Connecting with Your Customers
Millennials have grown up with e-commerce and expect the companies they do business with — whether it’s in the world of B2B or B2C — to offer that capability.
This makes Web-to-print extremely important in today’s world, says David Garcia, president, LB Graph–X & Printing, a full-service printer located in Commack, N.Y.
“And, because it’s efficient and convenient for both the consumer and the printer, it’s one of those rare win-win cases,” he says.
Within that e-commerce environment, today’s buyer expects a seamless experience.
A Seamless Experience
Web-to-print can facilitate an integrated online order management solution, providing wide-format providers with the ability to attract new customers, both local and remote.
LB Graph–X’s foray in Web-to-print started slowly in 2008 with a platform offered by RedTie. “Since it was so new to our end users at the time, we built demo sites first, using our customers’ branding, so they could understand how Web-to-print worked,” Garcia explains. “Our end users picked up on it right away, and it just kept rolling from there. Today, almost everyone knows what Web-to-print is, or rather, what e-commerce is, so it makes things much easier.
As the leader of a small shop, Garcia saw value immediately in Web-to-print’s ability to automate the purchasing process. Its use of the RedTie platform grew as the shop grew. “When I added large-format printing into the mix, the software allowed for the upload of large files and/or templates of these items, such as banners and out-of-home signage.”
RedTie’s Software as a Service (SaaS) Web-to-print solutions give wide-format providers the ability to set up both stock (static) and variable products in a storefront environment.
While end users can include both B2B and B2C users, Ellen Faith Hurwitch, VP, director of operations – the Americas, RedTie Group, asserts Web-to-print for printers “is best utilized by the B2B market where you can set up custom branded portals to purchase from. It’s great for brand control, limiting the end user’s ability to make changes. It’s also convenient and easy for end users.”
The B2C market e-commerce print market is very saturated, with companies such as Vistaprint dominating. “You also really need to understand SEO, who to market to and how to market to them,” Hurtwich says.
“We also now offer a lot of features you would find in desktop publishing software, like image rotation, auto sizing of type and moving blocks of type around,” Hurtwich says.
RedTie also developed an add-on to its core product that allows end users to build up a quote in real time for what they want to upload, like a banner and/or poster, prior to uploading their finished artwork. Its platform sets business rules for each portal or storefront, including different client discounts, payment methods, product types and file formats.
Garcia recommends wide-format print providers invest time doing some research before moving into Web-to-print. “People think ‘Web-to-print, that’s what I need,’ without first thinking about how they are going to make it happen; how it will streamline their business,” he says. “I’ve heard this often from my peers, and I always tell them that they need to map out the internal workflow before [they] add Web-to-print for [their] end users.”
Web-to-print requires an automated workflow on the front end and the back end. Depending on the size of the wide-format product, upload speed can be impacted, as well as how responsive the online design editing tool is.
It’s also critical that the Web-to-print platform integrates with the software already in use at the facility. “If it’s an island, it doesn’t do the company any good,” says Gene Hamzhie, founder and president of FireSprint.com, a sign printer located in Omaha, Neb.
Hamzhie cites the benefits from the preflighting associated with Web-to-print storefronts, a critical function that is often taken for granted. “Customers are told right away if there are issues,” Hamzhie says. “The benefits are just as much on the customer’s side; the earlier we can figure out if there are problems, the better off for everyone.”
FireSprint’s first foray into e-commerce followed the revamping of its website, an ongoing project from 2012-2014. Hamzhie founded the company, initially called TargetOmaha Marketing, in his parent’s basement in 2007; it’s now a 19-person trade, graphic and digital screen printer. “In the beginning, we were able to do basic stuff, like uploading files, but there were no templates — each order was completely custom, a real problem from an efficiency standpoint. It was hard to grow because all of the products ordered were entirely custom,” Hamzhie says.
With this in mind, in 2016 FireSprint installed OnPrintShop from Radixweb. “It was very impactful,” he says. “The first benefit we saw right out of the gate is that it makes sure that the customer answers any questions regarding the order,” he explains. “When a customer emails us a PO, they might forget to answer a question. For example, if they are creating a sign with rounded corners, we would need to know what radius they want. Or if they want a red, which red? There are six standard reds, plus Pantone.”
OnPrintShop’s wide-format module offers rules-based templates to maintain brand guidelines as well as custom design capabilities. Having predefined questions, “is huge,” says Hamzhie, as “it eliminates a ton of back and forth. It’s critical to be able to get the artwork processed quickly, and to give customers exactly what they want.”
The OnPrintShop platform also allows for customization, another big plus according to Hamzhie. “Some systems have the ability to customize, but you can’t afford to add it on,” he says. “Without the ability to customize you can’t set yourself apart, you can’t grow.”
Hamzhie also points to the platform’s built-in full-dimension calculator that provides accurate shipping costs. Estimating shipping costs for the variety of products, materials and sizes that FireSprint creates can be daunting. To get an accurate rate, it has to provide UPS and FedEx with the right dimensions.
“We do an audit every month and compare our monthly charges from FedEx against what the website quoted,” Hamzhie explains. “The platform is spot on every month. This is a big factor. If the platform is wrong, then we are going to lose money.”
Print Three, a network of 46 franchise locations across Canada provides print and marketing services, including wide-format products. The company, looking to create and support customized storefronts for B2B and B2C customers while maintaining production efficiencies, invested in Racad Tech’s Web-to-print platform.
Print Three offers customers the ability to print from their own software applications (e.g., Microsoft Word, Publisher, Adobe Photoshop, Corel Draw, etc.) using a client-branded print driver powered by Racad Tech’s GOPrint2 technology, while simplifying the online ordering process by enabling B2B portals with a catalog of commonly ordered products by that client.
Print Three also required multiple solutions to offer franchises flexibility for creating, hosting and supporting variable data applications. Print Three uses:
• uDRAW for HTML5 for configurable products whereby a design online interface is required
• PDFlib for simple document structures (i.e. form fill)
• XMPie for more complex document/data structures
By using PDFlib and block commands, Print Three has cut the time needed to create simple, form field driven variable data products (e.g. business cards, letterheads and envelopes) by 50% compared to other methods such as XMPie.
Print Three’s Web-to-print platform lets it accommodate national accounts for national brands. This is because its Web-to-print program is uniform across all stores in Canada.
Racad Tech has two overarching technologies, explains Reuben James, director of business development. “The first, ePOWER and Web to Print CLOUD (W2PCLOUD), is most commonly used for B2B purposes between PSP’s and their established customers.
“On the front-end, this is generally easy to address because here the items are pre-set and/or templated and it all happens within our infrastructure,” James says.
High Print, located in Ontario, produces indoor and outdoor signs and other wide-format products for insurance, mortgage brokers and real estate companies. With the ePower platform, HighPrint hosts pre-defined templated “for sale” signs, such as for customer RE/MAX, which allows the company’s real estate agents to easily update signs or other materials using a PDF editor.
Its other technology, Web to Print SHOP (W2PSHOP), is a modular solution, that is folded into its customers’ website. It offers three technologies customers can use:
• W2P SHOP Price Matrix, which facilitates the display of product options such as size, substrate, etc.
• GoPrint2 Upload Technology, which allows the customer to upload files. This technology will detect the file and make sure it resonates with the price matrix
• W2P SHOP uDRAW, design online editor; there are four different design editors now available
There’s no doubt that Web-to-print in wide-format is poised for growth. It’s the right technology at the right time, offering ample opportunity for shops to grow their business while implementing production efficiencies. Add to that the younger buyer’s preference for online purchasing, and it’s clear why Web-to-print is the wave of the future for wide-format providers.