Web-to-Print : Finding the Right Solution

Julie Shaffer is vice president, digital technologies, at Printing Industries of America.

Online “do-it-yourself” book publishers like Lulu.com and business-to-consumer sites like PrintingforLess.com fall into this category, as do sites selling specific printed products, like labels or buttons. Most Web-to-print solutions offer a storefront-style user interface, so it is hard to narrow down potential vendors in this category.

Marketing/Brand Management: While these, too, are typically e-commerce storefronts, the distinction in this category is that they are built and branded for a specific organization or purpose, not the print service provider. Brand management means just that; sites usually provide templates in which artwork, with color and usage, is managed, helping marketing departments manage their brand more easily than could be done otherwise.

Centralized billing and reporting on how users are spending their print dollars is a major benefit of these types of solutions. Cross-media marketing campaigns and online dashboard management are large and growing components of Web solutions that support marketing programs. Storefronts that allow the purchase of specific products for a campaign, like photo books for pictures of a charity 10K race or a fund-raising event, are also great examples of marketing-oriented Web-to-print solutions. A shop can offer multiple storefronts for different customers or specific products or even one-time events.

Document Management: A self-service Web storefront is perfect to let users order job reprints, and manage on-shelf product inventory and shipping. There is a great deal of crossover between this category and branded storefronts. Look for those that offer true fulfillment capabilities, such that shipping departments receive instructions direct from customers, and reorders can be placed to replenish stock by an authorized user based on preestablished rules and conditions.

If you’re managing stored product inventory, it’s imperative that the storefront accurately reflects the right amount of product on the shelf, so ties into the inventory and MIS solutions are pretty important here, too.

Julie Shaffer is Vice President, Digital Technologies at Printing Industries of America. She heads up the Digital Printing Council (DPC), as well as the Center for Digital Printing Excellence at Printing Industries headquarters in Sewickley, PA. In her position, Julie plays a lead role in developing programs and tools to help members grow their businesses with digital technologies.

Known for her graphic production expertise, Julie has a 20-plus year background in pre-media and print. She is often called upon for training, presentations and to provide on-site consulting throughout the industry on diverse range of topics, including PDF, color management, digital printing, social media and Web-to-print implementation. Julie is co-author of several books, including "The PDF Print Production Guide" (1st, 2nd and 3rd edition), the "Web-to-Print Primer" and the forthcoming "Field Guide to Social Media."

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