Where do E-services “Fit” in Printing?
How important are process automation and e-commerce capabilities to a printer’s success in working with today’s emerging “demand specifiers?” Doug Traxler is executive vice president of Webb/Mason, based in Hunt Valley, MD.
Webb/ Mason is an $85 million company specializing in online brand management, creative and print services. The company works with nearly 200 “preferred partners” nationwide, matching their services to the needs of more than 400 active customers.
Traxler was part of a “Demand Specifiers Panel” at the recent NPES Industry Summit in Chicago. We followed up with him afterward.
At first glance, the Webb/Mason model is reminiscent of the e-commerce “bid and buy” services that sprung up in the industry in the years around 2000. What’s different today?
Those services mostly flopped because they didn’t solve a problem at the time. When we were going to technology for print procurement, that wasn’t the problem the clients were asking us to solve. They wanted an incredibly high number of low-dollar transactions automated, so that our relationships became more efficient. These people needed access to corporate collateral, access to promotional materials, and corporate wanted to control all of that. (The e-commerce services) were all focused on the print buying process, and none of our customers were saying that was broken at the time. They were saying, “How do you help us fix 80 percent of the problem, which is control and use of our printed materials?”
We actually built a capture-spec system so somebody could go in and just request a price, and that system was used three times in five years. If I were a buyer of print, I thought, this would slow me down and not add any value to what I’m doing, and if I get it wrong, I take full responsibility. It’s no longer a collaborative process. Once a job has been auctioned, 20 to 30 percent of the time the specs change, and then the price changes. And you’ve created an adversarial relationship between you and me where every time you can get me, you’re going to get me.