Yesterday I wrote an article for the main WhatTheyThink site titled Printer’s Survival Kit: Understand & Participate in the Digital Economy. This is free content – I hope you all read it. This post will make a lot more sense if you read the article first.
How does understanding and participating in the digital economy impact the world of web to print? Since there seems to be confusion around what web to print is, I’ll propose my definition.
Web to Print: ’web ‘tű ‘print n 1: A set of software tools specialized for print-enabling e-Commerce.
This is a very broad definition, it does not limit the target market (B2B vs. B2C), web to print tools are about enabling print to be purchased over the web. The objective of web to print solutions is to open a self-service order entry path for print buying customers. I know there are about a million other benefits, objectives, etc… Let’s keep the eye on the prize – web to print is about order entry, print buyers should be the main users of the system (too bad they rarely get involved in the purchasing decision).
My Survival Kit article defined two different economies, the economy of “atoms” – physical stuff like printed pages, and the economy of “bits” – electronic stuff like e-mail. Those of us participating in the atoms economy (print) need to first understand the bits economy, find a way to participate in it, and leverage its efficiencies to increase our productively in the atoms economy.
Web to print leverages the digital infrastructure (internet) to decrease the effort (for both buyer and seller) required to procure print. In order for print to continue to compete in the modern marketing mix, it has to be as easy to order as digital products and services. If customers can buy online advertising with a few clicks from Google, they should be able to purchase a direct mail piece from you with a few clicks! Simplicity is paramount, complexity kills. If you’re only self service option on your website is FTP today, you don’t have e-Commerce or self service.
The web-centric customer expects to serve themselves and be automatically updated regarding the status of their order. I know everyone wants to add in QR Codes, pURLS, etc… to the web to print definition – expanding your business beyond print is paramount, but first I would leverage everything about the digital economy on your core business. You still have to keep those presses running even if you’re selling cross media campaigns. You will learn a lot about e-Commerce when you enable your core business first, then move onto the next step of expanding your product set beyond ink/toner on paper. If you haven’t proven you can sell print online what makes you think you can sell cross media campaigns?