By Olivia Cahoon
While web to print (W2P) is most commonly used as an ordering platform, these systems also capture important data that helps business owners streamline their operations.
“A modern reprorting solution needs to be able to provide real-time insight into a provider’s business, and the reports need to include the key metrics that are most important for their business, shares Joseph Lehn, director of product management,” PressWise by SmartSoft.
With the use of reporting and tracking tools, print service providers (PSPs) collect information such as inventory reports, buyers’ habits, and user analytics. Using this data, PSPs can improve their workflow and efficiently communicate with customers.
Types of Features
Reporting features include capturing buyers’ habits to recording inventory availability. Most W2P solutions cover the basics when it comes to tracking data, and others are able to handle advanced metrics.
W2P software should track and report information that is important to PSPs. “That information could be as simple as revenue over a period of time or revenue from specific customers to detailed inventory reports and shop floor data that can determine how much profit margin you are squeezing out of each job,” explains Trent Foreman, director, product management, Aleyant.
For example, Aleyant’s Pressero W2P offering allows subscribers to run reports based on different information fields collected throughout the software. The reports provide order history by customer, inventory usage, and user data.
Tools that assist in tracking orders are important. “A W2P solution should provide the user with status updates as the order moves from preproduction, through production to the dock, and finally to the carrier. The solution should include an API or interface to ensure these status updates can be generated automatically by the MIS, production workflow, and shipping management solutions,” says Aaron Tavakoli, senior product marketing manager – W2P and marketing solutions, EFI.
Taking it a step further, W2P systems that suggest related items to customers increase sales potential even more. “Platforms that track inventory of stock items are beneficial to the seller, triggering an alarm when stock is low,” shares Mark Gallucci, manager, technology marketing, Agfa. Next-level features can notify buyers when stock is insufficient for their order and allow them to back order when possible.
Agfa’s Apogee StoreFront and Asanti StoreFront provide tracking features like these, as well as an interface to various analytics platforms and data export to MIS—allowing PSPs insight into trends and activity as well as the ability to identify when the shopping cart is converted to sale or abandoned. “Ultimately, all of this information serves to increase traffic and sales if the print provider takes advantage of it,” adds Gallucci.
Tools are available that allow PSPs to pick and choose from a detailed list of options so they can create a custom report specific to their needs. With the RedTie Inc. data tool, PSPs can also automate this report.
Ellen Faith Hurwitch, VP operations, the Americas, RedTie, offers, “so if the information is needed every Tuesday at midnight, a report is set to be emailed with the required criteria at the required time.”
There is also reporting available to the end user. Using Rocketprint Software, LLC’s Portal Manager and Franchise Manager feature, portal clients pull their own reports—giving the end user complete visibility of activity on their portal or across multiple portals. This is especially beneficial to large businesses such as banks. “By assigning someone as Franchise Manager, the bank personnel can pull detailed reports for orders or inventory across all of their branch locations,” explains Gil Newsom, GM, Rocketprint Software.
“Making reports available to your customers is a great way to entangle yourself deeper into the process,” agrees Adam Witek, director of customer experience, Print Reach, Inc. Many W2P systems provide this ability. “At Print Reach, we firmly believe shops should be automating what should be automated, like inventory controls, so they can hand hold the tasks that truly require it.” Inventory, reports, and notifications are several items that a W2P system should automate.
Tracking, reporting, and analytics help PSPs know what’s going on in their business. Analyzing this data correctly helps to make informed decisions, shares Jugal Desai, digital marketing strategist, OnPrintShop. A variety of reporting tools are available for different portions of the business, including sales, products, customers, partners, and logs.
OnPrintShop’s W2P solution has a separate reports section for each of these categories. The sales report section offers insight from order summary and order total to payment request reports, shipping summary, tax summary, coupon summary, and order delivery report. “Sales are a critical part of the business because every company needs clear data on how much money is coming into the business,” offers Desai.
Product reports are equally as important. When a print business has multiple product offerings, Desai believes it’s hard to determine which product is doing well and which is not working. Based on product reports, PSPs can make informed decisions for their business. Product report tools include functions such as product sales, template sales, inventory requests, and inventory reports.
Are PSPs Aware?
While tracking and reporting features are available in many W2P systems, not all PSPs may recognize their software includes these tools. For PSPs who are aware, they may not be using the features to their full potential.
“PSPs today are educated about our products when they are in a buying cycle or looking to update or upgrade into new software,” explains Foreman. They typically do their research online and compare each software program and what it offers. But when it comes to utilizing all the features available after the purchase, that’s where PSPs get into trouble.
While some do take advantage of all the tools provided, Foreman believes most PSPs configure their software based on their needs at the time of setup, rather than for future needs. “As long as it is working for their needs they may not branch out to include all capabilities.”
Jon Ravari, director of sales, Printmatics, shares that these tools are not always readily available to PSPs. The features are not utilized to their full potential because of a lack of integration with business management solutions. “There is often a disconnect between the W2P and the management of workflow from that point forward, which limits tracking and reporting information.”
Tracking is utilized in W2P software as it is easy to use and helps the PSP and end user know where their order is in the production process. On the other hand, reporting functions are usually underused. “We live in a data-driven world and often suffer from data overload,” admits Hurwitch.
While many PSPs run reports for customers, it is typically the end user pushing for that requirement. PSPs are typically less proactive with providing customers useful information as part of their service, adds Hurwitch. Taking it a step further, the available data can be used to improve offered products and site layouts.
To avoid underutilizing a W2P solution, Witek encourages PSPs to inventory themselves and really investigate if they are W2P reactive or proactive. According to him, proactive providers typically use a range of features and succeed while reactive users usually find themselves underutilizing features.
Ensuring Tools are Utilized
PSPs ensure they use tracking and reporting tools efficiently by looking at customer needs, properly analyzing data, and involving sales.
Whether the W2P platform is advanced or simple to administer, the business should have a designated employee that seeks to raise the bar. “Re-read the vendor’s promotional material, the product documentation, and speak with the vendor—and if possible, other users of the product—to uncover untapped features,” suggests Gallucci.
It’s useful to break reporting requirements down into smaller requirements. For example, Hurwitch suggests PSPs look at what is useful to all customers, specific customers, and for the company overall. They can then use the tools available to meet those requirements.
It’s also important to understand that data without analysis are just numbers on a spreadsheet—it’s not useful until analyzed in a way that produces actionable points. “If you take the example of a website with Google Analytics, you can see easily which pages are popular and which are not,” shares Hurwitch. PSPs improve their websites by concentrating on why the unpopular ones are not performing.
To be efficient, PSPs should learn to use reporting and tracking tools with skill. This is often their biggest challenge as it requires dedicated resources to manage the solution. According to Sebastien Hanssens, VP marketing and operations, Caldera, PSPs should have staff resources to manage the project implementation and then the solution. “It doesn’t make sense to invest in extensive dashboards if nobody is managing them or using them to make business decisions,” he explains. “Productivity is key to profitability now in the printing market.”
Additionally, PSPs should get sales members involved to fully capitalize on all of the features. “Make sure reporting and tracking is included in sales pitches. Customers’ demands should help push you into more features organically,” adds Witek.
“Print providers need to garner input from all aspects of their business when selecting the best software, and that includes the accounting personnel. Many times, it is at month end when the questions come up about how well things are going. It’s important to find out what key metrics are most critical to those people that need to provide direction for the company,” advises Lehn.
Who Should Use Them
While all types of PSPs benefit from W2P with reporting and tracking features, some PSPs are better suited than others.
All PSPs have a need for good reporting and tracking. “They want to make sure they are profitable on what they produce,” explains Foreman. Any additional functionality in print automation can help to reduce the overall cost of producing a product and getting it to the end user.
If targeting a certain segment, Foreman believes in-plant production benefits the most from reporting and tracking. In most cases, he says in plants are constantly trying to justify what they do for the overall corporation and making sure they aren’t incurring more than it costs to outsource.
“In particular, larger PSPs who service enterprise organizations such as financial institutions, educational campuses, government departments, or corporations may have very specific contractual requirements to provide detailed reporting. In the case of healthcare and finance, there may even be regulatory requirements,” admits Tavakoli.
Large companies also benefit from reporting and tracking features because they need to synchronize the data between large staffs and different teams. “They view this as important for their productivity to properly function and make their company profitable,” comments Hanssens. Smaller companies can manage reporting and tracking with easier tools such as spreadsheets and RIP spooler information.
For business to consumer stores, third-party analytics provide insight to help optimize search engine hits and streamline the shopping cart flow. “This is less important in business to business environments,” admits Gallucci.
But for any PSP, the ability to measure activity greatly increases the potential to manage it for greater benefit. While larger companies may have the resources to take advantage of these features, Gallucci believes it is often smaller players searching for their niche who benefit the most.
W2P solutions offer a variety of benefits including the ability to report and track useful information. Utilizing these tools allows PSPs to get an inside look at their customers’ buying habits while also providing useful data and detailed reports.
To get the most from a W2P solution, PSPs should be proactive and look at all of the available reporting and tracking functions. This includes analyzing customers’ needs, considering the business’ future goals, and determining if the available tools are suitable for the company.
Jan2020, DPS Magazine