Key Takeaways from the Inkjet Summit Advisory Board
Key Takeaways from the Inkjet Summit Advisory Board
Inkjet Summit Advisory Board members Marco Boer, IT Strategies; Barbara Pellow, InfoTrends; Elizabeth Gooding, Gooding Communications Group; and Skip Henk, Xplor International, provide key takeaway points from the Inkjet Summit 2016:
Marco Boer on How Production Inkjet Is Changing the Book Manufacturing and Publishing Markets
In North America, printed books have faced the “perfect storm” of challenges during the last decade. From electronic publishing to a shift in leisure activities to the economic recession topped by a dramatic shake-up of the book reseller channel as a result of Internet retail, the net result has been a 25%+ decline in printed book pages during the past decade.
But there is a silver lining. As overall run lengths have declined, more titles “fit” with digital print run capabilities, especially with the adoption of high-speed production inkjet printers. Printing books digitally, just in time, has allowed a dramatic reduction in waste and inventory, freeing up cash for publishers to more aggressively promote new titles and authors, resulting in resurgence of sales. In fact, 2015 was the first year in many that several major publishers saw an increase in printed book sales.
Add on top of that the continuing growth of self-publishing (enabled in large part by Amazon’s easy-to-access distribution), and things are looking better for those book printer/manufacturers that have embarked on a digital printing strategy.
IT Strategies estimates about 6% of all book pages were printed digitally worldwide, with digital print’s share projected to double by 2019. Any book printer/manufacturer considering deploying production inkjet printing to benefit from this growing segment of the book publishing market (note: in the United States, e-book sales growth has flattened) needs to take a hard look at their infrastructure before taking the leap into mass-volume digital printing.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the focus should not initially be on digital printing technology but rather the benefits that the technology will enable. To successfully and profitably deploy production inkjet technology, one needs to take a hard look at the existing workflow and infrastructure.
How will you handle (order entry, finishing, shipping) significantly more orders consisting of smaller runs? What is the best way to get your existing customers to recognize the benefits of a change in workflow and infrastructure, especially when you have to tell publishers the cost/book is likely to increase in exchange for greater overall efficiency and profits?
It is still stormy in the book printing industry, but the skies are clearing and there was no better place than the 2016 Inkjet Summit for attendees to share and learn about the journey to digital book printing.
Barb Pellow on Why Data Is at the Heart of Business Success for Direct Mail Service Providers
As marketers seek techniques to create effective direct mail, technologies, such as high-speed, full-color inkjet, are creating opportunities to produce personalized and customized direct mail pieces that will truly capture consumers’ attention. At the 2016 Inkjet Summit, the importance of data was a key area of focus. Data-driven marketers want to get the right message in front of the right audience, at the right time, to drive the right [desired] consumer behavior. It’s not about obtaining more data, but about capturing data that can drive business decisions.
Harte Hanks’ Rick Kegley discussed how good data capabilities were integral to effectively leveraging advanced digital printing capabilities. As senior VP and GM of Harte Hanks, Kegley is uniquely positioned to share how a worldwide direct and targeted marketing company can quickly and economically deliver variable content. Kegley notes, “During effective campaigns, marketing service providers will continually work with customers to define and then refine their target audiences and messages for optimal response.”
According to Kegley, data analysis fuels growth. “It identifies the things that motivate current customers to act, while also pinpointing where and how to reach new ones,” he elaborates.
“To be effective, though, the data must be cleansed, enriched and translated into actionable insights that drive customers to click, call, buy or otherwise act. You must work with the customer to capture their data, understand it, augment it with additional lists and then apply it.”
Kegley continues, “If you want to be truly successful in this market, you must have good data skills and understand how to map that data. Prepress competency and the ability to design for inkjet are also critical. You need to be prepared to educate your customers on the value of variability rather than placing a very strict focus on color. Be mindful that effective campaigns integrate all channels, and make sure you’re able to deal with the digital dynamics. Most importantly, find a way to deliver ROI to your clients!”
For direct mail service providers, the most important takeaway from the Inkjet Summit was the need to help marketers embrace data to deliver a relevant message. This means implementing the right resources to work with clients on understanding the data they have and identifying the data points that will drive more relevance to ultimately engage the customer.
Today’s marketers want personalized and targeted communications to drive business results. They face more challenges than ever before, and they need a strategic partner to deliver data-driven communications.
It’s time to evaluate your data skills!
Elizabeth Gooding on How Inkjet Enables Transaction Printers to Branch Out into New Product Applications
Transaction printers seeking to invest in inkjet, as well as those who already have, cited “the ability to take on new business or create new offerings” as the top benefit from investing in inkjet, according to NAPCO Research and commentary from speakers and attendees during the 2016 Inkjet Summit.
Survey data from current and past conference attendees also show that transaction printers who invest in inkjet are branching out into new areas. According to 2015 and 2016 data on Inkjet Summit attendees, only 10% of transaction printing companies with inkjet offer transaction printing exclusively. Conversely, approximately 60% of transaction printing companies with inkjet are doing at least 35% non-transaction printing work.
Allstate Insurance, for example, purchased inkjet to streamline its in-plant transaction printing operations, but more than half of the inkjet production volume now comes from insourced direct mail. Other companies are filling the valleys between operational peaks with posters, branch materials, custom newsletters or, in the case of in-plants like Urban Lending Solutions, taking on outside work.
However, there are challenges to taking on new types of work, such as ensuring compatible workflows, creating the in-house knowledge base on new applications, and the potential need for new software or technology. Many Inkjet Summit attendees also felt that legacy business models and selling approaches were a barrier to creating new offers.
Attendees were very positive about how much they learned from the sessions and dialogue at the event. At the same time, many were concerned about how much they still needed to learn in order to make an informed purchase decision and justify it to management. The number of options for output devices, front ends, ink, paper, finishing and software are exploding.
Finding the right combination of components to handle current volumes, while forging a path to an even better business model, is a daunting challenge.
Yet, year after year at the Inkjet Summit in Florida we get to learn from inkjet adopters who have done just that — and the consultants and suppliers who have helped them do it.
Skip Henk on How Inkjet Alters the Business Models for Commercial Printers and Service Bureaus
The 2016 Inkjet Summit continues to evolve as an expanding microcosm of what is happening in the industry, providing a unique educational and informational venue for companies to better understand the value proposition of production inkjet printing.
Some observations from this year’s event:
Improvements in inkjet technology, inks and papers have taken the question of print quality off the table with conversations moving to how and when a company makes the commitment to purchase and integrate. Quality and printhead reliability are not the prevalent issues they once were and adding inkjet has become a strategic necessity for most companies.
Inkjet represents a major business shift for commercial printers, as well as service bureaus. It changes the business model. For commercial printers, their expertise in color management, inks and paper represents a tremendous asset in looking at the technology, whereas digital workflow and data formatting represent the biggest changes. Conversely, service bureaus’ expertise lies in workflow and dealing with data formatting.
Whether commercial print or service bureau, there are considerations but, when done correctly, it can yield great returns.
ROI is the deciding factor with cost savings generally being a big part of justifying inkjet technology. Value-based applications, however, have started to increasingly change the value proposition from cost savings to revenue opportunity. Such things as warehousing costs and obsolete inventories continue to be part of the conversation, but the opportunity inkjet represents in terms of application flexibility continues to become more relevant.
The introduction of new production inkjet systems, whether rollfed or cut-sheet, provide flexibility in terms of scalability to a larger segment of the industry.
Inkjet technology, from a hardware and software standpoint, has matured during the past four years and will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future. PI