VDP: Web-to-Print In the Real World
Adding to these concerns is the need to continually upgrade and add features as customer needs change and new applications are developed. Also writing on the Print Planet forum, Griffin of Stuart F. Cooper Co. observes: “Differentiation is the key to survival for virtually all commercial printers, and many of us have (and have had since at least the mid-’90s) multiple iterations of Web-to-print. Yes, the big and continuing costs are to keep creating custom features for new and diverging customers—not the initial costs of getting into it. Over time, doing this on an outsource basis proved too slow/costly. We found we had to master it in-house to even begin to meet the need for speed.”
Printers may also find themselves facing other issues, such as the need to ensure the financial security and confidentiality of customer data and a variety of other problems such as Spim, Spam, DDoS attacks, data hacking and more. For this reason, some Web-to-print providers feel the need to operate these services on a parallel network with its own servers and firewalls, with main operating databases entirely separate from e-commerce systems (customer histories, real-time production tracking/shipping data, accounting and billing functions, supplies ordering and other vital data). This translates into even greater cost.
Not all customers will require the highest levels of functionality, of course. Small- and mid-sized businesses, in particular, tend to be less fussy. But if a printer does not implement a full-blown system, can it justify that investment based on the volumes of these businesses alone?
The ability to balance current and future needs adds another layer to the challenge. Whether printers are looking at an entry-level system or a full-blown proprietary one, they often can’t fully anticipate all that a successful rollout will entail. The fear is that they will end up locked into systems that, in the long term, will not meet their needs.