Web-to-Print Strategies for Large-Format Printers
By Rick Mandel
Many of us spend hours in conference rooms discussing new products that we hope will differentiate us from competitors. The reality is that being a large-format printer isn’t unique and it won’t keep your good customers from looking around. However, if you’re able to present opportunities to clients that address the goals of their marketing teams, then you have something exciting to offer.
Web-to-print (WTP) solutions may be the ticket you’ve been looking for in providing a service that truly adds value. These web portals address three specific needs that are critical to every brand owner: protecting the brand, ensuring graphic consistency, and getting the most mileage from brand assets. Done well, WTP portals provide better control for the marketer in the design process while suggesting new ways to employ their brand images—content in which they have invested millions of dollars.
These web portals change the purchasing dynamics from the classic model of “bid, transfer file, proof, and print” to something much more interesting and interactive. In its simplest form, a WTP system is a storefront or online ordering site that allows customers to purchase specific items in whatever quantity they need. They fill in job information, get a quote, and pay. An artist who offers reproductions of his work from an online ordering site and prints them on demand would be a simple example of a zero-inventory, seamless operation enabled by WTP technology.
At the other end of the spectrum, a more ambitious WTP site would allow customers to choose from design templates, upload and modify their own files, input data for any variable fields, and submit their orders with the ability to come back later and check the job status. This model tends to be used in the direct-mail industry, where the variable data involves addresses and personalized promotional pieces. In our industry, the variable fields are more likely to be design templates with choices for customizing graphics such as banners.
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