Advanced Films Are Elevating the Art of Window Graphics, Driving Market Growth
For as long as any of us can remember, window graphics have adorned retail, dining, and entertainment venues, drawing us inside to further explore a business’ goods and services. Historically, advertising has been the most common application for window graphics, however, new films on the market today are opening up a breadth of creative options for print service providers (PSPs), while making installation and removal easier than ever.
“Window films today help to define a space, improve privacy, and promote sales, and can also be used to cover or hide outside distractions, such as construction,” says Amanda Smith, associate product manager for Mactac.
According to Rob Stone, chief operating officer of Contra Vision, the market for window graphics is growing.
“There is a lot more glass around than there was even five years ago,” he says. “And retail outlets try to maximize the amount of glass they have. Think about automobile dealerships and their huge glass showrooms.”
Steve Yarbrough, product support specialist for Drytac, sees the market growing as well — and exponentially. “Window graphics have become more and more popular for ad campaigns for larger corporations, sporting goods stores, fast food chains, and arenas, for example,” he notes. “They very effectively catch your eye.”
Because they are often changed out frequently, window graphics can also bring in repeat business for PSPs. “With window graphics applications, you have a niche that opens a lot of doors for companies to offer repetitive print products,” says CJ Forker, sales manager for S-One Holdings/Lexjet.
And the market opportunity extends well beyond the realm of advertising. “We are doing different types of window graphics today,” says Todd Felty, owner of Displays and Graphics, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based PSP specializing in wide-format graphics. “We do a lot of window perf on the exterior, and we also do a lot of interior privacy window frostings — and we have redone several conference rooms with blackout murals and tints.”
Jim Halloran, VP of sales and marketing for LINTEC of America, sees office interiors as a promising market for PSPs as well. “Retailers have had a tough go of it with Amazon, but office interiors are always growing,” he notes.
New and Improved – In Many Ways
At the very high end of the market, PSPs are pushing the boundaries creatively, incorporating unique effects into their window graphics, thanks to new advanced films.
“Vela is an Avery Dennison product that is a switchable film,” says Paul Roba, marketing manager for Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions. “With electricity you can turn it on and off to have an opaque solid window, or it can be clear. You can use a projector and project an image onto the graphic and have a more dynamic presentation.”
S-One Holdings/Lexjet offers a fabric for window graphics called Squid. “Squid has an adhesive system on the back, and you can install the graphic in multiple panels for a seamless look,” Forker says. “It gives you a high-end look and feel.”
Squid also comes in a charcoal finish, he adds, which has the appearance of a see-through drape. “You can see the landscape outside of it, and it changes the way that room and window are perceived by someone walking by or inside in a meeting,” he notes.
New window films are simplifying the installation process as well. “Our SpotOn product comes in different varieties, visually clear and white, both offered in matte and gloss,” Yarbrough says. “The dot-style adhesive on the back makes it very easy for the end user to apply and remove the film themselves.”
Mactac recently improved the B-Free air egress line, says Smith, with a new adhesive pattern for printed and unprinted applications that aides in installation. “You can reposition without stretching the film face, and stiffer face stock offers improved panel-to-panel alignment,” she notes.
Traditional perforated window films are also getting a makeover. “The new thing is high-definition perforated window film, whereby the holes are only 1mm in diameter and closer together,” Stone says. “From the outside, these products carry all the detail, whether that is lettering or detail on a watch face. From the other side, the see-through is much finer, much closer to the actual window, so the product looks more like a gentle tint.”
And like many consumer-facing products today, window films are going green. “We’ve launched a line of eco products that aren’t any more expensive than our regular films,” Halloran says. “For example, we have a new window film that is optically clear and made out of recycled PET bottles. Eighty percent of the product is recycled content.”
These and other technological advances, Felty says, are making it easier for PSPs to meet the high standards of today’s brands. “It’s the films, plus faster, better printers that are improving image quality and helping speed up production,” he notes. “We had a meeting recently with one of the reps from a media company. We weren’t aware of all the new options — they are constantly developing new products.”
Pivotal Success Factors
While the market is growing and the technology advancing, there are things every PSP should know to succeed in this niche — starting with selecting the correct materials for the job.
“Indoor versus outdoor, and the duration of the graphic will all dictate the job’s requirements,” says Yarbrough. “You don’t want to put up the most expensive film for a short-term job, and you should also know that some materials are dedicated for UV printing only, and some for solvent, latex, and UV. And there are materials for the aqueous market as well. Get sample rolls of the materials to get a feel for them, and show them to your customers, too.”
PSPs should also examine the glass that will display the graphic to ensure a successful installation.
“Watch for glass that has treatments on it that can prevent the self-adhesive from sticking — or film on it that might get damaged,” Stone says. “Heavily tinted glass creates issues, too. People put up posters on the inside and wonder why no one can see them from the outside.”
It is vitally important, as well, to get trained in installation processes or employ expert installers. “You’re not just printing a pretty picture,” Halloran says. “You have to install it correctly. We have instructions on our website and can recommend installers who have worked with our films. For someone who has never put up polyester window tint, it doesn’t install like vinyl graphics on a bus.”
And the bigger the graphic, the more challenging the installation can be, Felty notes. “We recently redid six facilities for a client, with window graphics as long as 60 ft. and around 24 ft. wide. That was probably our biggest window job yet, and it was a tricky fit to get it all working right because some of the windows had arcs and were different sizes.”
Consider also, Roba adds, how the materials will perform in each unique environment. “You have to be aware that adhesive-backed vinyls, when applied to glass or windows, can have differential expansion which could potentially crack the glass,” he says. “You need to follow a manufacturer’s instructions.”
For storefront installations, climate can also be a consideration. “In Arizona or Florida, even though a graphic is mounted on the inside, the window is going to get hot,” Halloran notes. “We put in UV blockers to protect prints.”
Yarbrough adds, “For application temperatures that are below freezing, you need to use products that are not water-based.”
Marketing Strategies that Work
Maximizing the market opportunity, Roba notes, takes an understanding of each customer’s needs. “You have functional, informational, and promotional graphics,” he says. “A functional graphic typically uses blackout, etched, or decorative films for creating a barrier or privacy. Informational graphics promote the business, its hours, and things going on in the business; and promotional graphics are for advertising and specials that change out over time to market the business.”
It is always best to meet with the decision makers to ensure your design concept aligns with their vision. “You have to be involved with the people who pull the trigger, or you can find yourself putting a lot of time and effort into a graphic — and then it completely changes on you at the end of the job,” Forker notes.
And being the cheapest provider, he adds, is not always the best strategy. “If you offer a solution that does an extraordinary job for your customer, you are more likely to get repeat business.”
Don’t overlook any opportunity to offer your services, either. “On your morning commute, if you drive past a load of glass outside a business you should think of that business as an opportunity,” Stone says.
Felty adds, “When we are in an important appointment, we always mention graphics for the company’s front windows — it usually sticks when you do.”
As with any new application, the best way to accelerate your success is to turn to your suppliers for support. “PSPs really need to look at different applications to expand their business, and even out their orders,” says Roba. “They need to look at windows, walls, and floors — all present opportunities. They also need to reach out to their providers to explore these applications and see how they can convert their services to new markets.”