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Common Mistakes To Avoid in Implementing Web-to-Print

     With the advent of hosted or 'software as a service' options for web-to-print (W2P), many of the financial and technical obstacles that may have discouraged smaller print service providers have been removed. But W2P implementations can still fail, for a variety of business-related reasons that have nothing to do with the technology or its pricing.

Now that W2P has been around for a number of years, the experience of those early adopters who tried but failed with W2P can be put to your advantage. Of those who have attempted to add W2P but were not able to make it a success, the failure can usually be traced to one or more common errors or oversights.

Inadequate development and marketing:

The adage 'fail to plan, plan to fail' is entirely appropriate to web-to-print. Three reasons for implementing W2P are to win new customers, to retain existing customers and to improve internal production efficiency. The first two of these relate directly to customers and so must involve the sales function within the print service provider's organisation. Implementing W2P therefore requires more than managing the technical aspects of an online job creation or file receipt portal.

As a sales tool, W2P is qualitatively different to any other because it can bring the work directly into the production system, so its planning requires input and commitment from management, sales and production staff. However, management may view W2P installation as a purely technical or software issue, while sales staff may see it as a threat to their jobs and so fail to promote or even mention it to their customers.

As well as needing to be 'sold' within the print service provider's organisation, a W2P service needs to be marketed to customers, both new and existing. 'Build it and they will come' does not work; the internet is crowded and customers will need a good reason to even look at a W2P portal, let alone buy from it.

Wrong type of customer:

Many print service providers operate in a business-to-business environment with regular returning customers. One of the early lures of W2P was the possibility of attracting consumer business, which would require a re-focusing of the printer's business toward consumer sales, unfamiliar territory for the majority of printers. While there have been some spectacular success stories in that sector, business-to-business orientated print service providers need to understand that consumers mostly make one-off impulse purchases and will typically buy on price or speed of turnaround only.

With little or no production knowledge, it's very likely that any files that consumers submit will require manual correction for production purposes, which can quickly erode the thin margins necessary for competitive pricing. For the same reason, consumers are highly intolerant of printers raising queries, requesting corrected artwork or attempting to charge extra for corrections.

Wrong type of work:

Even in a business-to-business environment and with comparatively experienced print buyers, simple stock items and template-based jobs are the easiest to manage successfully via W2P. Ad-hoc customer uploads are the most likely to need additional manual intervention, which means lost margin for the printer as this extra work is often not correctly accounted-for.

Even template-based W2P with fixed format and production specifications and only text or image content varying may need careful set-up and possibly integrating with existing digital asset management (DAM) systems or pre-flighting tools to ensure that jobs created via a W2P portal can progress through to production with minimal manual intervention.

'Web to nowhere':

If there is no integration between the W2P portal, the printer's MIS/ERP and production workflow then manual procedures will be required to fetch jobs, log and schedule them and progress them into pre-flighting, proofing and production. Since it's necessary to establish all the key production parameters of a job at the point of ordering, an inability to pass this information automatically into the printer's management and production systems allows delays to arise and errors to be made, as well as adding the costs of manual order processing and job progression.

Some W2P products provide only the customer-facing online 'shop', leaving the back-office integration to the customer. Many small- to medium-sized printers' internal IT resources are inadequate to tackle bespoke integration of this kind and they will often lack either budget or confidence to hire consultants. Experience has also shown that the do-it-yourself route imposes a considerable on-going maintenance and development burden.

Integration of W2P with MIS and production systems will be discussed in more detail in later articles in this series. But before considering that in detail, some time spent thinking about how and where an online sales portal fits into an existing or planned business should allow the type of strategic errors described here to be avoided.

Article Source:

This article is an extract from 'Making web-to-print work', a free white paper from EFI written by UK technology writer Michael Walker that outlines the mistakes made by early web-to-print users and explains how this experience can be used to ensure that current implementations maximise the potential of online sales and job capture through automation and integration.

Posted on 2014-09-14, By: *

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Note: The content of this article solely conveys the opinion of its author.

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