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What is Holding Your Print Business Back? Print businesses are making investments in technology but unable to reap benefits.

By Abhishek Agarwal

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If with the above question, the first thing that comes to your mind is an increase in digital mediums, competition from digitalization and decreasing margins in the printing industry. The other answers to the same question are fewer investments in technology or decreasing sales or increasing costs in managing hardware and other operational costs.

Businesses see ups and downs and those who survive downs will see a tremendous growth phase. According to our experience in the printing industry, there are few reasons why print businesses are facing tough times and some tips to overcome them –

  • Competition from Digitalization – Printing businesses have been facing tough times adapting to changing the digital landscape and competing with digital mediums that are taking over. Digital mediums are gaining traction because of changing customer preferences and increase in internet penetration and smartphones.

Tip 1 – Print businesses need to stop seeing digitalization of channels as the competition and start using them to increase their customer reach and contribute to bottom lines of business. Many other industries like restaurants, property brokerage have adapted to the digital mediums successfully. Print service providers can change their pure printing models to design, print, ship or direct mail or print advertising shops with the help of digital technologies.

  • Decrease in Margins of Printing Industry – According to one of the studies in the US Printing markets, printing industry sales have declined by 25-30% in the past 4 years since 2008 to 2012. The latest data is not available for the sales and profitability of printing industry. These numbers are presented to give you the actual scenario of the oligopolistic printing industry. Oligopolistic markets offer a large number of producers with the limited difference in the product but the difference in price gives the power in hands of buyers and thus, the printing industry is seeing a decrease in margins.

Tip 2 – The only way to create a niche in the oligopolistic market is to define products and service offerings that no other service provider is providing. One way print businesses can look at this scenario is maintaining their day to day operations and getting it consolidated with larger players. The other way is to adapt new technologies like the web to print software, variable data printing, switching from normal printing to print marketplace and increase margins by providing one-stop-solution to customers.

  • Technological Investments –Print businesses are making investments in technology but unable to reap benefits. Web to print technologies are being implemented by businesses but they require a change in perspective from businesses. Businesses often considers hardware investments similar to software investments, without realizing some striking differences. Better color production, reduced wastages, and fewer production cycles are a result of investing in it. Albeit, software investments give results when they are adopted by customers and businesses. Web to print investments are considered a product that can start giving immediate effects in terms of customers, increased customer retention or decrease in costs of wastage and reorders.

Tip 3 –The best way to increase adaptation of technology is a complete business involvement and should have a seamless integration with other supporting processes. Web to print initiatives are successful when they are clubbed with right sales and marketing initiatives. Don't hesitate to take help from outside and vendors for best practices to make your web to print. Just like electricity, web to print is one such universal innovation for printing that can be used to weave different successful models around printing industry or businesses.

  • Poor Performing Marketing and Sales – Printing businesses often fail to put dedicated budget and efforts in sales and marketing initiatives. Marketing and sales activities towards current customers can help businesses in getting more customers with referrals and also giving cross-selling and up-selling activities.

Tip 4 – Cold calling and emailing really don't work these days. Embracing web to print give businesses chance to market and sell their products to the right customers with right message. Web to print presence can be optimized with Search Engine Marketing or Social Media Marketing. All open source e-commerce platforms provide options for push notifications, the option of getting reviews and ratings, customer accounts and personalized emails for loyal customers.

  1. Pure Print Models – Pure print models are tough to sustain for the longer runs, the reason being there are so many similar players.

Tip 5 – Pure print models can be clubbed with certain frills and fancies of providing personalization or product design tools. Businesses that want to just focus on pure print models have to switch to digital presence with aggressive sales and marketing teams to increases sales volume. The other way is to switch their business models with print in the center and other services like providing print advertising specialization or print marketplaces.

The Future of Print

Concluding the article, the right way ahead for print businesses is to find out the right reason for holding their businesses back. Most of the common reasons that tend to be normal regular operations can be a real turn around in making businesses profitable. Taking small steps like trying to increase the average size of orders from a single customer or reducing wastage or getting more referrals per customer can increase the volume of printing orders slowly and steadily. Being in the printing business, we have seen many businesses fail and simultaneously succeed. The only thing successful businesses do is embracing technological changes wholeheartedly.

With the changes that are coming in technology, it is very clear that future printing industry will see a lot of consolidation in terms of acquisitions and mergers. It is a good sign indicating the every printing business will be able to create impact either in terms of innovation or costs. Having said that, it is also right time for businesses to innovate so that they can compete or consolidate in terms of innovation rather than costs. Because, at the end, it is innovation that survives.

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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