By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
The business of buying print has evolved immensely in the past several years. Many products—including personalized options—are available for easy purchase over the web. Print buying is often a different process for consumers versus businesses. In either scenario, the ability to order online is a game changer and is preferred in many circumstances.
For print providers, having an online presence is essential. For those largely dealing with business clients, a web to print (W2P) portal that is compliant, secure, and easy to use enables repeat ordering. Here, we present details on ecommerce strategies for business to business (B2B) ordering.
The goals and preferences of purchasing print tend to differ between B2B and B2C customers. Attracting business and accepting payment are two important differences between B2B and business to consumer (B2C) W2P needs.
“B2B and B2C strategies must differ to cover varied approaches to security, the user experience, and how items are paid for with B2B as they are often, but not always, invoiced,” notes Kelvin Bell, sales director, VPress. B2B has evolved into a clearer model as you know the audience and what is required in advance of implementation.
Mark Gallucci, manager, technology marketing, Agfa Graphics, says requirements and strategy can vary widely between B2C and B2B. If the intent is to include both in an ecommerce strategy, it’s important to partner with a W2P solution provider that not only supports each case, but has features that help to optimize success for both sales models.
B2B customer acquisition benefits from a different strategy, where relationships should be longer term. “We highly recommend a strategy focused on a specialization—which can be products or an industry sector—and solve your customers problems for a long-term relationship,” shares Ellen Faith Hurwitch, VP operations, the Americas, RedTie.
The B2B model can be a very profitable. Gallucci points out that when it is well implemented, B2B ecommerce solidifies the customer relationship and encourages not only repeat business but the addition of new business from the same client. “The B2B model provides a captive audience with more predictable sales than B2C, and since the print provider is offering convenience and value to the client, can leverage this into expanding the business or even charging a monthly fee for the W2P service. Since B2B is a private environment, there is no requirement to advertise it or incorporate SEO into the websites.”
Niro Barom, sales channel manager, B2C Print, says B2C customers are found online while B2B customers need personal assistance to become stable, ongoing, and ordering customers.
Marion Duchesne, founder/CEO, Mediaclip, points out that in any event, a user remains a user. “Thinking of it differently can lead us to a range of poor user experience W2P solutions. You want to sell more, provide online proofing, and have your customers to buy other products. All of this needs to happen via an easy-to-use user interface that beckons customers to come back again.”
Duchesne adds that while there shouldn’t be much difference between W2P for B2B and B2C from a user perspective, B2B leads are more easily targeted. “You can start with your own existing customers and then expand your reach as you gain experience in W2P.”
For B2B there is an expectation that staff will be trained to use the online ordering portal, and therefore orders will come from there, shares Kelvin Bell, sales director, VPress.
Dmitry Sevostyanov, CEO, Customer’s Canvas by Aurigma Inc., believes that B2B customers are not so demanding in terms of the user interface. “Since they usually deal with a lot of repeat orders, they need a private online storefront with easy access to previous jobs as well as an easy way to create new materials based on pre-designed templates. Such customers value the fast turnaround time and easy approval process to avoid misprints, but at the same time, they don’t want it to turn into endless email exchange. They also need to follow their company’s brand-books and design guidelines and prevent managers from changing elements that must remain unchanged.”
Steven Antoni, president, Americas, CloudLab, says B2B ecommerce sites tend to be a narrow product mix with workflows that meet the specific needs of the corporate client for approvals, budgets, and accounting.
For B2B print businesses, offering excellent user experience with easy integrations to third-party applications and systems for end-to-end automation are important points to remember while developing a strategy plan, according to Ravi Dugal, president, Mediawide.
Erik Holdo, VP, graphic communications and industrial print, Konica Minolta, says the primary functions are the same for B2B and B2C, but the ordering authority and payment mechanisms differ. For B2B, a P-Card or PO-based ordering systems, along with budget tracking is helpful. SLA may also come into play for this type of business, and may require significant downstream workflow planning as part of the acceptance criteria of the job.
First and foremost, B2B print environments should support business processes such as multi-level approval or letting different users access different products, single sign-on, MIS integration, split-shipping, recipient list upload, and the ability to bill using different methods, offers Josie Stein, manager, marketing and communications, XMPie. This includes credit cards as well as purchase order, invoice, and budget center.
Stein points to the ability to design your own storefront to match the branding and look and feel of your business customer as another important feature set for B2B environments. “This way, the customer’s employees will feel more comfortable to use the portal. Additionally, you must ensure that the products on it completely adhere to the exact branding guidelines, for instance by using the correct Pantone colors. A final must-have feature is built-in variable data print capabilities. Many organizations will set up templates and lists for their employees to use themselves.”
Austin Wyman, marketing director, Propago, points out that a B2B print provider’s ecommerce strategy needs to emphasize highly adaptable compliance enforcement abilities, flexible business rules, and brand compliance rules for their users—such as approval workflows and budgetary controls. The print provider must also be capable of being more than just a print provider. They must be able to work with their clients as a member of the team and provide creative solutions to their problems. “It’s a partnership in which the success of the print provider directly reflects the success of their client.”
As an offshoot to B2B, in-plant solutions have repeat users that reorder and therefore benefit from saved profiles. They want easy, ad-hoc ordering and require integrations with corporate systems for authentication, tracking, and reporting, shares Tutino.
The Business of Print
For businesses, print buying is often considered a necessary cost. Print providers can take advantage of the opportunity for repeat business by offering an ecommerce strategy that best suits the needs of business buyers, including personalized storefronts, heightened security, and branding compliance support.
Sep2019, DPS Magazine