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drupa Spotlight: The Road to Digital Success

January 15, 2012
Leading up to drupa 2012, May 3 to 15 in Germany, PrintAction presents a weekly series of feature-length articles written by journalists and consultants from around the world. The first online drupa Spotlight article is produced by Enrico Barboglio, President of Italy’s 4IT Group.

The Road to Digital Success: Being Analogue
By Enrico Barboglio

The next decade may be marked by some tough conditions. Firstly, instability as a structural condition because of the ever-deepening interconnectivity between different parts of the world and different people and the speed with which information and money can flow. Secondly, asymmetric economic and demographic growth in Europe, in the absence of important corrective measures, that will result in weak demand together with high-cost raw materials, as a consequence of demand in other parts of the world. Finally, high sovereign debt will become a driver for substantial changes in habits, behaviour and culture.

The ‘and’ paradigm
The consequences will be global changes in many sectors, because the difficulty of predicting demand will put extra strain on production flexibility and structural costs. The graphics industry will continue to see its structural model significantly challenged as it prepares to respond to ever more stringent demands in terms of time, and ever-changing, more integrated requirements with regard to production objectives.

We could say that the successful companies will be those that can address the needs of a digital nature (print/non print, long run/short run, paper/electronic) by adopting an analogue strategy, which can be summarized in what we could call the AND-paradigm: Innovation AND Tradition, Quality AND Quantity, Costs AND Revenue, Volume AND Margins, Short AND Long Term, Collaboration AND Competition.

In these six key areas, the Printing Service Provider (PSP), as an entrepreneur in graphics and communication, must therefore use its capabilities to satisfy its clients and also be prepared to respond to the new requirements that are emerging in the paper print sector.

It has been widely claimed and argued that paper print will not actually disappear, but what is certain is the market share of printed products will surely decrease. The importance of digital and mobile communication is growing by the day, as evidenced by usage statistics from sources like SMS, tweets, posts on various social media, email and Webpages in general. Integration of the communication channels is the challenge that has faced printing service providers for several years now, based on the fact that today’s user does not generally have information to consume, but a range of information to integrate, and very often also to share.

Initially, this process was more relevant to those who operated in variable data digital management systems (so-called 1:1 marketing), but today it also involves print where variable data is not the main feature or does not determine the need for a digital output.  

How to respond to B2B and B2C needs
Until today, PSPs were considered a link in the communication chain only when it came to producing the final document, brochure or direct-mail piece, and had to deal mainly with the client’s purchasing department or their communications agency.

Now, marketers are challenged to segment their markets more efficiently and effectively, attract new customers with continuity campaigns that cultivate engagement, support multiple distribution channels with comprehensive materials aligned to each specific channel, identify cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, and maximize the lifetime value of the customer.  

All these are issues that a PSP with business clients cannot ignore. They must begin a transformation from PSP (Printing Service Provider) to CSP (Communication Service Provider) or MSP (Marketing Service Provider).

The world of photo-books is a clear example of this. The consumer’s increasing confidence in digital imaging is making the use of digitally printed photo albums more and more popular. The initial tendency to keep photos only in their digital electronic form is changing, and this may be further encouraged through an offering that is essentially Web based, available 24/7, and offers the consumer the chance to create unique and personalized products.

The photo album can become a true photo story or personalized book; sending greetings cards or party invitations can be left completely to the final user. This has been done, for example, by Penwizard or TinyPrints recently acquired by Shutterfly. The latter was one of the first companies to enable the creation of photo-books directly inside the Facebook environment. In these and similar, cases the support of digital printer suppliers has often been critical in the planning phase.

Opening up to clients through W2P
Whether PSPs are aiming to create an offering for the business market or for consumers, they must ensure that they open up their own production areas to clients. The proposition of on-demand services will be impoverished if clients are not allowed to generate their demand at any time in the 24/7 context that they nowadays consider it their right to ask for. This is why adopting Web2Print (W2P) is no longer merely an application to be included in the user interface in order to obtain online orders. It has become an important and integral part of the company management process. At the same time, it is a tool no longer the reserve of print companies specializing in online printing, but a solution which more and more traditional print companies are turning to, so that they can respond to new ways of managing demand and orders from their clients.

B2B solutions are provided by print service providers for their corporate customers. Corporations then use these solutions to manage their supply chain and print procurement process. These types of solutions are traditionally branded with the corporate logo and colour scheme and access to the site is typically restricted to employees or business partners who can log in to the system with a username and password. Some features that most B2B solutions offer include storefronts that can be branded with a corporate identity, configurable permissions for a variety of corporate users, catalogue and template ordering, approval workflows that automatically request management approval when necessary, and support for purchase order and cost-centre billing.

B2C solutions are used for selling print products and services directly to consumers. These solutions typically require intensive marketing efforts to drive consumer traffic to the site. Consumers can order print using a B2C solution without having a pre-established relationship with the PSP. Some features that most B2C solutions offer include adhoc file submission and template-driven ordering, support for credit card payment processing, real-time shipping quotes via integration with the parcel courier, and the ability for consumers to track the status of their job online.

The ability to integrate third-party solutions within a W2P solution is another added-value feature. This is the case, for example, with Hiflex Webshop, an open system that allows the integration of third-party functionality. Alongside the already implemented PDF Online Designer, for instance, it is possible to integrate external tools that offer Webshop visitors the functions of professional DTP applications.  In this way, individual print products can be created quickly and easily. is an interesting simulation of a printing Web shop

The optimization and automation of prepress is the key to being more competitive by reducing internal costs. Prisma Graphic Corporation strongly believes this. Originally a boutique print shop, it has added two successful Web-based storefronts known as Dokshop and Print Power to complement its commercial print business.

Dokshop serves corporate customers, while Print Power represents a Web-to-print solution targeting consumers. With the use of Prinergy Connect workflow and Kodak's Rules-Based Automation Software (RBA), Prisma Graphic has improved prepress processes with more automation. “We have to produce a product that costs less money today than it did five years ago,” said Steve Carlson, Operations Manager, Prisma Graphics. “The efficiencies we’ve gained with Kodak’s workflow have freed up some available time in the rest of the plant, either on the digital or offset side. We can do parts of a job ahead of time and optimize press utilization.”

“The main benefit of Kodak’s solutions are their scalability,” says Nigel Street, General Manager, Unified Workflow Solutions, EAMER. “They are also customizable and can integrate seamlessly with third-party systems, making it very easy for our customers to see immediate results.”

HP has partnered with RedTie and the combined offering creates an end-to-end solution that enables the production of personalized, effective and clever campaign materials. "Some of the world's most powerful brands are using digital print and web-to-print solutions to stand out in the marketplace with complex and creative cross-media marketing materials," said Julia Cole, HP Indigo UK & Ireland marketing manager.

Prepress is the area where the graphic firm can enhance competitiveness. The producers of software for workflow management and file management know it well. They are actually offering more advanced solutions in this field.

Global Graphics has more 20 years experience of developing printing and e-document technology. Its Harlequin and Jaws RIP products offer native PostScript and PDF processing for faster performance and more accurate file rendition. The Harlequin RIP’s rich feature set includes many prepress processes that normally run on separate applications, such as colour management, trapping and imposition. The Jaws RIP is a kernel interpreter around which application developers can wrap layers of functionality and incorporate third party tools.

Also a key market players is EFI, which since its inception in 1989 by Efi Araz (founder of Scitex) has always developed new products. It now has the richest portfolio of solutions for centralized management of printing and graphics workflows, variable data streams management and for the realization of comprehensive W2P solutions. Digital StoreFront is the tool that allows any PSP to implement a web platform that can meet the diverse printing needs of its customers, including the ordering of custom prints.

Customers can send new documents from their desktop computers from anywhere worldwide, using Digital StoreFront's automatic PDF conversion capabilities or the solution’s easy-to-use ticketing features to specify how they want their jobs produced. Site visitors can also choose pre-defined jobs from a visual catalogue, as well as variable data printing and non-print items like advertising specialties, logo merchandise and apparel, and even kits.

In July 2011, EFI also acquired Entrac Technologies, a  provider of self-service and payment solutions, and this could lead to further innovations in the way of providing print services 24/7.

Being relevant to customers in the cross-media era
Once the print provider has been transformed into a CSP offering services available 24/7, their next challenge is to become relevant to their clients.

To achieve this they need to start from an important consideration: the market is ready and the time for getting into cross-media marketing communications is now. Various market trends support this recommendation: Consumers are demanding more relevant communications, marketers need help identifying the right solution for improving marketing performance, and marketers are ready to participate in cross-media. They are actively seeking technology and partners to help make their lives easier by improving the productivity and ROI of their marketing efforts. While printers can provide more and more answers as they complete the transition from a print service provider into a marketing service provider (MSP). 

Providing the right information in the right context (Relevancy in Content), to the right people (Relevancy in Contact), delivering this information to the right device in the right format (Relevancy in Channel), when and as needed to meet the client’s needs (Relevancy in Time). To provide this level of relevancy, a printer must implement the infrastructure (technical, sales, and consultative skills) to develop solutions for efficient communications.

Demand and the embracing of customized communications are being fueled by technology enhancements and market awareness. Advances in the speed and quality of digital colour technology, along with rapid adoption of automation and online technologies, is driving application development. At the same time, the cost of producing digital colour pages is declining while Customized Communications adds value and market awareness is growing. Lastly, targeted and relevant cross-media marketing is now gaining traction in terms of market adoption.

Print providers who act as marketing service providers meet client needs by offering products and services that are targeted, relevant and measurable.  They remain competitive by differentiating their business with higher value products and services.  They generate revenue opportunities from the services associated with delivering customized communications. And customized communications can drive volume to digital press.

In this way we have an overall cycle covering both print and digital communication. Driving this cycle is the right path to take.

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