Why offering traditional web-to-print can lose you customers – and what to do about it
Today’s buyers want the “Amazon” experience
If I buy online, I expect to have a highly interactive transaction. I expect to have a two-way conversation. Buying online is no longer simply a convenient way to find a product and hand over my money.
These days I want more from my suppliers. I want to know how my order is progressing. I require online invoicing. I expect despatch notification and delivery tracking. The old model of “pay and hope the goods turn up soon” is no longer enough.
We all expect Amazon and other online retailers to offer this level of service. After all, consumers are demanding customers. However, more and more business procurement is moving online. Company buyers expect the same level of service from their suppliers when they purchase through portals.
So why don’t printers offer this experience?
Most online buying is done through some form of web to print portal. The customer creates their specification or chooses their product. They upload their pdf or finalise an online template. They may even pay online.
But that is generally as far as it goes. The traditional online buying experience has focussed on making life easy for the printer. Traditional web to print concentrates on getting the right information from the customer to the printer. But often it doesn’t concentrate on making the customer’s life better. Very little information (especially if it is live information) goes back to the customer.
It’s time for printing companies to offer more client-focussed online purchasing
Companies that adopt this strategy will find that they create stronger customer relationships. Their clients will value the level of online service that is offered. Printers will find it easier to control their communication and their production. They have a better opportunity to achieve efficient production goals and, therefore, better profit margins.
Printing companies that rely on traditional web-to-print offerings will often struggle to achieve the same levels of efficiency and profitability. Their communication and production will require a lot more manual intervention. They will struggle to gain the same levels of customer appreciation and loyalty.
In addition, all the traditional paperwork can be produced automatically online. There is no need for order acknowledgements, job sheets and invoices to be created manually. Even despatch notes can be created from the system. With the right integration between the web to print systems and the MIS system, a job can be scheduled automatically into the printer’s workflow. Apart from loading the right paper stock, there may be no need to touch a job until finishing. And the customer can still be informed about what I happening.
Let’s see how this type of solution creates stronger customer relationships
The big advantage to both printer and client is in more efficient communication. This type of web-to-print system can send out information proactively to customers. They are told how jobs are progressing. They receive regular updates. The communication has moved from pull communication where the customer has to make an effort to find out what is happening. Instead, the customer receives push communication: it arrives with them automatically.
Even if a system is not set up to provide push communication, it is easy for the customer to find out what is happening online. There is no longer the need to have as many phone calls wit the printer. This saves time and money on both sides. It also creates a communication culture that suits today’s younger, online-orientated buyers.
Some people may feel that this lack of personal communication is not good for a client relationship. In fact, the opposite is usually true. It allows both supplier and client to spend their personal communication time on more strategic issues. Rather than talking to each other about production issues and fire fighting they can discuss how to develop their partnership.
The combination of both these factors means that printers are more likely to build true partnerships with their clients. Clients are more likely to remain loyal, rather than search for cheaper suppliers who may not be able to offer the same level of efficiency.
However, creating this type of result is not a simple journey. For it to happen effectively, a printer must join up their web to print and their MIS systems.
Integrating W2P and MIS can be hard
Traditionally printers have first invested in an MIS system. Later on, they have realised the advantages of offering a web to print solution. Typically the two systems have remained separate. This means that it is hard to offer the two-way communication experience that today’s buyers expect.
To offer the right level of online service, it becomes necessary to integrate MIS and web to print. But achieving this successfully is not as simple as it seems. There can be a high cost to this. A good level of in-house IT experience is desirable. Many printers struggle to create the desired results.
One of the main issues is that both the MIS system and the web to print system maintain their own database. In order for the two systems to talk to each other and provide the right information, they have to be able to update each others’ databases. That is not an easy IT task.
So what’s the solution?
If they are serious about offering the right level of online purchasing experience, printing companies should look for suppliers that offer a seamless integrated solution. One example of this is Accura Online v5. Accura have sponsored this article.
Amongst other advantages Accura Online v5 offers:
- Bi-directional, real-time integration. In other words, there is only one database to maintain
- Live quote pricing: the web to print system will automatically reflect any pricing changes made to the MIS system. This covers both your production rates and individual customer mark ups
- Live finished stock-balances: customers can automatically see what stock they have ready to despatch in real time
Make sure you offer the Amazon experience
Otherwise you risk losing customers. You will find that customers who want to purchase online move to other suppliers as other printing companies adopt this type of system.
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