By Cassandra Balentine
Web to print (W2P) software is utilized by print and marketing service providers. While many solutions exist, different feature sets are attractive to various users depending on whether the focus is business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C).
As a whole, W2P has evolved over the years. The simple notion of order submission from a web portal has extended into sophisticated applications that leverage everything from online document composition, robust workflow automation, and seamless integration with enterprise systems and platforms of all types. Tim Brandt, director of business development, Pageflex, Inc., suggests data management, content management, digital asset management, business rules, branding and design compliance, regulatory governance, and reengineering of manual processes to digital implementations are some considerations for W2P.
Print providers also benefit from better order management. “Companies are looking to automate processes to eliminate touch points,” shares Shawn Brown, business development manager, Print M.I.S. Having clients enter orders themselves offers more control and a seamless experience.
Further, W2P has improved in terms of design capabilities. “W2P technologies have finally matured enough to provide design capabilities for products that have relied on desktop publishing applications for decades,” comments Dmitry Sevostyanov, CEO, Aurigma. Templates created by graphic designers remain a focal point of the process, but customers can now populate them with data in a self-service fashion—all within a browser window.
Above: Flexi’s W2P solution targets digital and offset print providers and supports a variety of printed products including large format printing, invitations, books, photo gifts, plastic ID cards, and document printing.
W2P presents many benefits to both B2B- and B2C-focused print providers, including improved productivity, constant availability, higher client retention, easy reordering, product expansion, automated accounting and workflow tools, and informed business-critical data, says Naresh Bordia, VP global sales, OnPrintShop.
Tony Tarpey, COO, PressWise by SmartSoft, says W2P solutions are a valuable tool for developing new business and staying competitive. Additional benefits include multiple entry points enabling more orders to flow into a shop, enhanced productivity, faster turnaround times for storefront orders that flow directly to press, cross-sell opportunities, and instant payment acceptance to improve cash flow.
W2P also provides time savings. Adam Witek, sales and servicing manger, PagePath Technologies, says automation frees up time, which can be used on projects that benefit from increased personal attention. “The win is finding a way to deliver a great product to a very distracted world, which has a growing desire for instant gratification.”
“It is more important than ever to have an automated process for taking a print job in and processing it through to the production floor,” agrees Ayelet Szabo-Melamed, director, marketing, XMPie, a Xerox company. “The biggest benefits of W2P are automation, cost savings, and increased efficiencies. It generates business in off hours, expands market reach, centralizes administration, and maximizes efficiencies across the board.”
Kelvin Bell, sales director, VPress, believes there is an almost immediate benefit when implementing a W2P solution for both the customer and the print provider. “Print companies will see their margins increase and opportunities for scalability and managing resources in a way that is more profitable.”
Specific to B2B deployments, W2P drives self-service enablement. “Users are empowered to execute local marketing initiatives according to enforcement of centralized control over what can or cannot be edited in the template or what each user or group of users have access and authority to perform within the web workflow,” says Brandt.
Loyalty is also gained through the experience. “By offering B2B customers branded portals with products that meet their guidelines and business rules, you create a barrier for them looking elsewhere,” offers Ellen Hurwitch, VP, director of operations – the Americas, RedTie.
Marc Hoenig, VP of business development, Propago, agrees, “typically, once enterprise clients are committed to your technology stack, so there is less risk of attrition.”
B2C print operators also benefit from W2P, but in a different manner. “A B2C offering provides global reach and brand differentiation for even a small print operation, leading to financial growth and possible new lines of business,” says Mark Gallucci, manager, commercial software, CTP, Agfa Graphics.
Bordia adds that a major advantage of W2P in B2C is its ability to quickly manage orders and enable more profitability.
Feature Sets for B2B
While the benefits of W2P are clear, certain features sets are essential to B2B.
Tim Rodman, VP of sales, W2Psoftware.com, points to easy template creation, automatic pricing, PDF online proofing, templates, web browser compatibility, live reporting, customer portals, online inventory access, automatic freight pricing, and multiple payment processing as important capabilities of W2P for B2B settings.
B2B W2P stores should support business processes such as multi-level access and approval, single sign on, MIS integration, split shipping, recipient list upload, and the ability to bill using different methods, shares Szabo-Melamed. Additionally, payment functions like credit card processing, purchase order, invoicing, and budget centers are essential.
Aaron Tavakoli, product marketing manager, value-added products, EFI Productivity, says it should be easy for print providers to customize, brand, and build eCommerce sites. “Service providers need the ability to build out new sites quickly and efficiently. Getting sites up and running fast is critical. Strong template tools should enable eCommerce sites to work across desktop, tablet, and mobile platforms, and while some projects inevitably require customization, the majority should be supported out of the box,” he offers.
To appeal to B2B customers, Kristen Licursi, marketing director, Cyrious Software, suggests a branded storefront capability so the look and feel can match the customer’s logo and colors. “This is particularly attractive to franchises and large corporations who have multiple employees placing orders.”
W2P that enables corporate marketing departments to easily activate brands locally through affiliate channels like dealers, distributors, agents, franchise, and remote sales teams across multiple locations and geographies delivers great scalability to the marketing effort. “Distributing centrally controlled marketing content and campaigns that empower local marketing to speak directly to targeted prospects and customers in a personalized, relevant way, on demand, in real time, has the dramatic ability to enhance conversion of marketing spend into sales revenue. This is ultimately what corporate marketers are asking for—increased ROI that drives scalable sales revenue growth,” says Brandt.
Witek says templates of frequently reordered products is an in demand feature of B2B W2P. “Many printers believe business cards, envelopes, and letterhead are the gateway into the rest of a print buyer’s needs and bigger ticket jobs. Consequently, these products consume quite a bit of time in the prepress and proofing stages, especially if the information changes from job to job. We encourage print shops to automate what should be automated; especially the lower gross profit items so they have the bandwidth to hand hold the items that need more attention—online templates do that.”
Hurwitch says B2B print providers seek W2P features with a large collection of options that allow business processes and rules to be implemented within the system. This can be credit control, approval processes, and reporting on business usage. “It is the flexibility of using all of these features in combinations that meet customer requirements.”
Morrie Brown, president, PrintPoint, Inc., says B2B users require fast ordering and reordering capabilities. “If a buyer wants to get new business cards for themselves or perhaps a new sales representative, using templates and memorized data make the process both flexible and fast.”
Bell says W2P in a B2B setting requires a number of features that allow it to integrate and work in a global market. “A W2P solution should be easy to use for any member of staff, wherever they may be in the world. It must also be fully internationalized and have no need for proprietary software.”
Integration is also key. Hoenig points out that the ability to integrate with end client systems—either with data feeds via an API, single sign-on support, or complete cXML procurement punch outs—is critical.
A flexible cost center as well as purchase order management tools also provide an advantage for B2B W2P solutions. “B2B transactions are rarely paid immediately. They typically involve pre-negotiated payment terms. It is critical that the service provider can offer accurate and specific billing information that reflects the organizational structure of the business they are selling to and reflect that information back when invoicing,” says Tavakoli.
Support for multiple order types are another consideration. “Three critical needs of B2B include the ability to manage three kinds of ordering from the same platform. The first is managing customer orders for one-time project-based needs. The second is on demand print, which typically takes care of personalized stationary and marketing material. The third includes ordering from stock, preprinted inventory managed in a third-party warehouse, says Bordia.
For B2B environments, Gallucci suggests a W2P solution that supports wide format, digital, and offset print, as well as non-print and digital assets is a must.
Bell says finding a W2P vendor with the ability and capacity to undertake any additional development needed is key.
“Customer demand for advanced integration and customization abilities is becoming increasingly common,” shares Vince Tutino, senior product manager, Rochester Software Associates. He says the B2B W2P solutions most in demand include the ability to work across all OEMs and integrate with the parent company’s single sign-on system for easy internal user access—for in plants specifically. Additionally, it is important that W2P offer 24-hour job submission and soft proofing from the user’s desktop. Integrated makeready software helps optimize jobs for reprinting and automate job production without a need to reenter job ticket information is also requested. Integration into accounting for billing of company chargebacks is another essential feature.
Reporting and data collection are other attractive features, says Hoening. This includes information from specific cost centers to average order turnarounds to current real-time inventory status.
For B2C-focused print environments, automatic pricing and up-front credit card processing, PDF online proofing, unlimited templates per site, compatibility with relevant web browsers, fast checkout, unlimited customer portals, and automatic pricing for all carriers, are ideal features for W2P deployments, according to Rodman.
B2C storefronts are open to the general public and are often referred to as retail storefronts, says Steve Ciesemier, direct sales manager, Aleyant. Features like instant pricing calculators, flexible layout options, ease of setup, payment variety, responsive design, and shipping integrations are among the most demanded B2C features.
Hurwitch says the website should be simple to use and offer help guides and customer support options. The products should be flexible, enabling more complex customization. “B2B products are often designed within the restrictions of a set of brand guidelines, but in B2C, every user could be looking for something different,” she offers.
Steven Antoni, sales manager, Americas, CloudLab, sees a wide knowledge gap of contemporary design tools between the one-time buyer and the graphic designer, and the interface and online features must be balanced between that spectrum of users.
B2C solutions typically accommodate more freedom for the user to upload content, select from a range of fonts and colors, or even layout the page design. “Features such as anonymous browsing bypass the need to enforce user registration and login credentials when entering a site,” explains Brandt. With this feature, users choose products and start the customization process, adding items to the cart before being prompted for registration credentials. At this point, the user has already selected a product and is ready to purchase. “Anonymous browsing is an important feature for B2C implementations because it invites customers into the site in contrast to potentially driving them away before they get started due to having to deal with login credentials.”
Brandt says B2C feature sets can be much less discriminating than B2B, but they are still subject to how well they are implemented and how focused the implementation is on provisioning an easy, intuitive, efficient user experience that enables a range of customers to effectively execute business on the site. “Many—if not all—of these B2C features are available in a robust B2B W2P offering and the difference is simply accountable to how well the service provider implements the capabilities to a desired site specification.”
Many B2C W2P users are not experienced print buyers, but experienced online shoppers. “A simple, easy to use environment for uploading art or editing templates is very important, as well as product-appropriate preflighting that notifies the buyer of serious problems, while not discouraging sales with superfluous warnings,” points out Gallucci.
Witek believes friction is the enemy when it comes to W2P and B2C purchasing. “Major online stores allow you to find an item and pay for it with two or three screen changes. The bar has been set. We see far too many cases of B2C checkout processes that require an upwards of five to seven screen changes. Eliminating friction in the buying process leads to more conversions. Shops getting started with a B2C storefront should be sure to call every new customer and ask for feedback on the process. Positive answers should be used as testimonials,” he shares.
Preview functions are also important. “When you’re shopping online, one concern is giving the buyer the confidence to know that they’re going to get what they buy. That can be hard with clothing or consumer goods, but it can be even harder for printed goods. Your product previews need to be big, clear, zoomable, support multiple angles, and give your customers the confidence they need to complete the transaction,” comments Tavakoli.
Another trending feature is abandoned cart strategies, such as the ability to send a direct mail piece automatically to a person that has shown interest in selecting a product but hasn’t finalized the purchase, adds Szabo-Melamed.
B2C websites require promotional elements such as cycling banners and popup products to coerce shoppers/buyers into purchasing. “Good B2C sites also include product recommendations based on viewed items and tools that enable your customers to review products and services,” says Tavakoli. He says navigational elements should not require full page builds. Customers should be able to preview items quickly and easily without digging layers deep into hierarchy.
For B2C W2P deployments, Dayna Panay, director of sales and support, Web to Print Shop by Racad Tech, says flexibility in terms of pricing and online design is essential. “B2B allows for standardized orders, but in B2C you never know what is going to be requested. So the technology with the most flexibility and adaptability in the ordering process is probably the most essential.”
In B2C settings, Bell recommends a secure payment gateway.
Licursi says in B2C customers must be able to quickly find the print provider online. It is critical that the W2P system offer tools and settings that will enable keyword entry, image tagging, and proper labeling for page titles and descriptions.
Tavakoli stresses the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). “If customers can’t find you, they can’t do business with you. “B2C eCommerce performance is as much about accurate search performance as it is about functionality. If your product pages can’t be properly indexed by the major crawlers you are going to have a tough time growing your business. SEO tools should work at the product level—furthermore SEO rules/guidelines are constantly changing to provide an optimal buyer/searcher experience—your platform will need to be updated to accommodate these changes.”
Services that help printers with set up are also a consideration. “Our customer analysis came up with shocking numbers that 50 percent of our customers could not set up their stores and while 25 percent did, they could not optimize it as they wanted to. A major challenge of SME print companies is in day-to-day operations,” says Bordia.
He says B2C W2P solutions need features to retain existing clients with the ability to help manage digital assets, provide instant estimates, and order from mobile devices. Another important feature is support for multiple sales channels. Print providers may receive orders from walk-in customers in a brick and mortar location, through phones, emails, resellers, direct sales, custom quotes, and rush orders.
B2C providers are faced with small print orders with a thin profit margin. While customers are in a hurry, they are more inclined to pay more for unique personalized products and W2P is advantageous for this scenario, according to Manoj Kotak, founder, Flexi Web to Print.
Photo-inspired products are a major aspect of B2C printing. “As personalized photo products grow in popularity, W2P allows printers to take advantage of the trend while providing an enjoyable online shopping experience for their customers,” offers Sevostyanov. He says a W2P site with an intuitive user interface makes the process easy for customers and increases the chance for conversions. “To accommodate the large number of photos that users store on their phones, any W2P site should be just as easy to use on mobile platforms as it is on desktop computers. Systems that support file formats from programs like Adobe Photoshop and don’t require users to create designs from scratch are the best choice for managing templates for printed B2C products.”
Szabo-Melamed points out that within the B2C space, critical features include responsive, modern site design that enable integrations with third-party tools such as LivePerson Chat, SEO plugins, and PayPal.
Brandt says other B2C features include social media integration, robust product research and taxonomies, site analytics, support for discount codes, advanced site skinning, support for HTML banner advertising inserts, a responsively designed interface for compatibility with a multitude of devices, and advanced online design tools.
“Businesses dipping a toe into the B2C W2P market need to know the economics, how to drive traffic and conversion rates, and understand the competitive landscape with some of the big players such as Vistaprint. B2C isn’t for the faint of heart,” comments Hoenig.
The W2P Range
Every print provider is unique. For B2B-focused print providers, customers look for more control and a seamless experience. B2C needs to address generally less experienced print buyers with a variety of products that could be easily designed and ordered from a mobile device.
A range of W2P providers are available to serve the needs of both B2B- and B2C-focused print environments. dps
Jul2018, DPS Magazine