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Commentary & Analysis

Web-to-Print…A Misnomer


By Barb Pellow
Published: February 27, 2008

Web-to-print started with the onset of e-commerce. It was defined as a commercial prepress process that bridged the gap between digital content online and commercial print production. Initially, the electronic (“e”) enablement of business processes concerned the marketing, selling, buying, and production of printed products and dramatically changed the long-established order of the graphic communications value chain. There are many exciting proof points for e-business automation in print applications such as business cards, stationery, sales collateral, direct mailers, and books. Buyers are directly accessing print catalogues, customizing print requests, proofing jobs, and completing purchasing and financial processes using online, integrated systems.


66.5% of print buyers reported using Web-to-print services offered by either internal or external providers, up from only 11% in our 2000 study.

InfoTrends’ recently released multi-client entitled E-enablement – The Future of Graphic Communications as well as key advances by software suppliers at ON DEMAND indicate that there is a new game in town. As you consider the market statistics and walk around the show floor, you will clearly see that Web-to-print isn’t Web-to-print anymore—it is a newly defined, more robust service offering that is based on the tools available and in the minds of the end-user community. Today’s Web-enabled capabilities include everything from ordering print to job tracking to initiating online multi-channel marketing campaigns. My plea in this article is for your help in renaming Web-to-printto Multi-channel Web Services.

The Statistical Facts

In InfoTrends’ recently released multi-client study entitled E-Enablement- The Future of Graphic Communications, 66.5% of print buyers reported using Web-to-print services offered by either internal or external providers, up from only 11% in our 2000 study. Nearly 50% of print service providers are offering these services, with another third intending to offer them within the next 24 months. In our 2000 research, only 5% of respondents reported having a Web-to-print solution. Print buyers currently report that about 15% of print volumes are coming through Web-to-print services, while print service providers report that about 20% of print jobs come into their businesses this way. Print service providers anticipate that nearly 50% of volume will be submitted via the Internet by 2011. This reflects significant market acceleration in adoption rates for print e-business services.

One of the biggest areas of change is definitional. When we conducted our 2000 research, the general thinking about Internet-enabled printing services revolved around a storefront concept. The concept suggested a breadth of functionality that included job ordering, job submission, job tracking, and collaboration among various parties in the value chain. In the ensuing years, this concept of e-business services has indeed begun to mature and has further expanded to encompass a much broader scope. The definition has been broadened by print service providers and print buyers to include all Internet-related services. This includes full function job ordering and specification, job tracking, customizable storefronts, document and template customization with variable data capability, multi-channel campaign management, digital asset management, inventory control, and integration with production workflow to streamline operational efficiency. In today’s market, Web-to-print is really a misnomer. Based on a robust feature set, these systems are enabling broader multi-channel Web services.

Print buyers clearly indicated increased dependence on the Internet for all stages of the buying cycle, from seeking supplier information to tracking an order. In fact, more than 20% of respondents were obtaining 1:1 marketing program services via the Web all or most of the time.

From a print service provider perspective, it’s clear that robust e-enablement solutions are taking hold. For those who reported having a print e-business offering, there is a significant transition in the way that they are interacting with customers. Respondents reported providing Web-based services that included everything from Web storefronts to online response tracking. 60% reported that they were offering or planning to offer online personalization services. 23% of respondents indicated that they were offering multi-channel capability with another 25% expressing buying intentions in the next 24 months.

The benefits accrued by print service providers as a result of implementing print e-business services are clear. More than 60% of respondents indicated that these services improved their business, and another 54% reported margin improvements since implementing print e-business solutions, with average margins up over 7%. In addition, nearly a quarter of respondents reported revenue increases in excess of 10% that are directly attributable to their print e-business offerings—well above industry growth levels.

And Software Suppliers Respond!

Suppliers of e-business solutions face increased business opportunity as the pace of adoption continues to accelerate, particularly in the areas of conversion from homegrown solutions and integration with other business systems, in the print service provider and enterprise environments. While many suppliers of these solutions have heretofore focused their efforts on the print service provider market, this research reveals a significant emerging opportunity to sell directly into the enterprise as companies look to further streamline work processes. Industry suppliers can augment market growth by stepping up their educational efforts to ensure that customers understand the available migration paths as they move up the scale of sophistication in their implementation efforts.

You’ll see an array of capabilities demonstrated at ON DEMAND this year. While this article is not all-inclusive, I can give you some examples of software vendors that are responding to the rapidly expanding e-enablement opportunity.

GMC Software Technology (booth #759) will showcase the latest capabilities and enhancements to its PrintNet software suite. Demonstrations highlight the software suite’s ease of use, support of open standards, Web tools and integration, advanced job flow and customization, and personalization capabilities. These include many personalized communications applications that are in high demand today:

  • Transpromo 401K transactional statements with embedded marketing messages
  • Promotional marketing flyers and postcards
  • Interactive, Web-based communications
  • Invoices using color IPDS print streams

An integral part of the demonstration is its PrintNet Connect, a Web services solution for automating customer communications (documents, Web, and e-mail) through integration of a Web-based workflow. Seamless document production is available on a Web services platform. WebProof is a Web-based document approval and proofing system.

interlinkONE Inc. (Booth #246) will exhibit its end-to-end personalized marketing, fulfillment, and variable print solutions. Interactive demonstrations at the booth include using interlinkONE’s latest offering, ilinkONE Version 8, to create highly targeted one-to-one mailers, Web-to-print solutions, personalized URL campaigns, and e-mail marketing in addition to fully integrated campaign management, lead acquisition programs, collateral fulfillment, order, inventory, fulfillment, and warehouse management.

MindFireInc (Booth # 425) has introduced a new ROI Calculator into their on-line Campaign Dashboard. This simple tool packs a punch when it comes to showing the value of a direct marketing campaign. MindFireInc Solution Partners or their marketing clients can enter the total retail cost of the campaign and optionally information about closed opportunities and revenue generated. The calculator will display cost per lead, cost per conversion and Return On Investment. “What-if” analyses are also supported.

Pageflex (Booth #959) will demonstrate Pageflex 6.0, the latest release of its variable data software. This product can help users grow their businesses and reach new and profitable revenue sources. Pageflex will also be showing Campaign Manager, a key component of Pageflex 6.0. The Campaign Manager simplifies the process of creating and tracking a coordinated multi-channel campaign. The user can focus on the effectiveness of the campaign message and leave the details of execution to the service provider that uses Pageflex.

Press-sense Ltd. (Meeting Room M-55) is continuing its focus on Press-sense iWay 4.0. The latest release offers several new features. Version 4.0 includes asset management capabilities, tax and shipping improvements, a new budget and cost center module (particularly useful for in-plant applications), and a brand new capability to fully customize launch pads. Press-sense ties the production process into MIS, accounting, and fulfillment departments, enabling print service providers to automate billing, shipping, inventory, and other business. Press-sense will demonstrate in a number of partner booths including Xerox, HP, and Océ. The company will also be conducting seminars in M55.

Printable Technologies (Booth #349) will demonstrate its new Intelligent Forms feature, which allows customers to further customize the types of data entry forms they create for Web-based ordering of simple to complex collateral, as well as versioned and variable data. Key features include the ability to create matrices of dynamic data to pre-fill forms in areas such as pricing, customized choice lists, and altered data entry based on the particular person logged in. In addition, this new feature will respond to taking reflect existing corporate hierarchies in security and product access.

Responsive Solutions, Inc. (Booth #430) just introduced its RSI Lite+, which enables print service providers to provide their corporate clients with the ability to create a searchable online gallery of all clients' collateral and stationery. Users can then choose items they wish to print, preview, then order and pay for them. The variable template feature enables the end-user to customize and preview each item before ordering. The total offering is supplied in a SaaS (Software as a Service) model and eliminates the need for in-house MIS resources or expertise on the part of the print service provider. RSI Lite+ is a storefront Web portal offering file upload and credit card processing. This portal can be privately branded for multiple clients. The offer includes customizable variable templates to handle items like business cards and stationery. This introductory package is being offered at $5,950. RSI Lite+ is designed to offer low risk, a low entry cost, and an easy upgrade path to provide advanced solutions for customers.

XMPie, Inc(booth #517) will showcase its variable data print, Web-to-print, and cross-media publishing tools (aimed at helping customers jump-start their personalized marketing projects). New products and enhancements include an online resource designed to support users in the creation of personalized marketing projects and expanded Web-to-Print capabilities.

XMPie Marketplace is a new Web resource designed to support users in the creation of personalized images. The online store offers a library of uImage templates available for purchase and download by XMPie customers who may not have the resources to design their own graphic templates. Also being announced at ON DEMAND are enhancements to XMPie’s Web-to-Print solution uStore, making it easier for businesses to host online “document stores” and produce one-to-one marketing materials for employees or customers.

The Bottom Line

The Internet changes everything. That's been the buzz for a few years now, and it clearly has changed the playing field in the world of graphic communications. Internet technology in the printing industry has gone from an emerging technology backed by significant market enthusiasm to an accepted solution suite with well-understood benefits for print service providers and print buyers. It hasn’t just changed the way people order print materials—it has altered business process for printer service providers and their customers. It isn’t Web-to-print anymore… it’s e-enabled multi-channel Web services!

A digital printing and publishing pioneer, marketing expert and Group Director at InfoTrends, Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave. Barb brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow business opportunity.

Please offer your feedback to Barb. She can be reached at barb_pellow@infotrends.com.



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