Features Business Marketing Wide Format Week
Understand the ‘why’ & ‘how’

Industry leaders offer insights into changing consumer needs

September 5, 2023  By Bob Dale

A large-scale vinyl cling in a Toronto RBC branch. Photo © RBC

At the Graphics Canada show in May, one panel discussion involved customers sharing their views on how they are using printed products and how their needs have evolved. As an industry, we do not hear the customer’s voice often enough, so this was a great opportunity.

Speakers from RBC Royal Bank, Staples Canada, Canada Post and Flash Reproductions shared valuable insights that would help print leaders be better prepared to understand client needs in greater detail and develop strategies for long-term success.

Retail merchandising
Grace Chan, vice-president from RBC, shared insights from a financial services merchandizing perspective. One purpose of printed material and display graphics is to start conversations between customers and their staff. This is intended to lead to a discussion on solutions that can be provided. Exterior graphics can be used to attract and engage consumers from the community. This can include socially conscious and/or seasonal themes, or product and solution themes that are co-ordinated with messaging from other media.

Once inside the branch, there are other types of graphic communication and printed materials with different messaging intended to create client interest in products or services. All this printed material are only components of a sophisticated messaging system designed to inform and assist clients to engage and benefit from financial services and available solutions.

Direct mail
Sylwia Plawinski from Canada Post shared many insights on how marketers can use data and visualization to deliver results. After all, if clients conduct direct mail programs, and do not achieve results, then they will not continue. We must always be mindful that our clients are not buying printed products from us but are investing in the benefits of the printed products.

Plawinski shared six key purposes of direct mail initiatives to emphasise the importance of using data to identify and target your priority customers. Canada Post tools providing measurements and data analytics that can be used to prove and improve results were also shared during the discussion.

Digital printed products
Brendan Ireland from Staples Canada provided positive news that the trend for digital product demand has grown consistently over the past five years, while some areas of industry are in decline. Another interesting observation is the increase in cloud printing due to changes in the workplace and reduced in-office time for employees.

Customer expectations have changed. Whether they are end-consumers or businesses, they expect on-demand delivery. The impact of reduced volumes has resulted in more frequent printing of smaller quantities. However, pricing pressure remains from all customer segments. There was a brief period when demand exceeded supply due to supply chain issues. Pricing pressure was not severe then but has now returned.

Packaging unique products
Rich Pauptit, president of Flash Reproductions, showed samples of some of their products. Flash works closely with the design community to bring unique ideas to life. Their clients require products that stand out and leave an impression on the end-user. It is often intended to provide a positive opinion of the customer and/or item enclosed. Their goal is to be remembered and stand out from competition—‘impress, engage and be remembered.’

This event was a great opportunity to gain an understanding and a reminder to continue to focus on customer needs and ask clients key questions that go beyond, ‘what do you need?’ Explore why do they need it and how are they going to use the printed piece. Successful salespeople understand and advise clients on what will work best for their needs.

Bob Dale is co-founder of Connecting for Results, the premier management consulting company focused on the graphics communications industry. He can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of PrintAction.

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