Why printers need to adapt to the digital world

Digital printing may be a new frontier for many print businesses, but those who embrace it are able to better customise and personalise their offerings for customers.

Digital printing may be a new frontier for many print businesses, but those who embrace it are able to better customise and personalise their offerings for customers.

We all love the offset press but there’s no denying it’s under pressure from the latest advances in digital printing. And it’s not just a question of technology – the market for print is changing too.

Print customers are looking for more personalised products, with innovative solutions produced in small batches becoming more and more common. Digital printers have a natural advantage here, being able to print on an ever-increasing array of media and being economically suited to small-run jobs.

In fact, InfoTrends, in its 2012-17 US Digital Production Printing Application Forecast, predicted a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.2 per cent over its five-year span across 28 specific segments – including promotional, publishing, transactional, packaging, utility, consumer and general office printing – with digital print predicted to far outpace that growth rate.

Digital production of books, direct mail, magazines, catalogues and brochures is expected to grow; digital colour page impressions is expected to grow at 14.2 per cent CAGR over the span, according to InfoTrends.

Print is not dead, digital key to its growth

We’re accustomed to hearing that ‘print is dead’, but it is far from the truth. Print is still a key medium for customer engagement – the IDC Asia/Pacific C-suite Barometer 2015 saw more than half (53 per cent) of respondents agree that print and TV is a key platform for customer engagement. This integrated marketing approach is still driving the demand for print.

“The average customer looks at a piece of electronic media for about 1.3 seconds usually as they’re reaching for the ‘delete’ button,” says Gateway Printing’s director Richard King. “But they look at printed media multiple times, for an average of 12.9 seconds. You can touch it and hold it.”

Gateway Printing is a print, design, signage and marketing shop based in Perth, Western Australia, offering a one-stop shop for design, signage, printing and more. With experience in retail, marketing, shop signage, and online service delivery as well as in print and design, the Gateway Printing team initially embraced digital technology as a cost-effective way to grow into signage, packaging and wide-format printing.

Using digital technology, Gateway Printing can offer customers cost-effective small runs of jobs that wouldn’t be economic at a bigger operator. They use a Oce 2500L ProCut Digital Cutting Table to produce items such as custom-designed coasters and gift boxes, with personalised printing (such as names and other personal information) on a variety of media.

Make it personal, make it permanent

More personalisation means more value for customers because it helps forge stronger connections and deeper relationships. The ability to design and produce small runs of custom jobs can be a major growth driver for printers.

Gateway’s wide-format printing capabilities, for example, have seen them move more strongly into shop and business signage. Using an Océ Arizona 480 GT UV flatbed printer, Gateway has the ability to print on a broad range of materials including ‘reboard’ – a sturdy recycled cardboard product that’s similar, performance-wise, to MDF – which has been a boom.

“We can make stands and installations that are re-usable,” King says. “So we can just print new vinyls and our customers can re-skin them for a new event or fit-out.”

Cost-effective customisation

Gateway does plenty of more conventional print jobs, too. Again, customisation in smaller batches is a key offering that’s been made possible by the imagePRESS C7010VPS digital press. They can custom-design and produce books, brochures, stationery, posters, stickers, magnets and more, easily.

One recent job saw Gateway print 2000 copies of a 350-page manual. The job was in full colour and included drilling the pages for a binder and inserting tabbed dividers between sections. The printer gave them the finished work and all operators had to do is put it into a ring binder.

It’s this kind of flexibility that’s winning customers and bringing in new business for many printers. It does take some investment in time and money for new print technologies and processes to start producing value, but meeting customers’ high standards is invaluable. Gateway’s digital business has allowed them to have an edge over competitors as they are able to cater to more personalised needs, as well as still offering the longer offset printing option when needed.

For Richard King, who has made the transition to digital for his business, says the biggest lesson he has learned – and the best advice he can give any business that’s looking to make a similar transition – is to partner up with another business and use their resources prior to making the large capital investment of new equipment. Once you have sufficient regular work coming in its time to push play on the new equipment.

“Thanks to our digital set-up and in-house capabilities we can offer our clients service, advice, new concepts and ideas their own teams might not be aware of,” he says. “It’s transformed our business to be a one stop shop.”

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