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WEB-TO-PRINT — JUST BROWSING

April 2006 BY ERIK CAGLE
Senior Editor
THE ABILITY to order print-based communications via a Web browser has garnered steam in recent years, but it is hardly a snap-together concept. With the intent of making the procurement process quicker and easier, Web-to-print solutions can be tailored to meet customers’ varied needs. But the capability doesn’t come cheap.

The implementation process can be tedious and long for printers without a Web-to-print footprint. IT-savvy individuals, and possibly even programmers, must be hired; labor and software figure prominently into the equation. Throw in the time required to get an estimating system up to speed, and the investment, from a printer’s standpoint, is hardly inconsequential.

“Don’t give this service away to get the print, because the print margins are too small,” advises Mark Parent, president of Sugar Bush Media Solutions in Auburn Hills, MI. “There was a time when we gave away the typesetting and layout of a job, in some cases, to get the print orders. Those days should be in the past. Charge monthly fees for these services (Web-to-print); don’t give them away.”

Implementing a customized, multi-layered Web-to-print solution for a major client is not a plug-and-play process, notes Roy Grossman, president and CEO of Clifton, NJ-based Sandy Alexander. From initial overtures with a customer to creating a viable Website, he says the process takes anywhere from four months to a year for companies without a pre-existing solution.

“It’s very difficult to do it much quicker than that,” Grossman says. “The upfront costs are big, and you have to make the client a partner in that process. You can’t take that all on yourself; it has to be a shared expense. You can have $100,000 invested into the project in short order.”

Branching Out

Grossman points out that a major U.S. bank may have 6,000 branches in need of access to the site, which brings a multitude of requirements. Invariably, the hands-on people in the building stage of the solution are all IT in nature. And with such a major ramping-up investment of dollars and resources, the final product inextricably links client to printer, diminishing the possibility of losing the account.

The many facets of Web-to-print could fill an encyclopedia. Consolidated Graphics (CGX), headquartered in Houston, offers tools that manage, grow and effectively leverage databases across various media, including print, e-mail and the growing use of personalized Websites, according to Ryan Farris, president of CGXSolutions. Online ordering systems enable users to customize materials as needed and immediately execute their delivery, decreasing time to market.
 

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