Web-to-Print — The W2P Controversy

IN THIS political season, it’s all about watching the front-runners. Front-runners have the buzz. They get the attention. They have the sense of inevitability. In the world of commercial printing applications, it could be argued that the role of front-runner has been taken by Web-to-print (W2P). Move over 1:1 printing—since personalization has become sufficiently entrenched, the excitement mantle has now transferred to the W2P up-and-comer.

Not that W2P is new, but new in its current implementation.

But W2P has its share of controversy. It has been suggested that W2P is not taking hold the way the buzz would suggest. In fact, it has been suggested that, perhaps, printers should not be as quick to embrace these applications as the industry buzz would suggest. That has led to a backlash of criticism. After all, doesn’t everyone know that W2P is the way of the future? This is the way clients’ print and document management models are moving. Don’t printers that “lag” behind risk financial ruin?

It is true that, among very large corporate clients, adoption is rapid. According to The Industry Measure (Printing 26), among printers with 50-plus employees, 50 percent offer some kind of W2P solution, which is defined as static print/online store, site for creation of customizable/personalizable print jobs, or site for creation and distribution of advertising. These shops have large corporate customers for whom W2P provides clear bottom-line benefits. The cost efficiencies created in these environments are not in dispute. If printers serving these customer bases don’t deploy these systems, chances are, their customers will.

But the benefits (and urgency) for small- and mid-sized printers are much less clear.

According to The Industry Measure, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of printing and prepress firms have the ability to offer W2P. This doesn’t mean they are actively deploying these applications; it just means they have purchased them. This number is identical to the percentage who gave this answer six months ago and is down 2 percent from one year earlier. So W2P reached a significant level of penetration 18 months ago but, according to this data, it has not grown since.

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