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The Future of Print Marketplaces Print Marketplaces are easy to manage as they are built on Open Source platforms

By Abhishek Agarwal

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Print media is facing tough competition with internet and digital platforms gaining traction. Some of the major players in the industry have been struggling in past years to continue with the business and make margins. Every industry is poised to see a tipping point and from there, it needs to revamp its offerings to adapt to the changing consumer demands and technological revolution.

The other side of the coin suggests that printing industry already started revamping its current offerings with hyper-personalization tools, Print eCommerce (Design, Print and Ship model) and print trade marketplaces. According to one of the reports published by Global Industry Analysts, the global web to print market is predicted to reach US$1.3 billion by 2022. The print industry is backed by the recent advancements in e-commerce enabling basic printing businesses to tweak their models and survive in the race of internet and digital technologies. With web to print, a semi-positive outlook has been created for printing industry as more and more technologies like Print-On-Demand (POD), cloud-to-print, virtual marketplaces for printing have emerged.

Like other industries, printing also has seen various integration around technology corner but one underweighted technology adoption in the printing industry has been Printing Marketplaces. Virtual marketplaces have been very successful models and there are a lot of examples including Amazon, Flipkart, Zazzle, Vistaprint, who are successfully running on this model.

What Are Printing Marketplaces? How Do They Work?

Printing marketplaces work very similar to any other eCommerce marketplace, allowing third-party printing vendors to sell their printing services online. These third-party vendors can be any large scale printers, personalized print products vendors and in some cases even graphic designers.

This provides a one-stop solution by connecting printing vendors, designers and customers at one place reducing the effort and time required for printing.

Printing marketplaces can have more than one operational model but most commonly used one is the normal print order booking and placing mechanism. The other model involves aggregation of printing vendors on one common site for finding out printers based on criteria such as Area, Price Range, Type of Printing, Reviews and Ratings, Products etc.

On the technical side, print marketplace technology is very similar to normal e-commerce technologies like Magento, OpenCommerce, WooCommerce and BigCommerce. Leading web to print software service providers are providing marketplace solutions on open source platforms that are easy to setup and manage and ready for customization as per various needs.

Who Should Go for Print Marketplaces?

In my opinion, print marketplaces are a very lucrative option for potential entrepreneurs, designers looking to start their own ventures and already established printing firms. Print Marketplaces are easy to manage as they are built on Open Source platforms.

Another incentive to go for the print marketplace is the attraction of investors' community towards it. In 2016, there are more than 5000 early stage private online marketplace companies listed on AngelList. The valuation of these early-stage technology startups is US$4.5million.

Advantages of Marketplace over Print Commerce Websites

Though the base of the marketplace model also revolves around the Print Commerce websites, it poses some advantages over the later. Print Commerce websites need to maintain the entire inventory and operations including maintenance of the website, customer queries, technical aspects, maintaining orders and logistics. Whereas in print commerce websites, the need of maintaining inventory eliminates out completely and inventory management is passed on to registered print sellers/vendors.

Moreover, marketplace allows a large number of products giving more variety and options to the customer without the hassle of maintaining inventory. With defined marketplace model, printsellers just need to focus on the operational efficiencies and improve quality of product leading to more customer satisfaction. With the operational efficiencies burden transferred to respective sellers, marketplace owners can focus on promotion and improving margins for the marketplace site. It improves the margins of the sellers and gives customers lot of variety and options in terms of product choice.

The Future of Print Commerce Model

Despite the tough competition from digital media, the print industry is flourishing with new models and concepts and one of them is the introduction of print marketplaces. Print Commerce is here to stay and this print commerce play is going to be bigger and more adaptable model within the whole industry.

Globally various factors are going to contribute to the demand of print marketplaces. According to a research, Europe is the largest printing market worldwide. Asia-Pacific is also emerging as the fastest growing market with a CAGR of 11.5%. The demand is driven by a robust advertising industry, increasing interest of investors' community, increasing investments in targeted advertising, demand for packaging printing and healthy growth in retail trade. This gives room for the development of various print marketplace models for B2B as well as B2C customers and hyper-personalized printing products and services.

On the contrary, the mortality rate of print commerce marketplaces will remain high, sales will fickle and customers need are going to be very dynamic. The cost of switching marketplaces is very low and marketplaces with best product assortment, logistics and offers are going to win the race.


Print marketplaces combine best of the worlds in terms of overcoming challenges of standalone print commerce sites as well as providing best products and services to customers. As industries are evolving and changing their models, the concept of print marketplaces can give a new model to struggling print business to sustain in the longer run, improving margins and increasing profits.

Abhishek Agarwal

CEO & Co-Founder of Design’N’Buy, Mobicommerce & OhoShop

Abhishek Agarwal, CEO & Co-Founder of Design’N’Buy, Mobicommerce & OhoShop, comes with more than 14 years of experience in Web-to-Print & IT. He hold his expertise in delivering innovate and unique ideas in w2p. He has a clan of experts that deliver challenging and exciting results. Delivering customized solutions with utmost perfection has been his life’s motto.

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