Six consumer-engagement trends that are driving the wide-format business

Victoria Gaitskell
March 25, 2019
By Victoria Gaitskell
PNH Solutions supplied thousands of wall-mounted Silicone Edge (SEG) fabric frames and lightboxes for Swatch stores across North, Central and South America, from 2013 to 2015.
PNH Solutions supplied thousands of wall-mounted Silicone Edge (SEG) fabric frames and lightboxes for Swatch stores across North, Central and South America, from 2013 to 2015.
Whether it’s an event poster, indoor or outdoor signage, vehicle wrap, storefront decal, tradeshow graphic, wall mural or architectural drawing – to name a few – we can find wide-format printing all around us. Also known as large-format printing, it is a print application that remains a top marketing solution. In this report, Simpson Print and PNH Solutions explain how printing companies can leverage wide-format technologies to keep pace with six top marketing trends.

#1: Omni-channel marketing
“Marketing is becoming increasingly complex, and you must become fluent in omni-channel marketing to be able to explain to clients how they benefit from print,” Carla Johanns, President at Simpson Print of Bloomingdale, Ont., says. “Our company understands that today’s brands are aiming to attract shoppers to both their online and physical retail environments. Recent studies show consumers who shop both online and in-store have a 30-percent higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. This concept has prompted our acquisition decisions over the last 12 months.”

In February 2018 the company installed a new swissQprint Nyala 2 LED wide-format inkjet system and just 12 months later in February 2019, a Nyala 3 to complement its arsenal of screen printing presses, a 40-inch Komori LS640 UV press, and digital presses, including a 6-colour HP Indigo. The range of products currently coming off the Nyalas includes displays, temporary and permanent signage for retail environments, packaging, hoarding (temporary fencing used on construction sites), and custom installation work.

“For 50 years we were strictly a sheetfed environment, so it is quite a dramatic shift for us to be exploiting the new equipment’s option of printing roll to roll,” Johanns says. “In my opinion, brand owners will still want to align themselves with a traditional screen printer for their evolving wide-format requirements. Screen printing will remain a viable production method for at least another five to 10 years and is still more cost-effective for quantities above 250 pieces.”

#2: Enriched retail experience
Johanns observes that new trends in retailing are leading to shorter, higher-priced runs more suited to digital wide-format equipment. “In 2012 customers were coming with a plethora of brick-and-mortar stores and would place an order for 300 T-stands and 300 banners or 1,500 kits sent to 1,500 stores, but now retail is changing. There is more customization and interest in enhancing the retail experience for consumers. Retailers are spending more money on fewer locations, as major brands like Lululemon and Under Armour enter the pop-up space.”

Pop-up retail is the trend of temporary sales establishments that emerge for a few hours, days or weeks, creating a new touchpoint for brands to engage with customers. This opportunity allows businesses to experiment with short-term sales strategies without having to invest in a permanent location.

Johanns says the other feature that attracted her to digital wide-format technology is its ability to print on a virtually unlimited number of substrates, including plastics, metals, fabrics and composite materials.

Additionally, digital colour-management systems enable 100-percent matching of Pantones to meet the exacting requirements of major brand owners, she adds. Inks for digital wide-format applications have also improved substantially; Johanns says the most robust digital inks are now better for outdoor applications because of their sun-fast properties. She explains Simpson Print is “very much a coatings company,” so she was attracted to the fact that special effects, such as deep glitter, lenticular or raised UV, can be accomplished through prepress manipulations on her swissQprint equipment.

#3: Environmental sustainability
“From an ecology perspective, UV LED is important because the process is highly efficient and generates half the energy footprint of screen printing, while still mimicking the same high-quality ink saturation as screen,” Johanns says. “Environmental sustainability is where you need to be now. You need to show how much you care about your green footprint. Brands are telling us it’s important, and when players like Carlsberg are eliminating beer six-pack rings to tackle plastic pollution, you need to be concerned as a vendor.”

In particular, it is the younger generations of consumers who have or are now growing up in a scary world with a struggling economy, and tend to prefer environmentally or socially responsible businesses that make the world a better place.

#4: Customization
PNH Solutions supplies wide-format print and custom hardware for events, retail stores, museum exhibits and tradeshows. The Quebec-based company helps clients with visuals, proposes different products for them, and takes care of project management, design, hardware, production, finishing and installation. Its past jobs have included such major undertakings as staging elements and banners for Toronto’s 2015 Pan American Games and 2017 Invictus Games.

The last two years have been especially big years for PNH with the expansion of both its Dorval, Que., and Concord, Ont., production facilities to serve bigger contracts and more complex custom work. The expansion included the introduction of three new departments – metalwork, woodwork and electrical – in both locations.

“Our business is moving toward more custom work. We want to fill the demand for customers who want more unique displays that are different from what have been done before,” Katherine Hudon, PNH Solutions Marketing Coordinator, says. “We’re not the cheapest. We’re well aware of that, but we market our products as high quality — not a single-use tent frame with plastic parts that you can buy cheaply. Our other value-added proposition is that we can be a lot more flexible in what we offer, and we are able to customize products fully in-house.”

She adds that customized printed flooring is a product that has boomed lately. “It used to be popular to print on carpet, but the disadvantages are that it is heavy to transport and relatively hard to clean, so it’s not the most practical thing — especially in Canada where people come inside wearing slushy boots in the winter. Polymer flooring has become really popular because it is lightweight, cleans easily, and lasts for long durations of time. For example, we covered the floor of a big lounge in Montreal’s Saputo Stadium with the branding of the company that sponsored the lounge. The flooring stood up to frequent cleaning and the foot traffic of everyone attending games twice a week for a full season and is still in really good condition.”


PNH Solutions supplied dye-sublimated fabric banners for the stage backdrops used in both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Invictus Games in Florida.
 
#5: Brand activation events
Hudon says it is becoming increasingly common for agencies to organize pop-up brand activation events in shopping malls as a way to attract customers. “People say retail is in decline because of online shopping, so brands are trying to encourage customers with interesting types of promotions and incentives to come back into physical retail environments.” Accordingly, PNH’s projects in the recent past have included booths for pop-up brand activation events in malls for the likes of Swatch and Money Mart.

#6: Interactivity
Another goal of today’s approach to marketing is not just to place information in front of consumers, but rather to inspire them or provoke their thoughts and feelings to the point that they will engage with or share the brand’s content. The resulting two-way communication is regarded as crucial for building trust, genuine relationships, and enhanced experiences that today’s consumers are thought to be seeking.

“One booth we did last year was for a video game company introducing a new game in Las Vegas. The interior of the booth had screens built into it that brought visitors inside the booth to test the game. The exhibit left a much stronger impression on people because they had that experience,” Hudon recounts.  

She says 3D installations are also huge for promoting interactive consumer experiences. Last year for Cineplex, PNH built two giant 3D pieces – a soda can and popcorn bag – that were installed in malls across Ontario and used enthusiastically by moviegoers as selfie props. Another of its past successes for Emporio Armani involved creating a huge 3D backdrop with part of a car emerging from it. Consumers could take photos with stylish brand ambassadors in front of the backdrop to share on social media.

This feature was originally published in the March 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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