The Shift to Online Printing

The Shift to Online Printing Post Header Imagery

In a recent study by Fleishman-Hillard Digital Research, researchers found that the Internet has roughly doubled the influence of the television and eight times the influence of traditional printed media. Instead of newspapers and magazines, people are turning to online publications for their information.  

Most print shops feel the pressure to adjust how they interact with customers and shift to online printing to keep up with this major shift in consumer influence in the print industry.  

In this blog post, we will share some insight into the Internet’s impact on the print industry, with a focus on web-to-print services and how technology is helping improve the customer experience.  

The Growth of Online Ordering and the New Customer Experience  

“If you are hard to do business with, you are making your customers’ lives harder.” (What They Think)  

Online ordering is no longer a nice to have in the printing industry; it’s an expectation. While some customers still prefer making these decisions over the phone, most people want the option of online channels. Whether they want to communicate via email, submit their artwork online, or manage their job through a self-service portal – it’s a matter of convenience, plain and simple.  

All types of professional printers, from commercial to packaging, have several touchpoints in the customer experience. From getting an estimate to final proofs to checking job statuses to final delivery – all of these touchpoints represent an interaction between you and your customer that can impact the outcome of a specific job and overall relationship. 

To achieve this added layer of convenience and gain more control over the print customer experience, print shops turn to online printing applications such as web-to-print software or eCommerce solutions.

What is Web-to-Print Software?     

Web-to-print technology is used to facilitate customer orders through an easy-to-use online interface. Instead of physically going into a print shop or waiting for a response from a rep, a customer can quickly and easily design templates, upload images, make approvals, or check job status on their own time. And with seamless integration between mobile and desktop environments, they can use this self-service portal from anywhere.  

Web-to-print software has been around since the late 90s, as eCommerce became more common. Back then, the software was expensive due to the high cost of owning and maintaining hardware. Thanks to recent innovations in the cloud, web-to-print systems are much more accessible and advanced than its predecessors. Today, print shops can purchase web-to-print software with storefront design, order management, and seamless integration with third-party tools such as payment gateways, management information systems (MIS), and supply chain solutions. 

Key Benefits of Web-to-Print Technology   

To meet the demands of today’s digital savvy consumers, print shops need an effective online storefront for customers to select, customize, and order print projects. By giving your customers more access to data and control over their print jobs, you enhance the customer experience and open the door to a ton of opportunities. Opportunities that will earn you repeat customers and increase the efficiency of your own users and provide new revenue streams.  

Here are some of the benefits that web-to-print software is having on print shops of all specialties around the world:   

  • Drastic time savings by making print jobs more accessible and faster for customers  
  • Optimized user productivity and resource capacity  
  • Automated order management for reduced errors and turnaround time 
  • Streamlined production with more time allocated towards the final product  
  • Drastic time savings by making print jobs more accessible and faster for customers  
  • Optimized user productivity and resource capacity  
  • Automated order management for reduced errors and turnaround time 
  • Streamlined production with more time allocated towards the final product  

Web-to-Print Technical Requirements   

Now that you can see the importance of setting up an online presence and processing orders online let’s talk about some of the technical requirements you should look for in a web-to-print solution.  

With today’s modern open web-to-print solutions, it is easier and more affordable than ever before to adopt new technology and set your print shop apart from its competitors. But before you get started, it’s important to remember that the software you select will significantly impact your success in this new territory. The web-to-print solution you choose needs to include the ability for your customers to create and order their own projects online, but also:  

  1. Integrate with your supply chain, so that customer orders are fulfilled with available inventory and not delayed due to a stock shortage. 
  1. Manage orders from estimate to delivery, including tracking order statuses as they are pushed to production and automatically generating invoices and shipping labels for completed orders.  
  1. Support Job Definition Format (or JDF) to communicate effectively with print machinery and bridge data from administration and production.  
  1. Automate order approval workflows to connect all parts of print production.   
  1. Provide an easy to use interface for both customers and users. 
  1. Offer a single platform to unify and manage the front-end (i.e., user interface) and back-end (i.e., application and database) of your printing operations.  

The purpose of web-to-print technology is to expand your print business. To do that successfully, the software you decide on should fit your entire print operation and not exist separately. You can try to leverage your existing infrastructure, or you can choose a print business application with the ability to manage everything on one centralized platform. PrintVis, for example, is a cloud-based, all-in-one core business application built for the print industry that integrates with almost any web-to-print solution. Print shops that use PrintVis can continue their day-to-day production while extending into the online world without any disruptions to the business.  

Enable Digital Ordering with Print MIS and ERP Software  

By creating a simple and efficient print ordering process for your customers, you can make the overall customer experience much more productive and reap the time-saving and cost-saving rewards that come with it. While there are many powerful web-to-print solutions out there, one of the more strategic options is to choose a flexible print management information system (MIS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) application that brings your entire business and online shop together in one system.  

To learn more about print MIS technology and how it can help you meet digital demands, read more in our Introduction to Print MIS white paper.