By Digital Output Staff
When implemented correctly, web to print (W2P) is advantageous for both print service providers (PSPs) and their customers. This is especially true in an economic climate where web-based ordering tactics are finding favor. If a brick-and-mortar business is shut down to the public, having a W2P storefront in place to manage clients’ orders is critical.
Above: EFI MarketDirect StoreFront is a W2P solution designed to power print businesses online.
Ease of Purchasing Print
PSPs need a reliable W2P storefront for many reasons, but perhaps in today’s society where virtual options are increasingly necessary, it is more important than ever before.
“The COVID pandemic has changed the way vast swathes of the working population carry out their jobs. The use of online collaboration tools has replaced face-to-face contact across all industries, both in terms of customer interaction as well as how employees work together,” shares Tony Tarpey, COO, SmartSoft Inc.
Buyers of all ages have increased their online presence. “Across the board, people younger than 35 and over 55 have increased their online buying exponentially since the pandemic began. Although that is a consumer base, it is basic change in human behavior that carries over to the business-to-business (B2B) world,” says Ellen Hurwitch, VP operations, the Americas, Red Tie Inc.
According to Terri Wymore, product manager, Print Reach, Inc., with each generation the amount of online ordering has increased—and traditionally each increase has been met with resistance. “One thing that has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the reliance on contactless or online ordering. Customers previously resistant to the practice are now having to get comfortable with it out of necessity.”
Aaron Tavakoli, senior product marketing manager, web to print solutions, EFI, believes PSPs with a strong ecommerce presence are more adaptable and prepared for change versus those with little to no web notoriety. With W2P, PSPs can continue serving their customers and generate revenue—despite challenging times.
A W2P storefront simplifies this. “With the ease that online ordering offers, customers love how uncomplicated it is to order and PSPs enjoy the repeat business it provides. An online storefront allows continued order taking while staff may be working remotely,” adds Therese McGady, marketing manager, Aleyant.
“Print providers with a reliable online ordering system in place certainly have an advantage over those that rely primarily on face-to-face ordering and customer relationships,” agrees Tarpey.
Sebastien Hanssens, VP marketing and operations, Caldera, stresses that PSPs need to have a reliable W2P storefront to be part of the game and grow business. “The customer purchase journey is changing and moving to digital. Market reports are clearly pointing out that more than half of buyers prefer not to interact with a sales representative as the primary source of information and two thirds of B2B buyers research at least half of their work purchases online.”
Taking it a step further, these W2P storefronts are designed for access through mobile phones, tablets, and other handheld devices. “Thanks to the responsive design aspect of all websites today, a customer can easily make purchases no matter when, where, and with what device. This is going to make a huge impact on the print industry and the need to give customers a way to order and track their orders online,” explains Wymore.
Phil Cunningham, senior account executive, PrinterPresence by Firespring, cites an eMarketer survey, sharing that ecommerce is on track to grow 18 percent in 2020 and models like click-and-collect and curbside pickup are expected to exist long after the pandemic. “Businesses and consumers have flocked online to make purchases, learn, do business, stay connected, and even seek entertainment. In 2020, online is the ‘in’ place to be.”
“24/7 ordering and self service became more important in 2020 where employers have scaled down their workforce and clients now expect full Amazon-style automation in ordering,” adds Slava Apel, CEO, Amazing Print Tech.
What to Look For
It’s agreed that there is an increased need for W2P storefronts as contactless transactions become the norm. For PSPs considering adding a W2P storefront, examining the various features based on current and future needs is important. With so many options it is worthwhile to categorize into must haves and need to haves.
Choosing the right W2P storefront depends on “the needs of the PSP, their niche in the market, and what the needs of their customers are. It is easy to get wowed in a demonstration where you are being shown a ton of features that you and your customer will never want or need,” says Wymore.
Credit card processing, acceptance of online payments, online proofing, and portals are all must-have features, according to Cunningham. In regard to portals, the relationship between the PSP and customer is unique—separate storefronts for each customer account reflects that uniqueness.
“You can personalize each storefront with your client’s branding, their payment and shipping preferences, and access permissions. They can log in, view their documents, place orders, see proofs you’ve sent, and track shipping. Portals greatly increase customer loyalty due to ease of use. Our customers have seen their customers increase spend by 30 percent,” continues Cunningham.
Hurwitch believes a must-have tool is a shopping cart that allows the end user to choose from a variety of payment, invoicing, and credit card options. Also, instantaneous shipping quotes are important. “The days of shipping and handling are long gone. People want to know what they will actually be charged,” she notes.
Another necessary feature, according to Tavakoli, is a range of adaptive and flexible product types. “When it comes to selling print online there are many different combinations. A thorough examination of product definition and flexibility should be performed to ensure you aren’t buying into a glorified web-based PDF delivery platform.”
The ability to offer variable W2P documents is nice to have. This allows the user to type variable information into frequently printed items and get an instant view of the proof. “This functionality eliminates over 90 percent of prepress and layout costs and allows your staff to increase the time they can put towards other profit-generating jobs. It will streamline your proofing process, reduce prepress time to fewer than ten minutes, and let your customers take control of their online ordering,” says Cunningham.
Fulfillment and inventory management tools are also nice to have. “Today nearly 60 percent of PSPs offer some level of inventory management for their clients. It only makes sense that it should be integrated with their W2P portal to provide a singular user experience and in one place to manage all of your procurement needs,” explains Tavakoli.
With a feature set tailored to the PSP, a W2P storefront should help achieve goals like saving time and speeding up production. “By automating the delivery of invoices, the tracking of shipment details, and proofing system, the customer has that extra layer of comfort to access and edit the information they need to reach their printing and mailing goals,” shares Wymore.
Also don’t forget—the W2P storefront is really a tool for the customer. “It’s important to make that list about what features are going to save your customer time and reduce frustrations they have. After all, the portal is for them,” adds Wymore.
The challenge is setting aside the time and conducting the appropriate research to construct the storefront based on the needs of customers and target audience, agrees Tarpey. He suggests PSPs interact with customers and find out what they would appreciate in an online ordering system and what tools would make them use it.
PSPs are integral to the evolution of W2P storefronts. They suggest tools and features that can make their lives easier.
One new tool making noise is single sign on. With it, customers log into their personalized storefront without creating a new username and password. “This helps PSPs land big accounts with hundreds or even thousands of employees and partners that need to place orders without having to create and maintain a separate login,” says Cunningham.
“The features our customers are requesting are online ordering, custom artwork design, and automated file to production transfer. Lining up these technology stacks needs to be managed as a project as it very difficult to find an out-of-the-box solution that will do it all,” notes Hanssens.
Batch editing tools are essential. “This enables modification of large groups of product simultaneously. Often W2P users end up with thousands of products in their libraries, which can become an administrative burden. Good product management tools enable you to modify pricing, media, and product properties in bulk,” recommends Tavakoli.
Wymore doesn’t point to one specific feature that PSPs should consider, instead citing integration into third-party solutions as something to look for. “The solution should play nice with other software providers in the print industry. The new buzz term in the industry is integrated workflow,” recommends Wymore.
“Find a provider that allows you to integrate with your existing MIS to increase efficiency. If your existing system has an open API, you should be able to automatically receive website orders, files, and estimates directly into your MIS,” agrees Cunningham.
Beyond recommending specific features, vendors in the space suggest having a plan in place prior to implementing a W2P storefront.
“Implementing a new W2P system is a decision that should not be made hastily. Set aside some time and focus entirely on implementing a new system or upgrading an older one,” advises Wymore.
Not having a plan can be the difference between success and failure. Wymore points out that if a PSP took the time and effort to research the best W2P storefront, it would be a mistake to throw that all away with a hasty implementation.
Tarpey says implementation requires commitment, planning, as well as reevaluating the way to conduct business, which he admits is not the easiest thing to do in a busy work environment. However, taking the time makes the investment worthwhile.
Preparing staff for the implementation and beyond is important. “A W2P will impact many departments, from sales to production. All departments need to be aligned about what they need and expect from the W2P solution. The scope needs to be clear for the W2P to be commercially and organizationally successful,” explains Hanssens.
“One of the biggest differentiators between a successful W2P implementation and one that fails is having a plan for implementation with a dedicated person to focus on it versus one that purchases the software and hopes that someone on the team will be able to fit it into their normal, busy day. A PSP spends a lot of time researching a solution, they absolutely need to select someone that can have some undivided time to dedicate to the training and implementation of the storefronts,” shares Wymore.
The plan should include gaining knowledge about how the software company supports you after the purchase. “Understand the level of support you are going to receive from the website provider. Ensure that each communication doesn’t incur an additional cost,” advises Cunningham.
Getting to know the software provider includes experiencing a demonstration of the product, meeting the support team, and learning about the upgrade and innovation path. “Don’t get stuck in old technology. The support hours should match your working hours,” suggests Apel.
“Do your homework, make sure your vendor has operations and support teams in your region. Getting it wrong will cost you a lot in the long term,” concludes Tavakoli.
Resisting change is common behavior. However, when affronted with a seismic occurrence that affects the entire world, change is inevitable. Contactless payment and online shopping are becoming the norm. PSPs must adapt and W2P storefronts can help. W2P is a tool that can aid in efficiency and profitability first and foremost. Secondly, it is essential when in-person ordering is suspended—it allows business to keep going.
Jan2021, Digital Output