Commercial Convergence: Expanding Into Wide-Format
In the “Printing Business Indicators/Product Markets Survey,” conducted by NAPCO Media Research and PRINTING United Alliance, one finding stands out starkly: half of the opportunities that commercial establishments are watching carefully all fall within the wide-format printing space. Building graphics, POP/display graphics, vehicle wraps, compliance and safety signage, window graphics, and fleet graphics all make the list of verticals commercial printers across the country are either already starting to offer or are strongly considering adopting.
One of the big trends driving this push for wide-format includes travel and commuting. A “Harris Insights & Analytics” survey found that while just 45% of workers were commuting to work daily in the winter of 2021 — with another 26% beginning a hybrid approach of commuting and working from home — those numbers are shifting dramatically, with more than half of workers either back to the office full time, or working in a hybrid environment.
On the travel side of the equation, that same survey found that 72% of Americans planned some form of travel in 2022, with pent-up demand leading many to expect record numbers before the year is out. More than half (55%) expect to do that travel via airplane, which means people are venturing far outside of their pandemic bubbles, opening up a great deal of opportunity for printers capable of producing signage of all types.
OOH, or out-of-home, signage in particular will be a popular format for brands of all types and sizes looking to capture the attention of all of these travelers. OOH signage includes everything from advertisements on the sides of buses, to graphics in transit stations, to banners in airports, and more. The opportunity here is as endless as the creativity of the brands and printers who serve them.
And the opportunity goes beyond those traveling far from home, as well. In-person visits to places like grocery stores, retail outlets, restaurants, and pharmacies — to name a few — are all expected to surge as people get out and interact with others more. And every single one of these places is a chance for a brand — and their print provider — to offer eye-catching signage and marketing materials produced on wide-format equipment.
That said, research has shown that some COVID behaviors aren’t going to go away any time soon. Online shopping is now a permanent part of the retail landscape, which means brands are looking to create unique experiences for those who do venture into brick-and-mortar locations. This type of immersive and interactive experience pulls from a wide range of mediums that all work together, including everything from mobile apps, to digital signage, to print and graphics. For a commercial printer, this is a strong opportunity to become a “one-stop shop” with the ability to produce every piece of a campaign, rather than just contract out for a small portion.
Other trends driving the explosive growth expected in wide-format graphics in general include a push for sustainability coming from consumers and brands; privacy concerns as consumers get more serious about their data and how it is used in online and mobile platforms; the demand for personalization, with everything from interior décor, to vehicle graphics, to apparel as fair game when it comes to offering consumers the chance to make something their own; and finally safety and compliance aren’t going to disappear any time soon, even as the worst of the pandemic seems to finally be behind us.
Wide-format printing is diverse, with a range of sizes, both roll-fed and flatbed options — as well as hybrid equipment that offers both — and various inksets that each offer their own unique challenges and opportunities. For commercial printers willing to spend some time researching the options and making strategic investments, it is a lucrative space that can bring in higher-margin work, with larger profits and more diverse customers. The opportunity is waiting for those willing to take the plunge.