Commentary & Analysis
FREE: Storefronts Sizzle at On Demand
As print service providers increasingly recognize the value of an intelligent electronic connection to their customers&
By Cary Sherburne
Published: May 17, 2005
As print service providers increasingly recognize the value of an intelligent electronic connection to their customers—in terms of increased customer loyalty and retention, improved profitability and productivity gains for both printers and their customers—there is no lack of choice to help them get there. It hasn’t been that long ago that enterprising service providers, looking to leverage the power of the Internet, had few off-the-shelf choices and often opted to build their own Internet storefronts. But as the digital wares being peddled at this year’s On Demand Show clearly indicate, the “build versus buy” pendulum is swinging toward “buy” with the wide range of affordable solutions now available that can be almost literally deployed right out of the box.
Interestingly, one of the common denominators of the announcements discussed here is the convergence of Internet storefronts with variable data capability, putting sophisticated personalized communications in the hands of almost anyone. And for more sophisticated Web-based variable data applications, read about GMC Software’s PrintNet Connect in this article and look for an update on Exstream Dialogue later in the show.
This article reviews just a few of the storefront announcements showcased at On Demand 2005. Stay tuned for more as the show goes on.
Hosted or Licensed?
This may be the biggest decision a print service provider must make when looking at purchasing an Internet storefront solution. Do they want to take advantage of the economy of scale offered by a hosted—or ASP (application service provider)—solution in which the purveyor of the software manages the IT infrastructure required to operate it? This includes software, hardware and the IT professionals these solutions demand. Or would they rather control everything themselves, from within their own firewall, with their own IT staff and their own servers? Providers today even have a hybrid option that allows leveraging the benefit of the advanced IT infrastructure of an ASP while keeping sensitive content inside their own firewalls. For more discussion on this topic, see my recent WhatTheyThink Special Report, The Print e-Commerce Market. As always, though, in a dynamic market such as this, frequent changes abound. Read on to learn about a few of those advances being touted at On Demand 2005.
Printable Technologies Adds Job Express, List Acquisition
Printable continues to be one of the most economic ways for printers to enter the Internet storefront market. With its ASP model, a base implementation fee of a few thousand dollars and monthly charges as low as $250, Printable continues to up the ante in terms of features and functionality. And with last year’s acquisition of the DL Formatter line from Datalogics, Printable is increasing the integration of variable data capabilities in its Fusion product as well. According to Coleman Kane, Printable’s President & CEO, “We have taken the framework of the Datalogics products and created next-generation applications that offer so much more. FusionPro 3.0 offers new, more sophisticated tools for document designers that allow for better control of copy fitting and management of dynamic variable text in the document.” Also live at On Demand for its first public showing is Printable’s integration with Accudata, a list consolidator, that allows users to punch out from Printable, buy and qualify lists, and then bring them bring back into the Printable catalog to be merged with existing templates, previewed, priced and ordered. Kane adds, “This is a big win. So many of our customers have been asking for this capability and we are really excited to be showing it at On Demand.”
Printable has also invested significant effort in separating its presentation layer from business rules and logic so that the application is easier to update. According to Kane, “Everything is now done in Microsoft’s .NET, making it much easier to make changes on the fly.” This has resulted in a redesign of the PrintOne Customer Center, the storefront face to the customer, also being shown at On Demand.
In addition, Printable will be showing the integration of Job Express into its interface. This driver-based PDF generation tool enables web job submission of reliable PDF files to the Printable system. It allows end users to create and submit ad hoc jobs and is based on Adobe’s JobReady technology. It features custom job submission forms configurable by the printer, including printing, paper and finishing options integrated with pricing tables, automatic job price calculation based on user selections, and is fully integrated into Printable’s corporate e-commerce environment
In other announcements, Printable reports that Cenveo has selected Printable’s Onsite Server Edition as the company’s online customer-facing workflow and variable data printing solution, powering Cenveo’s eCENergy VDP suite of online tools.
Kane reports that about 43% of the company’s revenues are recurring revenues generated by its subscription model, with a combination of one-time set-up fees and recurring revenue representing 85-89% of total revenues. Kane says, “While we do offer custom engineering, that only represents a small percentage of our overall revenues.” Printable has more than 700 catalogs up and running, representing tens of thousands of transactions a month.
PageFlex Storefront 2.5 Integrates More e-Commerce
PageFlex Storefront, on the other hand, is a licensed software solution available at prices ranging from $30,000 to $75,000, depending on the modules purchased. With Storefront 2.5, PageFlex has added a number of e-commerce features, including purchasing tables for dynamic pricing, that offer the ability to dynamically reflect shipping and handling charges based on weight calculations that reflect quantities and paper weights selected in the job. PageFlex has also added credit card processing through VeriSign,, and the ability to easily connect to FedEx and UPS sites for shipping options. A printer shipping materials via FedEx, for example, can configure a workflow that will automatically go out to the FedEx site for calculation of shipping costs in real-time. According to PageFlex’s Alice Fackre, “Previous versions had an API that allowed users to build in much of this functionality, but our customers wanted the solution to be even more out of the box—a turnkey store solution. So that is what we are providing in this release.”
Storefront, which started shipping just a year ago, also incorporates a purchase approval workflow with this release, as well as advanced administrative capabilities that allow a number of functional views depending upon the user’s role.
PageFlex is also demonstrating JDF integration in its booth and in Creo’s booth. The company, which is a member of Creo’s Networked Graphic Production group (NGP), certified its solutions through the NGP process as interoperable with the Creo Spire color server.
XMPie Gets Into Storefront Game
XMPie, in another sign of the convergence of Internet storefronts and variable data, announced uStore, a self-contained web-to-print solution for variable documents, giving print service providers, creative agencies and corporate marketing departments the ability to build fully functional, web-to-print online stores in a matter of hours without involving programmers. uStore includes e-commerce capabilities for document ordering and customization. Users can set up unique branded stores for multiple internal or external clients, tailoring the pricing, preferences, permissions, design and print parameters to fit each customer. uStore integrates with all PersonalEffect 2.0 and uDirect 2.0 products from XMPie.
EFI and Partners Show Digital Storefront
EFI, which owns the trademark to the term “Digital Storefront” and has a product by that name, does not have its own booth at On Demand, but is present in a number of partner booths with a wide range of offerings. EFI Digital Storefront, a licensed software solution, is featured by Ricoh, Konica Minolta, Canon and Toshiba. EFI reports it has sold more than 400 Digital Storefront systems worldwide. EFI Digital Storefront provides a complete, streamlined workflow from the document creator, through the print production environment, to finishing and delivery to provide a personalized interactive intranet or Internet presence. Version 2.3 includes stronger VDP capabilities, enhanced integration with other EFI solutions, and new, enhanced PrintMessenger Drivers for reliable job submission.
EFI also offers a hosted version of Digital Storefront, branded as PrinterSite Fulfillment, for printers who wish to take advantage of Digital Storefront’s capabilities in a hosted environment.
Watch for more EFI news from On Demand later in the show.
Rochester Software Associates Announces WebCRD 5.0
In another licensed software offering, Rochester Software Associates WebCRD 5.0 is being launched at On Demand. With this release, RSA adds open standard interfaces to external enterprise systems, expanded support for multiple output location installations, Variable Data capabilities, Intelligent Binding options, and an Approval Hierarchy to ensure orders stay within budget and include only appropriate content. WebCRD is also a licensed software application and offers Template Based Ordering (TBO), with which customers easily order standard items that have variable text requirements. Users populate common forms such as business cards with personalized information via a web browser and submit finished orders to the print center. In addition to business cards, organizations can create and share templates for postcards, dealer sell sheets, and more – simply uploading these forms to WebCRD for use by the entire enterprise.
GMC Software Technology Announces PrintNet Connect
And finally, while not specifically a Storefront solution, GMC Software Technology’s announcement of PrintNet Connect is worth mentioning here. PrintNetConnect is GMC’s solution for the document production needs of Web Services environments, a fully integrated solution for Web-based application integration. Organizations managing myriad documents, records and other information across disparate platforms and systems can bring them all into the production process, regardless of their source, with PrintNet Connect. Work is driven from one central application, and users don’t need to understand the platform or application behind it to do their work. For example, a customer service representative in a financial institution can sign up a new mortgage customer and immediately start the automated workflow to create a welcome kit that is integrated with other communications the new customer will receive. Instead of a series of one-off jobs, multiple requests are combined downstream and produced more efficiently.
PrintNet Connect for Web Services works in concert with GMC PrintNet T software. According to Hal Morrow, GMC’s Presideint of the Americas, “PrintNet Connect supports IBM WebSphere, MessageOne, WebLogic and .NET through XML. While PrintNet T has primarily been installed in commercial print and service bureau environments, the addition of PrintNet Connect means that we will be able to play competitively in more enterprise environments, a capability that is essential to our future growth. With this capability, enterprises and commercial operations can use their existing infrastructure and processes in more efficient, more productive ways and provide an attractive alternative to manual operations.”
On With the Show
Stay tuned to WhatTheyThink for more On Demand news, and don’t forget to visit our photo gallery, produced with professional photographer and Clemson professor Eric Weisemiller.