By Melissa Donovan
Web to print (W2P) solutions target multiple segments, such as print for pay, in plant, and the enterprise. In each category the most regularly used functions and features differ. For example, print for pays generally rely on quoting and estimating functions, where in plants wouldn’t consider it as important. Feature priorities all depend on the nature of the business.
InfoTrends recently conducted a study on trends in W2P. Emerging Trends: Web to Print, published in July 2013, polled 254 respondents, 37.8 percent represent print for pays and 62.2 percent in plant. According to the study, both print operation segments consider a W2P solution as encompassing online job submission and approval, print-related ecommerce and business automation, cross-media marketing and campaign tracking, and brand management.
Interestingly, 64.5 percent of print for pays polled view W2P as ideal for print-related ecommerce and business automation. Conversely, only 33.8 percent of in plants believe it is used for this purpose. In plant respondents felt the most compelled to define W2P as used in online job submission and approval, at 74.7 percent.
As digital print moves into new markets, such as labels, prototyping, and more consumer-focused, personalized goods, W2P solutions and other software programs must keep up. Cloud-based systems allow for seamless updates as needs change. While the cloud isn’t a fit for all, the extent of its availability is growing. W2P solutions leverage capabilities to serve a range of users.
Depending on the type of print provider, W2P solutions offer an attractive array of features and functions. “Those highest in demand are usability, integration, dynamic template capabilities, user groups and profile-based functions, the flexibility to have creative on every interface in every portal, ease of administration, system updates, and ease of adding new features,” lists Caroline Lanspa, marketing manager, PTI Marketing Technologies.
Much of the time, that demand comes from the customer. A W2P storefront acts as an extension of a print provider’s shop in different ways, such as business to business (B2B) and business to consumer.
For example, Chelsea Rustrum, marketing, Keen Systems, Inc., explains what B2B clientele look for in a W2P solution. “Often they have complex requirements in product pricing, document design templates, large file uploads, complex shipping, pre-payment and payment on account, as well as tools to easily track the progress of their order.”
In this article we outline the specific W2P needs of print for pay, in plant, and the enterprise.
Print for Pay
In print for pay, ease of use is a necessity to combat increasingly short turnaround times. These shops look for solutions that offer streamlined processes and minimize human touch points, allowing them to quickly move on to the next project.
“They are dealing with an environment where competition is stronger than ever and margins are squeezed by demands for faster turnaround times and shorter runs. These customers appreciate integrated backend workflow automation so they can get all their Web orders to press as quickly as possible,” explains Tony Tarpey, VP, marketing, PressWise by SmartSoft.
Minimizing the need for programmers and the ability to create storefronts in 30 minutes or less is a common trait among print for pay. Additionally, these customers enjoy backend production management capabilities and fully integrated shipping, according to Bob Raus, category manager, SmartStream workflow and solutions partners programs, Americas Indigo division, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
Interface simplicity must extend to the print buyer. “Print for pay customers rely on a printing storefront to provide a thoughtful purchasing workflow, quick access to active and past orders, convenient reorders, powerful and elegant online design, and time-saving auto-proofing for print-ready artwork file uploads,” says Bruce Popky, product marketing manager, Quarterhouse Software, Inc.
Similar to print for pay, in plants look to do more work in less time. “Both are concerned about expanding the type and volume of print they produce. They also want to simplify what their customers have to do to send them work,” explains Dave Minnick, director, Web2Print solutions group, EFI.
According to Elisha Kasinskas, marketing director, Rochester Software Associates, Inc., there are six main features in plants look for. Quick ordering and reordering, a print driver that supports both Mac and PC, integrations with internal corporate and enterprise systems, IT and security compliances, the ability to print direct to printers including multiple vendor equipment, and multiple variable data options for growth and brand management.
On the other side, enterprise organizations also look for simplification and ease of use when ordering print. However, a key component is integration with other solutions such as management information systems (MIS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) to utilize data to its fullest potential. “Compound, synergistic marketing is the most important part of what enterprises need,” explains Wrich Printz, CEO, L2 Inc.
National brands and franchise organizations—considered corporate or enterprise—are all about integrating internal databases and business rules into the functionality of a marketing resource portal. “This allows the organization to utilize existing assets and reduce duplicate business processes,” shares William J. Brennan, founder/CEO, Custom Print Now.
Enterprises and corporations request online price quotations as a regular feature due to limited budgets. Additionally, online variable data is an attractive function, with the reason being limited manpower and the idea of creating automation and saving hours spent on graphic design, says Refael Royz, co-founder/CEO, B2CPrint.
Use More or Less
Each segment—print for pay, in plant, and the enterprise—utilizes certain features more or less; it depends on the requirements of the customer. Just because it isn’t used, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
“A solid base allows us to build features that meet the needs of only a small percentage of our customers, so some features are not used that often, but if you need them for your business it is great that they are there. It makes the software extremely flexible,” explains Ellen Faith Hurwitch, director of operations, the Americas, RedTie Inc.
Steve Ciesemier, account manager, Aleyant Systems, provides one example. “The ability to run promotions that provide discounts can be very important to a retail store, and almost irrelevant in an in plant or private B2B store. In a similar way, the ability to control branding for a corporate account may be unnecessary in a retail setting.”
According to HP’s Raus, print for pays generally are not interested in working with inventory-centric features. “The ability to manage inventory of finished goods and levels of preprinted items for fast-moving pieces are areas that a majority of print for pays don’t fully utilize,” he admits.
“In these times of shorter turnarounds and right of first refusal, in plant customers don’t necessarily need a quote for every job,” explains Kasinskas. In these instances this could end up slowing the process down and therefor increase the cost.
There are features not used as frequently across all print segments.
“Online payment is less of a requirement than it used to be, at least in the B2B space. The ability to quickly get an order from the W2P portal into their MIS and workflow is critical, but for B2B customers, a periodic invoice from their accounting system is often preferable to online payment,” adds Michael Rottenborn, president/CEO, Hybrid Software.
Slava Apel, CEO, Amazing Print Corp., cites the variable data engine as one of its least used features. “We see very little utilization of it in comparison to the other online ordering tool sets. Our belief is that since variable data is mainly customer request driven, most variable data providers have not found the right customer for that option.”
Wilson Zehr, founder/CEO, Cendix, points to browser-based WYSIWYG editors as not getting a lot of attention. The company offers the tool as both a client- and internal-facing version to place variable regions in templates and auto generate HTML for customization. “We find that the designer version is used frequently, however, the end user version is not. Users doing serious marketing pieces usually use desktop tools to create them,” he continues.
New Markets Mean Scalability
Digital print moves into new markets rapidly. W2P solutions must be built to grow with a business. “W2P products need to scale both horizontally and vertically. On one hand, they may be required to support different market segments or printing processes. But portals also need to scale as the volume of users and orders increases, and this is a critical part of the architecture of a good W2P portal,” explains Rottenborn.
“As the move into new markets becomes less of an option and more of a demand, significant changes and upgrades occur. Most importantly the addition of building marketing campaigns and customized videos directly within a Web portal,” adds Chris Fife, business development manager, Pageflex.
A W2P solution must also be flexible to adapt into new business practices. As Ciesemier points out, mobility is a key component to today’s business transactions.
Royz agrees, citing the traffic from its mobile users is growing yearly by an average of almost 20 percent. A majority of template systems in W2P solutions are Flash-based, which prohibits users of Apple tablets or smartphones from accessing these sites on the go. In response, many W2P solutions now use HTML5.
“Mobility is a logical extension of operating in a cloud environment. From a strictly administrative viewpoint, most customers continue to use in-office computers and laptops but we do see job submission files from various cloud storage providers as a must have for any up-to-date solution,” says Minnick.
Jamie Harris, VP diversified services, GMC Software Technology, says the biggest driver is the pervasiveness of requesting the cloud combined with access via mobile devices. “Generational differences in the way business and requests are handled drive a paradigm shift in the need for W2P,” he continues.
A Look in the Cloud
The cloud is a priority for some more than others. Cloud or software as a service (SaaS) solutions provide automatic updates without any manual intervention. “It’s a great way to either save money or spend it on creating a more customized solution. We’ve seen this mentality from small start ups all the way to Fortune 100 companies,” shares Miki Thomas Ishikawa, director of interactive development, Tukaiz, LLC.
According Apel, there is more of a demand for the cloud from print for pay clients. Over 95 percent of Amazing Print’s customers in North America choose SaaS. This may have something to do with company size. Smaller businesses do not have the bandwidth in place to host a system or delegate manpower onto such a task.
“Considering that 80 percent of print service providers are companies with 20 employees or fewer, they could never keep up with the complexity of modern networked software,” adheres Rustrum.
Pageflex’s SaaS offering is targeted towards smaller print shops/marketing agencies that don’t have a long list of software in house, says Fife. “The cloud is a quick and simple solution to getting a print shop set up with minimum headaches,” he adds.
Stephen McWilliam, EVP, Avanti Systems, sees the cloud as a priority for smaller shops trying to manage operating expenses. “It is a great way to give these companies a trial run for a few months. This makes it effective to try something new without a lot if upfront cost.”
“In the in-plant space, the segment most open to the cloud or external hosting is growing, driven primarily by cost-conscious and smaller operations. Some large corporations embrace cloud computing and others don’t—it depends on the IT policies and the business that the parent organization is engaged in,” recommends Kasinskas.
Enterprises and corporations meet a bit more resistance when it comes to the cloud, mainly due to security issues. “There is definitely a lot of buzz surrounding cloud/SaaS services versus the traditional software license model. But, many businesses we work with require that software be located on site due to strict data handling processes and procedures,” explains John Arnsdorf, product marketing manager, XMPie.
The Woven Web
W2P continues to morph and change. Whether standalone or integrated, SaaS or on premise, these solutions are crafted with a specific end user in mind.
It takes research and a familiarity with the market to pick the ideal choice for a print for pay, in plant, or enterprise operation. The beauty of today’s solutions are their flexibility, meaning if you choose a product today, it will match where you see the business six months, a year, or five years down the road.
While the Web is intricately woven into today’s typical print shop, it is not woven so tightly that it prohibits advancement, instead it promotes and enhances.
W2P technologies are essential for many enterprise and print operations, adding automation to reduce errors as well as help streamline production.
For a look at popular features of W2P solutions, look to our annual Target Chart on the following pages. dps
Jan2014, DPS Magazine