How to Think Unconventionally: Going Beyond Ink on Paper
In the competitive retail environment, detail is everything, and that translates all the way down to the printed signage in storefronts and throughout the store. Brick-and-mortar stores are evolving to deliver experiences, rather than goods and services. The brands thriving in this new marketplace are beginning to make an impact without going the traditional ink-on-paper route - and they are doing it by forging new types of relationships with the printing industry.
Printers are partnering with brands, from Bath and Body Works to Ann Taylor, sunglass retailer Quay Australia and more, to push in-store printed displays and materials to the limit, helping create a retail experience so compelling that consumers want to share it with their networks on social media. In this way, retailers can harness the power of uber-connected consumers and influencers to broadcast their in-store experiences far and wide, broadening brand recognition and driving traffic to stores.
What printers have discovered in the process is that you don’t have to abandon traditional print signage in order to create an elevated retail experience. By thinking unconventionally about how to engineer and design print materials, you can develop compelling signage and printed displays able to trigger authentic, user-driven conversations on social media that drive traffic back to the store with a few key steps:
- Identify members of your team who are able to think about printed displays in innovative ways. These new techniques can be done on the same presses with a modified approach. Take, for example, Ann Taylor’s holiday program, a winter wonderland that included more than one dozen 10-ft. textured Christmas trees. The display, which recreated the look of a high-end, diecut snow scene, leveraged a more economical approach - white snowflake glitter printed on traditional presses also used for ink-on-paper signs advertising hot dogs in a gas station in Arizona.
- Work hand in hand with designers earlier in the creative process. To understand what’s possible - and push the boundaries of your team’s thinking - have print engineering work in parallel with the brand’s designers. This represents a dramatic shift from the status quo for most organizations’ processes, in which designers hand off a finalized concept to print partners who are then tasked with determining how to make it happen. Today’s print engineering, in contrast, is an evolving approach in which the print solution is engineered to match the design intent. Approaching the creative process as a partnership between your team and the brand can help shape, rather than constrain, the design process. Quay Australia, for instance, worked closely with its printing partner to recreate a shimmery, glassy appearance on printed materials by printing directly over foil. Other innovative methods currently in use include printing on leather or other unusual textured substrates.
- Ensure that you can match the speed of retail. It doesn’t matter how innovative the idea for a printed storefront or in-store campaign if you can’t deliver it in a timely manner. No longer are brands dictating how consumers buy; consumers are now driving the retail experience – how they will be sold to, what they will buy, and when. And, increasingly, that “when” is now. Your print engineering teams need to be able to turn on a dime in response to consumer demands, and while you don’t need to abandon traditional presses for specialty ones, you do need to be able to implement new printing techniques on current presses without adding time into the process.
The printing industry is playing an increasingly important role in retail today by partnering with brands to create elevated in-store experiences. The transition from “traditional” printer to “strategic/initiative” printer is a low-capital shift. It is a mindset, not a machine transformation, one that involves figuring out how to use the presses you have in new and different ways. By thinking unconventionally, your organization can develop innovative, eye-catching print displays that contribute to creating compelling experiences customers will want to share with friends.
About the Author
Kevin Peters brings more than 20 years of experience in building customer-first printing and packaging operations to his current role as vice president of manufacturing at IDL Worldwide, which partners with world-class brands to create elevated experiences at retail and beyond.