Web-to-Print Portals: 12 Steps for Getting End User Buy-In, Boosting Utilization
You've sold a Web-to-print (W2P) solution into one of your key accounts. Now what? When it comes to online document portals, it's not "build it and they will come." Depending on the complexity, there can be significant costs associated with setting up the portal, creating the templates and working through the back-end workflow issues. Once the client makes the investment, you want to make sure that they are using it.
According to "Web-to-Print: The Promise, the Potential, the Reality," a 2013 survey conducted by Epicomm (NAPL) and sponsored by Xerox, 58 percent of W2P implementers reported a client utilization rate of 5 percent or less, and 92.8 percent reported a rate of 20 percent or less. The average rate was just 11.3 percent, or a little better than one in nine clients. At the same time, more than half of Epicomm's respondents indicated that W2P has increased their sales—58 percent, up from 52 percent the prior year.
One wonders. With so many respondents saying that W2P has boosted their sales, what might profitability look like if their average user implementation rate were higher?
What can be done to increase your implementation rates? When we look around the industry, we see best practices implementers doing a great job of getting user buy-in and boosting utilization. Here are 12 steps that can be learned from them.
1) Charge for development, template building and execution. When something is free, it is perceived as having less value than something that is charged. This was one of the lessons learned by Darwill, a Hillside, IL-based shop that was "creating W2P portals before W2P came in a box."
"In the beginning, there was this dream that you just have to centralize the artwork and decentralize the execution, and you'll get money pouring in. So, many printers would do the development for free," says Mark Pageau, vice president of sales for Darwill, which built its own POD storefront, ForSite.
"But what happened is that clients wouldn't value it very much. We fell into that trap early on, too," he admits. "We would install some of these sites for free or at a discount in the hope that the print would show up. Then corporate wouldn't have any skin in the game and wouldn't use it. Now, we charge for those services."
Not all setup needs to be fee-based, however. Holland Litho Printing Service, in Zeeland, MI, uses EFI's Digital StoreFront and FusionPro to create very simple portals primarily for ordering business cards, letterhead and envelopes. Because these storefronts take a matter of hours, rather than months, to create (which is not unusual for more complex, comprehensive portals), it does not charge for setting them up.
"We do charge, on occasion, for bigger projects," says Brian Baarman, vice president of finance and administration for Holland Litho. "In one case, the client had hundreds of products [for which Holland Litho had to build templates], so there was a charge for that."
2) If the link to the portal will be on the client's intranet, place the link in a place where employees regularly go to conduct business. "If you make the link hard to find or access, they won't use it," says Jennifer Matt, president of Web2Print Experts, a technology-independent software consulting firm that regularly consults with printers on the selection, installation and rollout of Web-to-print systems. "Put it on the most visited page on the client's intranet, or on a page where they regularly go to access other services."
If the portal is not hosted by the customer, users may be given a separate link. In Holland Litho's case, the site is hosted by the print shop, but mirrors the look and feel of the client's corporate site.
3) Work with the customer on its launch plan. How does the customer plan to roll out the system to its users, whether internal or external? Successful implementers ensure that users are trained, and they provide ongoing training as the system gets used, tweaked and updated over time. In the most successful companies, those efforts are comprehensive. (The exception being very simple Amazon.com-style sites that require little to no training.)
In this, commercial shops can learn a lot from in-plants, many of which are doing rollouts extremely well. Although print shops may not be operating inside the client company itself, they can learn from these implementations and bring those lessons and strategies to their clients.
When Sun Life Financial launched its new WebCRD system from Rochester Software Associates, for example, it took a very comprehensive approach.
Among the tactics used:
- The same look used for both internal and external Websites to maintain consistency and increase comfort level.
- Department wiki developed to offer basic instruction.
- Stories disseminated on internal newsfeeds to get users talking about the new service.
- Training offered for groups of users within the company. If the manager of the department wants hands-on training, the shop will provide it.
- Tours of the print shop are available on request.
"Tours give customers confidence that they aren't just submitting orders to some unknown place," says Craig Allen, print systems administrator at Sun Life Financial. "Customers see a team of professionals, and they are much more confident using our system."
The Toro Co. used a similar strategy when launching its internal PTI Marcom portal. After training, the manufacturer saw its number of users double. When first launched, its WebCRD portal had only about 200 users. But after a Webcast that promoted the benefits to the company's national network of distributors and sales reps, its user numbers grew to 400.
"Many users share log-in IDs, so we probably have 500 users getting in there," says Heidi Lindahl, formerly marketing associate for Toro (now FII manager with the Datacard Group), speaking in a Webinar sponsored by PTI Technologies. "Our preferred printer has seen an uptick in orders from us of about 10 percent year-over-year."
4) Be willing to get creative...and personal. Some corporations have used unusual methods to spur internal education about their in-plant service offerings. When Staci Hill, manager of building services for Fort Worth, TX-based Freese and Nichols, wants to draw internal users for training or education, including for its in-house WebCRD solution, she often uses popcorn as bait.
"The smell of popcorn filters up through the ventilation system in the building," Hill says, referring to the fresh corn she pops in a machine she purchased specifically for that purpose. "You draw in a lot of people that way."
Because of the value Hill sees for internal productivity, Freese and Nichols—a multi-location engineering firm—is willing to put in the 1:1 work necessary to give users personalized user attention. Internal print orders used to come through e-mail. Now that the portal has been installed, every time the in-plant receives an e-mail order, a print shop employee walks the user through the process of logging in and submitting the order online.
Is it a lot of work? "Yes, but getting engineers to change the way they do things is like turning a ship—a slow process," Hill explains. "If we expected everyone to order this way out of the gate, we would get a lot of pushback, so we are bringing them on board slowly."
Currently, Freese and Nichols has more than 350 online portal users, which is more than half of its potential user base.
Sun Life paved the way for success of its W2P system before the full rollout by doing group testing before it went live. This allowed employees to take ownership early on. "We allowed users to practice with those early orders until they felt comfortable," says Allen. "It was a team effort, so everyone was involved."
5) What is the plan for ongoing education? Even once the rollout is complete, successful implementers say, your job is not done. There will be regular changes, products added to the store and products removed. All of that requires ongoing education, too.
Darwill's Pageau suggests that, every time there is a significant addition or deletion to the catalog, corporate pull down its database of active users and communicate changes directly with them. "You know who your active users are because each has a user name and password," he notes. "That lets you know who is actually using the site, so you can e-mail the group and communicate with those users directly."
6) If possible, get the portal integrated into the client's onboarding process for new hires. "In our experience, someone in the customer's HR department will use the Digital StoreFront site to order the business cards needed when they have a new employee," explains Scott Simons, prepress specialist for Holland Litho. "Our customer comes to us with their design, and we convert it to be used on DSF with FusionPro. Once set up, they can order business cards from there on out."
7) Understand how people will actually use the system. Getting user buy-in requires really knowing how clients will use it—how they order and shop, and the pathways that work most intuitively and productively for them. For example, if they are salespeople out in the field ordering via iPads, the portal cannot use Flash.
8) Provide ongoing support. If someone inside the client company has a problem with the site, where do they go? One bad experience is enough to sour them for a long time, especially if they have the option to use outside providers.
Will that support come from inside the client company? Or is that something the printer will provide?
For Pageau, tech support is Darwill's responsibility. "We have an 800 number on the Website. If users have mechanical issues on the site, they don't call corporate—they call us," he says.
Simons, of Holland Litho, agrees. "Our phone number and e-mail address are there for tech support, but the e-mail doesn't point directly to our firm. We keep it generic, so we can support multiple sites through the same address. But the e-mails come directly to me."
9) Be great. To keep customers using the system, that support has to be not just good, but great. "It could be a stumbling block if clients call with questions and support doesn't know how to answer them," says Allen, of Sun Life. "So, we have escalation procedures in place. They can approach me, our team lead or our print shop senior manager to ask questions and access resources."
10) Don't over-focus on print. Users, whether internal or external, won't buy into a system that they think is too restrictive. If it doesn't provide users with the options they want or the flexibility they need to do their jobs, they won't use it. This is what prompted Toro to opt for an in-house system.
"We had been approached by several printers with the concept [of Web-to-print], but they approached it like, 'This is a print solution for you,' " reveals Lindahl. "If they had approached us with a turnkey solution, we would have been more open to hearing what they had to say. But they were too focused on the print side."
A lot of Toro's salespeople, for example, want to take the print flyers and use them in an e-mail blast, so the company has increasingly added digital assets based on how salespeople use the system.
11) Keep the feedback line open and respond to user requests. Users themselves know how they want to use the W2P portal, so getting their buy-in includes listening to what they have to say and responding to that feedback.
When Toro first launched its W2P solution, it started small— just a few templates—but, after its Webcast, it started to get requests from distributors and sales reps with ideas for products they'd like to order (including the ability to use assets across both print and digital channels).
12) Have a champion inside your client's company. Successful Web-to-print rollouts have a champion inside the client company who understands the value of the portal and works to facilitate adoption internally. This includes marketing, sales and customer service.
"Every W2P portal needs a champion," says Pageau. "There always needs to be one key person to spearhead it. The worst-case scenario is when management hands responsibility off to someone who doesn't want the job. Or, if it's handed off to multiple people, they don't share responsibility well or can't agree on who is supposed to lead it."
The willingness to find an internal champion is so important, Pageau adds, that if Darwill does not get cooperation from the client or if the customer cannot get someone to take on that role, the site may need to be shut down. Conversely, if there is a champion within the company, enthusiasm spreads.
In the end, getting user buy-in is not a mystery. It requires a steady, consistent and thoughtful approach to training and education, good followup and responsiveness. Products and function need to line up with the way clients are actually placing orders and the kinds of products they need. Users need to see and experience the benefits of the new document portals, have a positive experience when interacting with the system, and know that the team behind it is accessible and responsive when they have questions, problems or suggestions.
Popcorn is optional. PI