Don’t Risk Your Existing Business By Not Migrating it Online

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Don’t Risk Your Existing Business By Not Migrating it Online

I’ve heard it a lot lately…

“My customers are happy with the high touch service we give them.”

“Transitioning our offline customers to online commoditizes the product and encourages them to shop on price alone”

Lets look back at some major transitions in other markets and see if we can learn from them. There used to be a $600 million encyclopedia market; that disappeared (was de-monetized) first by the CD, then by online encyclopedias. Encyclopedia Britannica held to the belief that people loved the expensive leather bound books until they didn’t have a chance at capturing any of the CD market. Blockbuster was well aware of the NetFlix model but they held onto the “idea” that people liked to shop in their stores.

I believe existing revenue streams can be the enemy of innovation; we naturally want to defend revenue streams even in the face of overwhelming evidence that says we should actually cannibalize our own business to grow the next business. Yes – remember when you converted customers to digital printing on demand and they printed a lot less but wasted a lot less as well? Nobody would say you made the mistake of converting the customer even though you probably made less money on them in the short term.  You cannibalized one part of your business to grow another with the SAME CUSTOMER!

Transitions are hard but don’t rationalize what’s happening here. Business is moving online, if you don’t transition your customers there, your competition will. Imagine how easy that sale will be (like taking candy from a baby), a competitor can come in and give this pitch…

We will enable you to peer into our production workflow status so you can inquire about the status of your job 24/7. Additionally we’ll proactively send you updates when the job is ready for pick up or has been shipped. You can order from us any time, if you can’t provide all the details via self service ordering, its OK we’ll contact you and complete it for you – that way the full order will be logged and trackable by everyone. You will never have to call us to ask for a duplicate bill or invoice because you’ll have access to all your transaction history online. Notice not much of this was about print – its about CONVENIENCE and TRANSPARENCY.

If you’re still not convinced and your defense is, my customers aren’t asking to order online. Customers don’t actually know what they want – they are just as comfortable with the status quo as you are, the role of sales is to persuade people to change. You can either sit back and hold on for as long as possible, until the day your customer says, this nice printer down the road or this national online provider allows us to cut our labor and pay less for the print because of automation.

Wouldn’t it better to take your customers through the transition even if it means you might have to get a bit more competitive on price? What’s a better alternative – losing all the business or remaining competitive and keeping the lion share of it?


  1. Tim Rodman on October 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm


    I’m looking for data about the number of printers from the total 21000 establishments in the US market that:
    1) # or % of total US market that have a web to print solution
    2) % of existing printer sales reps that are trained to sell web to print

    Any help would be appreciated

  2. Jennifer Matt on October 31, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Tim – the best source for this kind of data is InfoTrends or PIA (for the % who have a web to print solution) for 2) the existing printer sales reps – I don’t know of anyone who has collected that data via a survey.


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