Print Buyer Behaviors Impact Printers and Suppliers

Changes in print buyer behaviors have trickle down effects on all participants in the graphic communications industry. In the past, most print buying was a ‘local’ activity, mainly supported by ‘local’ or ‘regional’ print firms who, in turn, were supported by ‘local’ dealers or distributors. The Internet and customer-facing web portals have exacted game-changing impacts on all participants in the graphic communications industry.

The changing dynamics of sourcing behavior prompted PRIMIR to commission Sherburne & Associates, in partnership with Print Buyers International, to evaluate the changing roles and practices of ‘print originators’ (from 2003 through 2013) to establish impacts throughout the print value chain. For the purposes of the study, a print originator is a marketer or a dedicated print buyer.

The study found that many print buyers are seasoned, tenured professionals who have a passion for print, understand the technologies, are involved in peer networks to stay abreast of the industry, and have long-standing relationships with their printers. On the down side, however, many of these individuals are viewed by their management as ‘print centric’ and are often not involved in the upstream marketing decision about which media to use for a campaign.

As the current economic crisis exacts its toll on corporations across the globe, the research team found that many of these ‘print buyer’ roles are being eliminated.

The media purchasing responsibility then shifts to the marketing departments—often to individuals who are not savvy about print media, who are much younger, and who likely favor alternative electronic media. This alone has far-reaching implications for members of PRIMIR and NPES, with print volume already in a decline before the recent economic turmoil.

With the responsibility for print buying moving to the marketing department or to various business-line managers, it is increasingly difficult for the print sales representative to find the individual responsible for making those decisions. These new buyers need education as to the value proposition of print, when to use print-on-demand, opportunities from variable data promotions, and more. Out of sight, out of mind, print stands to lose even more market share. These new buyers perceive newer online media as ‘free’ or at least less costly than print—with no real data to support the actual ROI of that medium.

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