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Commentary & Analysis

Connecting Providers to Users


By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 26, 2007

--- Special Feature Connecting Providers to Users Commerce Networks Change the Game by Jeff Hayzlett January 26, 2007 -- Every day, millions of dollars in business to business transactions take place in America without a customer ever talking to a salesperson. While this might be counterintuitive for many print providers who have built their businesses over the years by offering high levels of service, happier customers and healthier bottom lines are both possible by effectively using selective e-commerce solutions. Commerce networks are just another way to bring more services to customers in a user friendly fashion. The growing use of commerce networks responds to how marketers who need printing services are increasingly doing business. Rather than being a replacement for sales efforts, commerce networks are just another way to bring more services to customers in a user friendly fashion. Most print providers have traditionally used brokering to serve customer needs, which is reality a small scale commerce network. A large offset printing company might have an informal relationship with a digital quick print shop to accommodate short run, fast turn jobs. A medium-sized family printing business might maintain contacts with similar nearby businesses to help in times when excess demand outstrips capacity. In each case, these relationships are used to fulfill customer needs. Gone Digital Commerce networks are modern day extensions of these traditional partnerships between printers. The networks that were once built over the years through personal and professional contacts have gone digital. The communications technology of the Internet and file sharing software makes it possible to partner with another print provider whether they are across town or across the country. The reason commerce networks are growing in the printing industry is that they offer advantages for print providers and marketers that use print. Most importantly, joining a commerce network opens up a host of advantages and expands the possibilities of web to print. From print-on-demand to distribute-and-print to the remarkable possibilities of variable data printing, commerce networks make it possible to access a range of options for using the full spectrum of printing capabilities --where and when the customer needs them. Lower Costs, More Revenue From the print provider side, commerce networks offer cost savings and new revenue streams. Instead of spending money to create and maintain an electronic storefront, print providers joining a commerce network can count on the company running the site to do the design and coding work. Gone are the days when a printer would need to establish and manage the sophisticated e-commerce infrastructure. Print providers can focus on core elements of their businesses, rather than keeping a website up and running. Networks that were once built over the years through personal and professional contacts have gone digital. Because of the online ordering, approval and tracking system built into most commerce networks, print providers have an easy to use and simple to follow order tracking system that documents each stage of a project’s life. This will help reduce errors and the time required to track jobs. That’s one reason why many printers are converting existing customers to users of commerce networks. The tracking system is a tool that helps maintain a positive relationship. Commerce networks also allow print providers to expand service offerings to customers without making immediate significant investments in equipment or bricks and mortar. For instance, offset printers can offer digital services and grow that side of their business to the point that investing in equipment makes economic sense. From the revenue side, membership in a commerce network means that hundreds of potential new customers are exposed to the print provider’s capabilities. Business growth from this new window to customers can augment your regular sales efforts. By selling to customers using the advantages of a commerce network, print providers can help marketers solve a variety of problems and help them invest more marketing funds into actually producing printed materials. For marketers needing printing services, commerce networks make sense for a variety of reasons. Just like print providers, customers benefit from the order tracking systems built into commerce network websites. They can confirm the progress of a job and delivery schedule with just a few clicks of a mouse. Membership in a commerce network exposes hundreds of potential new customers to a print provider’s capabilities. Marketers also benefit because the commerce networks offer quick access to a large pool of printers capable of handling a variety of different types of printing jobs. The time savings helps reduce internal costs and can help get important programs to market much more rapidly. By accessing a pool of qualified printers through a commerce network, marketers are able to control costs, reduce expenses for shipping and inventory, and better monitor branding standards for materials printed in different locations. This can be particularly appealing to marketers with locations spread across a wide geography or who supply files to franchisee locations for personalization and printing. Depending on the compensation model used by the commerce network host, the system can be attractive to small and medium-sized users of print. Some network providers charge a membership fee and monthly hosting fees. Others base compensation on a transactional basis, with a small fee charged based on actual usage. This pay as you go approach makes sense to many companies, especially as that start to use the commerce network. Overall, commerce networks offer the opportunity to make print an even stronger and user-friendly medium for marketers. By removing the guess work and increasing quality and accountability, commerce networks benefit printers in a competitive media marketplace. Commerce networks are unlikely to ever replace the relationships that are built between print providers and marketers. Instead, they will change the way business is transacted in positive ways for both the producers and users of print. Jeffrey Hayzlett is Chief Marketing Officer for Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group, and is a former print business owner and business development consultant to graphic communications companies. The KODAK MARKETMOVER Network, powered by Four51, was introduced at GraphExpo in October 2006. It is already one of the world’s largest private commerce networks.



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