Improving the Customer Experience and Operational Efficiencies with 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 (commercial and in-plant) 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 (whether transactional, direct mail, or corporate), you must invest in technologies and processes that enable customers to order and track jobs online.

For in-plants, web portals enable streamlined interaction between you and your entire organization. Web-to-print allows you to promote your services throughout the corporation. You can offer greater brand and accounting control by centralizing printing and keeping jobs in house. In addition to benefiting customers, the ability to track projects and costs can have a positive impact on your production team and your corporation’s bottom line. 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.

To thrive in today’s digitally-connected business world you must invest in technologies and processes that enable customers to order and track jobs online.

More and more printing operations 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. In addition to being a demand of today’s customers, online ordering and job management is an important component for 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 RSA WebCRD include:

  • Corporate or department-specific storefronts with custom pricing
  • Personalized order overviews and trackability
  • Built-in soft proofs (WYSIWYG) to enable online approval
  • Multiple payment options like department cost centers and invoicing capabilities, as well as approval options for departmental billing
  • The ability to automate file preparation and document make-ready processes
  • Support for enterprise authentication and integration with enterprise applications
  • SSL support for secure ordering via corporate intranets

By integrating a catalog of corporate print products into a workflow solution such as Océ PRISMAdirect, you can simplify and standardize the job onboarding process. Jobs originate from many sources, but they 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, online shipping, and inventory management.

Direct Mail Solutions

The primary differences between web-to-print solutions for commercial and in-plant environments relate to application support and payments. In-plants produce work for the institutions that they are part of. Typical jobs include presentations, brochures, corporate stationary and business cards, promotional items, and training manuals. For them, ad-hoc job submission is often a required function. There is also a bigger need for native support of application files, such as Microsoft Office. Furthermore, web-to-print solutions within in-plants have different pricing and invoicing requirements (for example, print jobs need to be validated against a predetermined budget and may require multiple levels of approvals). Integration with Windows log-on (LDAP) is often helpful as it reduces the need for users to log onto the system, and integration with workflow solutions that are run on departmental office printers is sometimes needed. This can also be used to route large documents to a central print facility. Print providers that implement web-to-print systems in an in-plant typically experience the following key benefits:

  • Cut business collateral costs and reduce turnaround times
  • Create service offerings for printed materials that support the organization and allow other employees to focus on their core jobs
  • Save the corporation money by bringing print services in-house
  • Reduce headcount by removing touches and automating processes
  • Increase relevancy of the print center, gain executive-level exposure
  • Reposition the in-plant operation as an essential service

According to InfoTrends’ research, most large print shops 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, including fulfillment and digital media services. The next priority is to provide customers with access to these services via mobile devices.

Smaller in-house print shops 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.

The growth opportunities that web-to-print enables range from increased capacity with the same staffing and equipment to expanding your geographic footprint. These benefits can have a positive impact on your print operation. In a time when printers 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, you might find it increasingly difficult to conduct business without web-to-print in the future.