What the Future Holds
Without a doubt, over the last decade the visual communications market landscape has changed. At one time, leaders in this space enjoyed seemingly endless opportunities for expansion and growth. Now, there is pressure from all sides as convergence continues. According to 2019 SGIA Research reports, graphic and signs is the top market commercial printers (65.4%), functional/industrial printers (50.0%), and garment/apparel printers (28.7%) are expanding into as they look to increase revenues.
But as more and more non-traditional wide-format graphics producers enter the space, it becomes increasingly difficult for long-time providers to maintain the same sales, clients, and services. Expanded industry capacity is starting to drive prices down for commodity products — much as it did in the commercial print space. So, the question for print providers is: how can I continue to grow my business in a consolidating market with increased pricing pressure? Where are those areas that offer growth now and in the future?
To address these questions and more, Wide-Format Impressions assembled a panel of experts to explore the future of wide-format printing and the revenue opportunities it still provides to savvy print providers.
Below are some highlights I found most interesting.
Biggest trends for the next 12 to 18 months.
- As marketing budgets and spending tightens, the print market is expected to contract a bit, likely leading to excess print capacity and downward pricing pressure as printers look to fill open capacity.
- Consolidation will continue especially in the middle to upper market companies as they attempt market share increases. This will also create opportunities for small lifestyle businesses to grow, as middle-market customers become dissatisfied with the results of consolidation.
- The demand for custom interior design elements, from a retail/brand perspective and beyond, will continue to increase. Whether it is creating an experiential atmosphere at a retail or restaurant location, or a high-end branded office build out, the potential for digital inkjet to transform spaces is undeniable. And with Millennials on the rise and expecting a social shopping experience, retail atmosphere importance will continue to grow.
- Customers are becoming more savvy in regards to sustainability, and are looking to their suppliers to provide alternative materials and solutions so they more closely align with their sustainability practices.
Hot technologies and applications
- Front-end automation: Printing and finishing have seen significant improvements over the past decade, to the point where our bottle neck is often in pre-production.
- Open-source programming languages: The ability of different products to communicate seamlessly enables more productivity.
- Artificial intelligence: Having a strong IT department or partnering with an IT provider will be key to gaining market share in the digital distribution and AI arena.
- Interior décor: Demand for interior design elements produced on wide-format equipment like wallpapers and simulated surfaces will continue to grow.
- Print embellishment: Printing on more specialty items, utilizing white and varnish ink technology, five-layer, and dimensional printing is going to be another high-growth area.
To learn more about adjacent market opportunities, the future of the wide-format market over the next three to five years, and advice on how to grow in the current market climate, download and read the full report, Future of the Visual Communications Market, here.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.