Improving the Customer Experience in Web-to-Print

Savvy print service providers (PSPs) are reaping the benefits of adopting web-to-print solutions. According to Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends’ research on web-to-print, about 82% of PSPs report that web-to-print is critical for their businesses, and 87% believe that web-to-print has made their operations more efficient. What makes web-to-print so important? For starters, the internet has revolutionized the way that all companies conduct business and the printing industry is no exception. To thrive in today’s digitally-connected business world, PSPs must invest in technologies and processes that enable customers to order and track jobs online.

Web portals enable streamlined interaction between you and your customers. These online tools provide a way for all users to submit jobs regardless of whether they are in the office, at home, on their cell phones, or halfway around the world. The time-consuming aspect of back-and-forth communication between you and your customer is eliminated. Important job milestones can be pushed to the customer via e-mail or text message, or pulled from a website. These notifications can alert customers about necessary changes, job completion, or shipping to an external location.

In addition to benefiting customers, the ability to track projects can have a positive impact on your production team. By reducing the time spent working with customers, employees can focus on more productive tasks, such as editing/designing new jobs and managing higher-value projects. Rather than notifying customers about mundane job information, workers can communicate with them about adding incremental value to printed campaigns, while also promoting new products and services. Automated job tracking also lends itself to more efficient scheduling, reducing the amount of downtime that commonly results from confusion or unexpected delays.

More and more PSPs are investing in web-to-print solutions — the internet-based tools that offer e-commerce, collaboration, and/or customer service interaction between buyers and sellers of print — to better serve customers and automate workflows. Most commercial printers have implemented an online storefront that enables customers to order, submit, and track jobs. These businesses expect the volume of print ordered via their web-to-print portals to grow by 70% over the next two years.

In addition to being a demand of today’s customers, online ordering and job management is an important component of automating the production process and driving enhanced manufacturing efficiency within your print shop. A common practice of highly efficient printing firms is maximizing technological investments to reduce production costs, strengthen customer relationships, and increase profitability for production volumes. Web-to-print solutions come in many shapes and sizes and can be integrated into various workflows. Some common features from solutions like Océ PRISMAdirect® Webshop and EFI-Digital StoreFront include:

  • Customizable storefronts
  • Personalized order overviews and trackability
  • Built-in (WYSIWYG) soft-proofs to enable online approval
  • Easy-to-use VDP templates
  • Multiple payment options and invoicing capabilities
  • The ability to automate file preparation and document make-ready processes

By integrating a storefront into a workflow solution such as PRISMAdirect, you can simplify and standardize the job onboarding process. Jobs originate from many sources but are systematically funneled into one production workflow. Today, a web-to-print solution doesn’t just facilitate the file submission from the customer to your print shop — it should link to your entire production operation to reduce errors and optimize efficiencies. These solutions are integral to workflow automation and encompass the entire production process, including preflighting and color corrections, proofing, online payment, and online shipping.

Print providers that implement web-to-print systems typically experience the following key benefits:

Automated Ordering and Delivery

Web-to-print enables 24/7 order submission and is the first step towards a “lights out” manufacturing workflow, and it helps firms reduce the cost of extensive order handling. These systems automate ordering and enable jobs to be routed based on a number of factors, including print dimensions, quantity, finishing type, and rush job requirements.

Centralized Job Tracking and Reporting

Web-to-print enables a centralized job administration or tracking status at any point in the process, and these systems can generate reports including shipping, number/type of orders, peak order times, turnaround times, and in-stock inventory.

Expanded Geographic Reach and Increased Hours of Operation

Web-to-print solutions offer customers 24/7 ordering access from any location with internet connectivity. While they are commonly tied to a digital printing system, your web-to-print solution can also be used to sell offerings such as offset printing, promotional items, marketing campaigns, and kitting and fulfillment.

Improved Customer Relations

Automating workflow steps with customer notifications provides personalized service without the dedicated personnel. Automated email notifications confirm order receipt, forward soft-proofs for approval, drive clients to web portal for acceptance of quotes, notifies of order printing and shipment status and expected delivery. Integrating buyer information via Customer Communication Management Systems provides data on buy habits and history to allow for upselling and targeted suggested add-ons.

Improved Cash Flow

Online ordering systems can also improve your business’ cash flow, as payment for orders can be charged to a customer’s credit card. Invoicing payments is also an option, and some solutions will integrate seamlessly with your MIS to automate the billing process.

The growth opportunities that web-to-print enables range from increased capacity with the same staffing and equipment to expanding your geographic footprint.

According to InfoTrends’ research, most large PSPs are already conducting business via the web, and many are focusing their efforts on extending the range of products and services that customers can order online. A number of larger print providers are offering personalization and cross-media capabilities, and are expanding into fulfillment and digital media services. The next priority is to provide customers with access to these services via mobile devices.

Smaller PSPs are also seeking to expand their online capabilities. While smaller providers often lack the resources necessary to fully execute their online initiatives, the availability of turnkey software-as-a-service-based web-to-print solutions, coupled with vendors providing advisory business development and professional services, is enabling these organizations to provide a robust e-commerce experience to their print buyers.

These benefits can have a positive impact on your print operation. In a time when PSPs of all types are challenged to provide more value-added services to customers, web-to-print clearly has a valuable role as a mainstream business requirement. As the role of the internet becomes more prominent in all facets of our lives, printers might find it increasingly difficult to conduct business without web-to-print in the future.