Publish date: 11.01.22

The pandemic didn’t send ripples but seismic changes through every industry including commercial print. Much like every other industry, the post pandemic shake-out has resulted in businesses that are leaner, sharper and more focused than before, and they expect the same from their suppliers. This means that commercial print has to be more agile in its thinking, processes and devices that it depends on.

Now the dust has started to settle, we see that there are three areas where print is bouncing back and print suppliers can help the sector address its historical challenges and hurdles.

The first challenge is tackling the industry’s skills shortage. Over the last five years, print has lost over a third of businesses due to natural attrition, due to the aging workforce demographic and challenges associated with attracting young blood to the industry. In line with this, there are challenges in teaching seasoned print experts the skills they need for the digital era, as well as offering the type of workplace or work environment that millennials expect. Ongoing training, rewarded with incentives, is imperative here.

Second, print providers have to move away from a commodity, ‘box-shifter’, mind-set. Today’s business place thrives on value, knowledge and expertise; these are the bedrocks for long-term relationships, but are also the drivers for the change that the industry needs to make. It is imperative to look at what devices and services commercial print companies require in their businesses and to be able to show them the value of those as a measure of their return on investment. Doing this successfully means hiring the right people, such as industry experts who can communicate key messages that go beyond a product spec and instead are able to aid the transfer of information and knowledge that has the power drive a client’s business. Furthermore, printer providers have a role to play in keeping their clients up to date with emerging trends, changing patterns in customer requirements and, of course, solutions that meet the demands of customers today. These are the foundations for a long term, value-add relationship.

Finally, it is important to offer a comprehensive product range combined with technology and business solutions that no one else has; it’s a magic blend of the modern and the enhanced, combined with best-of-breed solutions and the right caliber of skilled and highly knowledgeable people who are qualified at helping their customers drive more value from their investment in print. The above has created an ideal climate for a supplier to the commercial printers to revisit this rejuvenated sector and put some good old-fashioned boots back on the ground; whether that’s building stronger relationships with existing clients, or taking a fresh approach with new customers and prospects. In both scenarios, it really is imperative to look beyond the provision of technology alone, and evaluate what it does for the sector and how it drives positive business outcomes. That means working creatively to deliver concepts that help generate more business, through the output of technology rather than technology itself. This alternative approach has been welcomed by our customers and is already showing signs of driving success.

Helping businesses during the pandemic

During the pandemic, Xeretec helped around 300 customers financially by reducing their service costs. Rather than lumber customers with big and fixed contracts, thanks to our flexibility, Xeretec’s service contracts can adapt to customer’s situations when times get tough. This gave our customers the space and time that they needed to adjust their business during the lockdown period.

Of course, the pandemic drove a change in dynamics for many print customers. There was a sudden rise in demand for location-based specific services from organisations that relied on local communities to deliver support for those in need; they were quick to see the value in having leaflets and posters printed. Meanwhile, some fortunate businesses that had existing relationships with frontline workers/services saw a lot of demand for print material, enabling them to weather the storm.

Unfortunately, some print businesses ground to a halt almost overnight. Xeretec stepped in to help those businesses to recruit new customers from new sectors, providing them with creative ideas to provide footfall while kick-starting print volumes. We also helped many printers expand their online presence to reach beyond their local community, creating a much bigger market for them, thereby getting customers to think wider and far broader. Xeretec helped those printers formulate ideas and thrive in this new world. It’s that level of consultation that adds true value – and workable solutions – during a crisis. And the reason we were able to deliver that ‘new way of thinking’ to our print customers, is because we had to go through exactly the same process of diversifying our offering when the pandemic took off; we were relaying our experiences and our learnings back to our customers. It proved to be a valuable lesson for everyone.

The role of eCommerce and web-to-print has in business growth for commercial printers

When you think about traditional and local print, the requirement has changed. A model of high-costs and not seeing footfall isn’t sustainable. The only way to develop and crack free from that dynamic is to think about the web-to-print global market and being bold enough to move away from where you’ve been traditionally. The truth is that faster, better, cheaper, and more productive print brings in an international audience. Combining a unique approach comprising digital solutions with clever marketing and a specialised angle, brings in a whole new market to help commercial printers succeed.

And it is vital to have that mind-set because, for print, everything has a knock-on effect. For instance, some customers that deal with high-street retail chains have lost significant footfall due to the decline in high-street trade; but their online business still has the potential to increase. But let’s not write off the high street just yet; why not ask ‘what can be done to entice people back to stores?’ Initiatives like sending out personalised promotions with a QR card offering some form of offer to bring them into store i.e. a free coffee and cake. Of course, people in different age groups have different shopping habits, but a promotion like this could see retail enjoy a 30 percent increase in footfall, while a print business gets a commission for 50,000 personalised prints, with the scope to charge more for the added personalization.

Practical Steps

Given the changes and shifts in print – and what we believe to be truly exciting and rewarding opportunities – companies can benefit from speaking to Xeretec, and listening to the knowledge we have of the marketplace, and our insights into evolving market dynamics. We are confident that we can show where there are significant gains to be made, where print’s next investments should be, and how they can drive more volume and value to create a long term, sustainable, business.

That goes hand in hand with print companies starting to think beyond technology/hardware/software alone and asking not ‘What does it do?’ but ‘what can it do for me?’, thus shifting focus to thinking about investments that can make a material impact to their business and its future.

It’s a cliché for sure – never more so than in the current climate – but customers also have to ask ‘how can I do more for less?’ With new, efficient, technology, they have to do less work, giving them greater capacity, and making them more cost-effective in the long term.

As a proof point of the value we can add, one of our print customers has been shortlisted for a UK Print award. They were put forward by Birmingham City Council for the exceptional work they have done in conjunction with Xeretec. This recognition is a solid endorsement of why print shouldn’t just be a commodity sell, but a true customer/supplier relationship.

Looking ahead

As we look ahead to 2022 and – hopefully! – the post pandemic world, we’re primed to help the commercial print sector understand how it can do more with technology to build a better, more resilient business. Social, business and economic dynamics are in a state of flux in this ever-changing world. Therefore, there’s a real need for organisations to go and help the commercial print sector drive flexibility to create and respond to emerging or new opportunities. Helping commercial print achieve that efficiently and successfully, is what Xeretec is about.

Should you wish to speak to us, we’d be more than happy to offer a free consultation. Please reach out to us at: [email protected] and one of the team will be in touch.