VDP: Web-to-Print In the Real World
There is still a very traditional perception that printers will adopt Web-to-print once there is a customer demand for it. If printers don’t see the demand, they won’t make the investment. However, with the corporate world moving quickly toward Web-to-print, if printers wait until their individual customer bases are demanding it, the risk is that customers (enterprise clients, in particular) will have already brought the technology in-house.
This is not to say that deploying a full-fledged system capable of meeting the needs of even the most demanding customers is not without risk. Printers that have deployed these systems often express frustration that they are under-utilized, leaving them with a hefty bill and insufficient revenue to pay for it.
“Many large print buyers now require some form of Web-to-print in order to ‘qualify’ to respond to an RFP, but afterward, we learn that a high percentage of them don’t use it consistently or at all,” observes Hugh Griffin, vice president of marketing for Stuart F. Cooper Co., Los Angeles. “The reason usually given: ‘We have high turnover at the print ordering positions, and as fast as we get someone trained, he or she is gone.’ ”
Web-to-print has also suffered from behind-the-scenes buzz about unexpected costs. Sure, the price tag may be reasonable upfront, but by the time you invest in additional servers, more IT, programmers and new sales capabilities, you’re in much deeper than you anticipated. Because of the financial investment that many printers feel is required to do it “right,” many scale back to what they can afford. This often locks them into a system without sufficient functionality for long-term growth.
Writing on the Print Planet VDP forum, Ric Withers, co-owner of Wythken Printing, summarized the issue well: “The cost of purchasing, implementing and maintaining complex IT systems is beyond the reach of the vast majority of printing companies. Even if you can purchase the front-end Web components from a vendor, they’ll still require some customization (i.e., programmer’s time). The in-shop workflow automation piece will likely have to be completely customized (across multiple vendors, with likely new hardware and even more programmer’s time). And to be credible in the marketplace, you have to guarantee nearly 100 percent uptime, which means an investment in internal IT talent.”