greater benefits as it provides a more efficient process with less touchpoints for each job entering into production. The less each job is ‘touched’ by a process then the greater the cost saving and more scalability the process offers to support better productivity.”

Leaning towards the power of a bespoke system, Whiteley says that it can help with customer experience, while staying true to branding, colours and logos. Whiteley continues: “Thanks to OPS being developed in-house, we can apply bespoke services to all parts of a complete web-to-print system, namely in both the design and functionality. A bespoke print e-commerce website design creates a visually appealing and intuitive layout and allows for clear and consistent branding.

“All branding colours, logos and imagery can be used to good effect to provide a positive user experience and differentiate the printer from competitors. That, alongside bespoke website functionality allows it to be tailored to exactly meet the individual business needs and adapt to ensure the solution moves with changing requirements. This includes the seamless integration with external software such as MIS, accounts and courier platforms to further boost efficiency.”

Jonathan Silvester, in charge of brand development at RedTie, agrees that there are some benefits of investing in a bespoke web-to-print system, but says that there are some drawbacks. He comments: “This route would allow creation of a completely unique user experience in terms of user journey and workflow. Some large print enterprises have taken this route to define their business model by advertising low prices that feature lots of upselling prompts during the ordering process. However, bear in mind that software development is expensive and ongoing development and support will be required to provide training, maintain security and deliver feature updates. Assuming that the budget is not a problem, the other big issue is time. Developing a bespoke system will require at least 6-12 months of development and testing.”

O Factoid: Web-to-print is a broad term for doing print business online, typically through a website.  O

It is with these points in mind that Silvester is more approving of an off-the-shelf solution, which RedTie can help with.

He continues: “Off-the-shelf solutions like RedTie offer quicker and easier access to web-to-print as there is an interface where you can configure the branding, build the products and upload the customer data. The financial commitment and technical expertise required are much lower because the software-as-a-service model means you can access the software via web browser. Our off-the-shelf solution is based on years of customer feedback and development, so it is highly likely that everything a client is likely to need is already available to implement by changing the system settings via the configuration interface.”

An example of the RedTie storefront

Silvester concludes: “With an off-the-shelf solution, ongoing support and feature updates are taken care of so there is nothing to worry about in terms of security patches and system downtime. With RedTie you can actually get the best of both worlds because we offer bespoke development. This means that our off-the-shelf system can be used as the base infrastructure and a completely bespoke user experience can be created on top of it.”

Tharstern is another player in the field of print software and having recently signed up to exhibit at The Print Show 2019, are keen to showcase how its solutions can help workflow and efficiency.

A Tharstern solution – Strand says an effective solution can help keep cost down

Andy Strand, customer enrolment manager, explains: “Being able to quote competitively is very important to print businesses – to attract customers and ultimately, make a profit. It’s important to be efficient and have a streamlined workflow to keep costs down. To help with efficiencies, companies need to invest in new solutions, but why?”

Andy Strand, customer enrolment manager, Tharstern

Strand continues to highlight how a good system can help in a number of ways including the reduction of touchpoints as Bell previously mentioned. He says: “Increasing automation in a print workflow speeds up processes, reduces human touchpoints (therefore the potential for errors) and allows for more focus to be placed on customer happiness. If there are less repetitive inputting tasks for customer service representatives, it means they have more time to concentrate on the more creative tasks, to add real value to the customer experience which can give the business an edge over their competitors.”

Silvester adds that efficiency can also be maximised by the features of the RedTie system, which includes automation, configurable hot folders and xml data push. He explains: “By improving workflow and connectivity, web-to-print can remove duplication in data entry and facilitate greater automation of processes. The RedTie system includes features such as configurable hot folders, xml data push and email notifications that facilitate communication and integration with a wide variety of third-party systems. This means our customers can streamline the production process from the point of order to the press whilst end users can take advantage of sophisticated approval systems to improve their own efficiency.”

A piece of advice

Bell agrees on how this software can support the improvement of efficiency. He adds: “For many years now, what has become web-to-print has been offered in a responsive way to a client’s needs rather than the benefits for the client being proactively offered. Recently this has changed for two very distinct reasons – the first being that web-to-print offers production efficiency of around 30-40% of a job’s cost with automation meaning that any print-service-provider cannot afford to compete unless automation is embraced even in a semi-automated way.”

Kelvin Bell, Vpress sales director

He continues: “The second is that customers now have solutions in place to manage their procurement processes and this directly affects print as these solutions (ERP/CRM applications) are widely in use and continue to grow rapidly. They support the consolidation of suppliers to achieve optimum pricing. ERP/CRM systems do have an upside however as web-to-print ‘should’ seamlessly integrate offering printers an opportunity to capture the client’s requirement and a chance to get paid in four working days without the need for invoicing.”

Bell has a final piece of advice for solutions: “As a final note – always check where your solution is both developed and hosted to save costly negative client scenarios further down the line.”

Regardless of whether or not a printer decides to go with an off-the-shelf solution or bespoke system, it is clear that making a decision should be backed by thorough research and talking to businesses like Vpress, Tharstern, RedTie and Flex4 who are all able to help.

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