We hear it every day – “Print is Dead!” We see it pronounced on the news or the internet. And yes, we believe it. But print ISN’T dead. And printers who have a vision of print as part of their ongoing model understand that one way to insure growth and more importantly, client retention, is to have an e-commerce solution. This solution is tied into print production as a means of maintaining revenue for something that, in many cases, is automated to the point that there is little operator intervention, and subsequently, higher profit.
Onboarding a client or prospective client onto an e-commerce solution does take work, and time. If your model is primarily pick inventory, it’s easy to set up and have ready for client use in a few days to a week or more. More complex sites that involve pick, versioned or variable products take more time. However, once it’s set up, it is designed to do work that 2-3 team members can do, reducing the amount of physical touch-points by team members. As sales reps (or relationship managers) learn, they simply watch their jobs roll in and collect commissions with little or no involvement. For the company, the hours, weeks or months spent in prospecting and onboarding the client pays off in profitable jobs, less overhead due to multiple operators, and finally, an ongoing revenue stream.
Another benefit of having an online e-commerce solution is that it can often lock in clients, and retain them. This is due primarily to the contractual obligation that the print services provider and client engage in, and to the fact that you as a printer might be warehousing several inventory items, or have digital assets necessary to produce their variable and versioned print jobs. This tends to make clients stay, rather than face the daunting task of setting this all up with another print services provider. Often, a printer can land an online client who then becomes a full commercial print client, which is beneficial to the company.
Finally, another benefit is that once you set up a way for your clients to order items with set pricing, you have freed up your estimating team and your production team to focus on other tasks. For example, you can set up a way to allow the client to create their own files, upload to the e-commerce site, view a proof and approve it, and select the quantity. Like Amazon, the pricing is set and they pay via credit card. Since everything else like paper and ink is pre-populated, they can do all of this without going through and getting the rep to do an estimate, and then once that estimate is approved, the final production job ticket. This gives team members time to do other tasks, like help manage a nice big $20,000 print job.
There you have just a few of the many reasons for printers to invest in e-commerce solutions. If you don’t have one, do your homework, join user groups that are autonomous from the software manufacturer, and evaluate what you, and what your clients want. Be ready for setting it and clients up on it, and then enjoy the rewards!