By Melissa Donovan
Web to print (W2P) is powerful tool. Creating a web-based storefront for your business streamlines processes and bolsters customer loyalty. Sign shop owners may feel like their business is too small, they don’t have enough customers, or they lack the knowledge to implement a W2P storefront into their business model. However, the options available to wide format print service providers (PSPs) today are user friendly and intuitive for the shop owner and the end user—whether you plan on creating business to consumer (B2C) or business to business (B2B) storefronts.
Above: More Than Ink Printing of Jacksonville, FL offers W2P storefronts for retail and wholesale clients with the help of Ordant.
At the Core
For any size print shop, there are benefits in implementing and using a W2P storefront. Primary advantages include automation, efficiency, and customer retention.
Automation is a core benefit, according to Ellen Faith Hurwitch, VP, director of operations – the Americas, RedTie Inc. “By integrating with MIS and ERPs an order becomes virtually hands off. This allows the print shop to concentrate on custom work, which is almost always more time consuming.”
“When you set up a W2P storefront, your customer service representatives can focus less time on taking orders and more time on print project oversight, relationship building, problem solving, and new business development,” adds Usman Ali, principal, Ordant.
Shop efficiency is also an advantage. “For frequently re-ordered items such as business cards, stationary, and static products, it is not uncommon for a W2P storefront to give over ten hours back to a shop,” explains Adam Witek, director of customer experience, Print Reach, Inc.
Perhaps the number one benefit is customer retention. “W2P storefronts allow print providers to reach potential customers that they never met and easily present all their print capabilities. It saves the customers time and money and allows them to order print materials from the comfort of their home/office,” advises Niro Barom, sales channel manager, B2C Print USA.
“Customer expectations and buying patterns have changed as more products are ordered online. If you aren’t ready to meet buyer needs online, someone else will. Once you have a client on a storefront and they start to experience their interactive portal, they can manage business on their own schedule. It’s empowering and makes it difficult for a competitor to uproot a client,” shares Corry Casler, director of sales, PressWise by SmartSoft.
Reuben James, director of business development, Racadtech Inc., agrees. “The technology binds the end user to the printer and entrenches their patronage for the long term. The customer and the history are recorded and tracked, making the customer a sellable asset for the print company.”
When researching the correct W2P storefront for a business, certain questions need to be asked upfront, including must-have and nice-to-have features.
“Prospects should inquire regarding the product’s connectivity—what other applications/partners does the W2P integrate with to support a more automated workflow? How does support work, is it free, ongoing, limited? How often is the software updated? What kind of training is offered?,” asks Steve Ciesemier, direct sales manager, Aleyant.
Witek recommends a strong customer support team. “Most W2P storefronts are loaded with features and you need great support to help when in a pinch.”
Sample and customer sites are some of the best ways to determine if the program meets all of the requirements. “The proof is in the pudding. Weigh the presentations of the various W2P providers and see how they stand up to each other in light of the unique requests that they get from their various customers, and see how those requests are addressed,” advises James.
It’s important to assess just how easy it is to customize a storefront, especially if you plan on designing multiple sites for different customers. “Every business has different needs, but common features required are online design, online proof, ability to upload documents, and a shopping cart. Print providers like a clean and easy-to-navigate user interface so customers don’t get lost when ordering on the website,” shares Barom.
“Setting up B2B storefronts is challenging because each customer varies. Each buys a different range of products and may have dissimiliar corporate policies regarding brand design modifications, purchase authorizations, payment policies, and ping preferences,” says Ali.
Besides design and setup on the front end, Casler advises on understanding what happens after the order is placed. “If you’ve found the latest, slick, glam, e-commerce platform but all it does is send you an email when an order is placed, it’s worthless. E-commerce orders need to automatically inject into your print MIS, generate a job ticket, impose the art, and push the job to the press. Otherwise, you’re creating a bottleneck as soon as the order comes in.”
The average time to get up and running after a W2P storefront install depends on a number of factors. The most successful installations result in very little downtime.
To decrease any room for error, Ciesemier suggests having an installation plan in place that can be followed and executed. Furthermore, a dedicated internal resource is needed to lead the implementation effort and ensure each milestone is met.
“The average time to get a storefront up and running will depend on the existing skills of your staff and how much groundwork your shop has already laid in determining what W2P features are most important to your first storefront. Except for the time required to train employees who will maintain the storefronts, installing a W2P storefront shouldn’t cause downtime in your day-to-day production operations,” suggests Ali.
Some vendors offer online training, which allows for the PSP to start learning before the software is even implemented—significantly decreasing downtime. “Once software is in place, most PSPs are up and running within two weeks,” adds Hurwitch.
“Generally speaking, we find that most W2P storefronts take between two and six weeks to set up,” agrees Witek. “The first one always takes longer—so remember that.”
“The biggest challenge is execution, which depends on the PSP’s strategy. Is the PSP going after a large corporate account with a B2B storefront or general public with a B2C storefront? A different strategy is needed for each type of customer,” recommends Ciesemier.
If it’s a customer-branded storefront, the PSP is also at the mercy of its customer. “Shop storefront requirements vary wildly, so you could set up an instant storefront for a client with basic needs or you could spend hours creating a custom branded storefront with super cool, dynamic templates designed specifically for the client,” explains Casler.
“Every print provider has different goals, some want to start with the generic products and in time add more. Where others want to customize it and add their own products. Some also require special developments, so it’s all time consuming,” suggests Barom.
The Right Aspect
More Than Ink Printing, based in Jacksonville, FL, celebrates 15 years in business. Using both offset and digital equipment onsite, it prints signs and wraps, promotional products, and t-shirts. 18 employees serve its customer base offering quick turnarounds, either same or next day on most work.
Seven years ago Aaron Canady and John Christiansen, co-owners, More Than Ink Printing, and their team researched online quoting, job flow, and web storefront solutions. “We found over the years there was an increasing demand from customers for an online ordering option,” they explain.
The company looked for a solution that not only provided an online option for customers intrigued by that purchasing process, but also offering traditional methods of contact like phone, email, and website inquiries. Ordant’s W2P solution made the most sense. Right away Canady and Christiansen liked how the product was designed from the aspect of a production manager, with a primary perspective of printing.
According to Canady and Christiansen, it took about three months to enter all of the company’s main products and pricing into the system. “The issue was we have such a large variety of products with almost limitless options within each product,” they note. To solve this particular challenge it keeps the products in the B2C storefront to a minimum, focusing on main options. Anything beyond that involves custom quotes.
Once implemented, More Than Ink Printing was equipped with the capability to provide customized B2B storefronts for certain wholesale clients. “This allows us to build a specific item catalog that pertains to their needs and even adjust pricing for some of our non-profit clients,” add Canady and Christiansen.
Between offering B2C and B2B storefront ordering options, the co-owners find that the company’s wholesale customers are more on board with online storefronts than retail customers. “We feel it is primarily because they are familiar with ordering from other online sources and it’s an easier transition. With retail customers it’s fairly mixed. Some appreciate the online option, but many prefer email or website order submission. We think this is mainly because of the amount of options available. It’s easier for us to point them in the right direction than for them to understand all the products,” share Canady and Christiansen.
More Than Ink Printing’s motto is “we print everything but money, that’s what we save you.” Canaday and Christiansen are always searching for ways to educate customers, which allows them to quote and produce orders faster and more accurately. The W2P storefront from Ordant is one tool that helps them live up to that promise and their motto.
When executed correctly, W2P storefronts for both B2C and B2B clients can offer automation, efficiency, and more importantly—customer retention. In an age were customer loyalty is waning based on price and ease of accessibility, having an online portal to purchase print is alluring for many buyers.
Dec2019, Digital Output