- Describe web2print and how it benefits the supplier-customer relationship
- Differentiate between the different business models of web2print implementation
- Explore the economic impact of implementing web2print
- Research target markets that would benefit from online selling processes
- Define business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) sales models
- Examine variable templates and identify their components
- Discuss how print on demand works and how it affects the sales cycle
- Give examples of print workflows and management information system (MIS) integration
- Discuss how web2print business opportunities might affect return on investment
As modern modes of communication are constantly changing, the print industry has had to become very competitive. Successful print companies have evolved beyond producing only printed products; today, they also provide other services geared to an electronic marketplace. With the ever-growing number of people going online, customers have adapted to having instant information (Poon & Swatman, 1995), which printers can now provide. One such service is web2print. Customers benefit from the ease of ordering print anywhere around the world, with quicker turnaround times than traditional methods. Print companies benefit by building a larger customer base, streamlining workflows, and reducing production costs — all while staying competitive.
Print has traditionally been a service requiring many human touch-points, but with advances in business communication over the Internet, the dynamics of custom manufacturing are changing, particularly with respect to the ordering process (Shim, Pendyala, Sundaram, & Gao, 2000). Putting an effective online service in place involves strategically selecting suitable products and services. Online ordering is not ideal for every print product, but rather for specific products that are unnecessarily labour intensive. Products that were once very labour intensive, such as business cards, can now be ordered online. Customers enter their information directly into a template on screen while they sit in their own offices. A print-ready PDF file enters an automated folder in the print company (called a hot folder) and moves into the print workflow, allowing for a fully automated process called lights-out prepress, which saves on labour and allows for greater profits. Web2print provides a client company a value-added feature, while improving workflow process for the print company.
Technology Is the Key
Web2print completely automates the print ordering process by integrating online orders with print production. Using the Internet automates order entry and provides time savings to both the customer and the company.
Electronic commerce offers the possibility of breakthrough changes: changes that so radically alter customer expectations that they redefine the market or create entirely new markets (Gunasekaran, Marri, McGaughey, & Nebhwani, 2002, p. 195).
This technology allows businesses to interact with customers in a new way in addition to more traditional forms of ordering such as email, file transfer protocol (FTP), phone, fax, and face-to-face meetings. While web2print removes the need for more traditional ways of ordering, it does not replace them. Some customers may prefer these ways because they may not know, or be comfortable with, the online options that are increasingly available to them. It is advantageous to a company to inform and educate customers, encouraging them to evolve their buying habits. Traditionally, purchasing involved gaining knowledge about print companies through their sales reps, selecting the appropriate company, and trusting that the sales rep would ensure the product was delivered on time and for the best price. Today, many customers use search engines to obtain information about and decide on which print company to use. Using web2print ensures that the production time frame and the price match what a customer is looking for.
A printing company has to work with and implement many complex and interconnected systems in order to generate a printed product. From the inception of a new item to its delivery to the end-user, there are many opportunities for streamlining. Web2print creates efficiencies at the beginning of the print process, and those benefits trickle all the way through to imaging. The ultimate goal is for the data collected from the customer to proceed directly to the raster image processor (RIP) that drives the production process. A print company that takes advantage of this type of automation is positioning itself for smoother and more cost-effective print runs.