Web-to-Print: Easy Does It for Customers

Mimeo.com’s template for poster ordering and file download interface.

Interface for ordering custom invitations and envelopes from Envelopes.com.

For the inevitable customer stumble, Mimeo.com offers live chats and an 800-number to ease the online shopping process.

If you think being a commercial printer is difficult, well, that’s nothing compared to being an online-only printing company. Those guys really have to battle in order to survive.

Uttering the preceding statements in a room full of printers would likely elicit a barrage of rotten fruits and vegetables. Sometimes there is truth in seemingly outrageous statements, however, or at least perspective.

The Internet is teeming with low-priced printing offers from firms serving both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) clientele. For example, do a Google search for “brochure printing.” Now, imagine operating as an online-only printer, hanging your hat on being one of the first 50 search results yielded. Cold calling sales doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

Yes, our tongues are firmly planted in-cheek. Online printers either learned, or knew, what traditional print providers had discovered long ago: Competition is tough, regardless of where business is conducted. Technology, including the Internet, has only raised the stakes and—coupled with the brutal economic conditions of the past five years—helped to thin out the printer herd.

Point of Differentiation

The survivors aren’t the “marketing service providers;” they are the differentiators who set themselves apart from the herd. A Web-to-print (W2P) workflow is a prime vehicle to achieve separation from competitors, whether for wrangling in new customers just surfing through or enabling long-term clientele to order customized marketing collateral through a password-protected interface.

New York-based Mimeo.com is one of the first online printing companies, having debuted in 1998. It offers an array of documents—presentations, manuals, brochures, booklets, flyers, posters, newsletters and rack cards/postcards—to corporate clients on a non-contractual basis. Thus, the firm has a unique perspective on the concept of online ordering interfaces. And, according to Chuck Gehman, vice president of product platforms, W2P is an ongoing quest for the perfect beast.

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