VDP: Web-to-Print In the Real World

• Personalized one-to-one documents, whether printed in volumes or as one-offs (like sales followups).

Even this narrowed definition, however, leaves room for tremendous variation. This has been part of the challenge. Let’s look at the most common issues that, according to printers, are impacting their decision to invest or not invest in Web-to-print.

The sheer scope of Web-to-print, and the variability with which printers must contend, is a major hurdle to investment.

What is the extent of the functionality that users require? How much flexibility must printers build into the system to accommodate future, as well as current, needs? What if their client base changes? What is the balance between anticipating future needs and what they can afford to invest now? What if printers need additional capabilities down the road, but because they already sunk so much into their existing system, they can’t afford to expand or upgrade?

Even taking the “wait and see” approach carries a high level of risk. Printers could wait to see how things play out, but in the meantime, others are deploying systems and stealing customers. What customers they aren’t stealing—particularly enterprise customers—are looking into deploying their own Web-to-print systems.

Do printers jump in now, trying to catch those high-volume users before they go in-house? Or do they risk making a large investment in a highly functional system, only to lose those customers in a few years to in-house deployment anyway?

This is quite a conundrum. Clearly, business is moving to the Web. Customers are looking to centralize management and ordering of their printed documents. Business is moving toward customization and personalization, which is vastly enabled by Web-to-print. And yet, the uncertainty associated with this investment can result in a business paralysis.

Particularly from an e-storefront perspective, printers aren’t anxious to further commoditize an already commoditized business. A simple e-storefront is the easiest Web-to-print application to get into, but it also carries the lowest margins.

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