Essential Actions Printers Should Pursue to Harness Profitability in 2020
A common characteristic of successful print service providers (PSPs) is identifying ways to grow operations, while enhancing profitability. Even though PSPs are currently operating businesses in unprecedented times, being prepared for when normal business conditions resume starts with having solid strategies and plans. Setting a profitable business course begins with identifying the key trends and forces shaping the competitive landscape and offering opportunity.
Market research is an essential tool for defining trends, challenges and opportunities. Looking to support PSPs with essential market research to support business planning and growth, NAPCO Research reviewed its recent catalog of survey data to identify the top trends and essential actions PSPs should understand and consider following to harness profitable opportunities in 2020.
The result of this effort is a special report that combines NAPCO Research’s ongoing industry surveys with market monitoring. The report highlights 10 key trends across a variety of operational areas including management, marketing, workflow, technology, and workforce.
Print Is Important Communication Tool
A key finding of the report is that print continues to be an essential communication tool, but customers expect more from providers. While the ways that businesses and consumers communicate are ever-changing, print remains a core communications tool that is not going away. According to a NAPCO Research survey of marketers that influence commercial print purchasing, spending on printed marketing materials is mostly increasing or staying the same (Figure 1). While print is the communication type posting the greatest decrease, it is still used by most respondents. Two-thirds of marketers surveyed report that the top factor that determines their use of print is budget. Putting this into perspective, the electronic communications used by marketers that are increasing more than print, typically cost less to use.
Figure 1: Print Still Key to Communication Mix for Marketers
Print is valuable to marketers, but they also have high expectations on what their print providers should offer. Some of the most successful PSPs have taken strong traditional printing businesses with a solid customer base and evolved into companies that are equally focused on integrated communication offerings. Commercial printers of all sizes are aspiring to become the provider of choice for a full range of print and non-print digital services.
Ongoing Technology Investment
Another key trend is that successful printing firms are embracing advanced technologies. They’re not only investing in digital production print devices but also in the automated, streamlined workflows necessary to deliver advanced capabilities, including high-value print embellishment, variable-data printing, and expanded finishing. They also want to increase productivity and efficiency within their businesses. Profitable PSPs understand that a successful operation depends on meeting — and often exceeding — customer expectations at every turn, applying the latest industry innovations to production, and staying agile to adapt to industry trends and disruptions.
Digital Printing Entering New Phase
Print providers report investing in a variety of digital printing devices, from cut-sheet digital devices, to continuous-feed digital production presses, to wide-format printers. The capabilities and uses of digital presses are entering a new phase as digital presses are meeting more customer requirements, workflows are becoming more collaborative, communication and revisions are happening in real time, marketing messages are being directed to the individual rather than the group, and tasks are becoming consolidated and automated. In turn, adoption of digital printing is a reality that every print shop needs to embrace.
There are a number of digital print solutions available that enable fifth, sixth, and seventh imaging units, either in-line or off-line. This advancement means that with digital presses, service providers can easily offer spot color, gamut expansion, specialty inks (e.g., metallic, fluorescents, white), coating, textures, and security features.
New inks and enhanced printing techniques will continue to have a significant impact on print service providers. As a result, print providers must evaluate new opportunities for creating direct mail pieces and marketing materials that get noticed by adding 3-D textures, high gloss, foils and embossing, watermarks, hidden promotions, or a protective coating with added durability, while still ensuring print quality. This is a way to add value to print and drive incremental revenue and profits.
NAPCO Research’s recent study Adding Value to Digital Print finds that print providers are leveraging digital printing embellishment options to improve profitability. The most offered enhancements are specialty colors, spot and custom colors, and clear flood coatings, effects that can be produced on a digital printing device (Figure 2). These effects are also more traditional and familiar to print customers. While most print providers offer more traditional embellishments, newer effects, like texture, digital foiling, and special effect coatings, are starting to gain traction.
Figure 2: Digital Print Embellishments Offered
A big influencer of the types of enhancements providers offer is technology innovations. In the area of print enhancement, equipment manufacturers are adding capabilities and feature sets to digital printing presses, digital enhancement presses, and finishing solutions to simplify processes, expand color options, and reduce production costs for special effects.
The remainder of this year offers PSPs many opportunities to enhance productivity, improve profitability, and strengthen customer relationships. Download the full report to find out the forces influencing competition and customer expectations in 2020.
Lisa Cross is the principal analyst of NAPCO Research (a unit of NAPCO Media) where she conducts market research and analysis on emerging trends and changing dynamics in the commercial, in-plant and packaging industries, and the market forces that are driving those changes. With decades of experience covering the graphic arts and marketing industries, Cross has authored thousands of articles on a variety of topics, including technology trends, business strategy, sales, marketing and legislation.