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Top 5 Mistakes with Web-to-Print

Web-to-print is our term for moving customer engagement online. This represents a big change for most traditional business-to-business printers. This article describes the top five mistakes I see when working with printers through this transition from an offline business to an online / self-service customer interaction model.

By Jennifer Matt
Published: June 3, 2015


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Jennifer Matt is the managing editor of WhatTheyThink’s Print Software section as well as President of Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions. You can reach her at jen@whattheythink.com.



By Trevor Cocks on Jun 03, 2015

Great article Jennifer!


By Robert Godwin on Jun 03, 2015

"I like to say web-to-print is too much about “print” and not enough about “web”."

This is the most important point in your article. A W2P solution needs to be regarded and supported as a storefront, not as a replacement for a CSR. It is an opportunity to engage the client more deeply on the projects they are managing. Including additional product offerings is a chance to serve the client better.

If they are handling a marketing campaign it is the chance to capture more of the elements they may need to execute the program. Things like promotional items or other collateral makes the print provider a strategic source, rather than a one-trick-pony.

Most MIS platform providers have a W2P solution that will support products beyond print. The skill required is knowing what your clients use to do their business, and providing access to those items.


By Jennifer Matt on Jun 03, 2015

Thanks Robert.

We have always connected with our customers at a relationship level - this is still very important but not enough on its own. I like to think about web-to-print and other customer engagement tools as a digital connection that augments the relationship. People move, people change jobs (both your people and your customer's people) - technology connections stay through all those people changes. When you embed your technology into your customer, and better yet integrate your technology with your customers technology you have a strong digital connection that can hold the account when relationships change.



By Peter Ollén on Jun 04, 2015

I have three arguments that I constantly hear in Sweden, when I try to convince printers of making products and selling them on a web page:

1. I do not want to loose the personal contact with my customers.
(To this I ask: Do you also go to the post office to pay your bills, in order not to loose contact with the post?)

2. I don*t want my competitors to see my prices.
(To this I ask: How does it come that you pass three gas stations and go into the fourth, in order to get the exactly identical product at an identical price. They have managed to drive loyalty in other ways.)

3. I want to differentiate my prices.
(To this I comment: agree on a discount code that is unique for that customer.)


By Peter Ollén on Jun 04, 2015

One dilemma with standard web-shops are that they are based on two variables: Size and number of items.

We need to limit ourselves to two parameters in order to use a standard web shop – number of pages and number of copies. This means that we have to make one product for each size and paper quality.

If we use a unique print web-shop it normally have three or four open parameters. That limits the amounts of different products that we have to set up. But also make it more complicated for the customer to order.


By Jennifer Matt on Jun 04, 2015


Thanks for your comments. I hear the same things. We are living in an unprecedented world of transparency. Customers expect to be able to understand pricing, execute orders in a self-service manner all online. The reactions you're hearing are not congruent with what the customer wants. Its not about what you and I think - its about what the customer wants. Customers want self-service, customers want transparent pricing.

Web-to-print solutions need to widen the product mix they support - for sure. Most print is ordered once, with artwork provided by the customer, and specifications unique to that job. Most web-to-print solutions are limited to catalogs of static and personalized materials. Customers want self-service for all jobs, they also want the ability to do what I call "collaborative commerce" - get help with finalizing the specs but keep it in a system that is tracked and not buried in my inbox.



By Robert Leonard on Jun 05, 2015

Hi Jen,

Too many things to disagree with here. I hope it is not a problem to put up blog entries here - if it is, just delete, I'll be back.

I'll start with this article; even though it is not about printers, it is all about printers.

"Never Send Your Local Customer, or Even a Local Warm Lead, to Your Website - Even if They are Not Local"



By Robert Godwin on Jun 06, 2015

Never ever say never…Ever
In regard to Mr. Leonard’s post, if you are engaged in consultative conversation and the client needs guidance, yes, sending them to a website appears dismissive. However, if the website has design functionality, pricing and prepress tools, then that is exactly where you should send them.
If you lose a customer to someone who has effective SEO, or better solutions to the client’s pain point, study the consequence and adjust. Old saying, “A cat who sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. But he won’t sit on a cold stove, either.” Fear should not rule your actions, or more to the point: hesitations.
The primary concerns of a print buyer focus on price within budget and timely delivery. Quality is a given as long as it is within the buyer’s tolerances. Many ecommerce print site companies provide exactly those service profiles. A lot of print needs can be serviced with self-serve websites, and indeed are.
Business intelligence comes from many touchpoints in commerce. First, if you are on the grid (phone number, IP address, driver’s license, credit card, medical insurance, registered voter) information about your consumer habits are being traded to interested parties. Second, web traffic is simply one more channel for that information.
The intelligence gathered from web activity is basic to making business decisions. Printers who use this information will outpace their competition and remain at a high level of relevance in the market.


By Robert Leonard on Jun 06, 2015

Hi Robert,

I don't disagree (totally) :) . Your website should be a place to get found - once found (they call you) provide the service and close the sale. "Effective SEO" has everything to do with being found and nothing to do with product, service or quality. SEO is not what to do after you are found. No Fear.!!

On the other hand, send your customer information, maybe to his Google email address, and watch the competitive ads on the right. you may as well give them Vistaprint's or PS Print's number when they call.


ps - love this discussion - it will educate many from both our perspectives


By Robert Leonard on Jun 06, 2015


Just an FYI, I am on your sode... :)



By Jennifer Matt on Jun 23, 2015

Robert Leonard,

Thanks for bringing a different perspective to this topic. We disagree.

The primary issue I have is that you are describing the online ecosystem and one of its current features the re-targeting of display ads (those ads that seems to follow you).

You have no control over how online advertising works and most importantly you have no control over consumers behavior.

Your solution to this current feature of the internet is to try and control your customers (impossible). VistaPrint has TV commercials, are you trying to keep your customers from watching TV? In my home town (San Francisco) VistaPrint has ads on top of Yellow Cabs (are you trying to keep your customers indoors)?

I think re-targeted ads are creepy, I also hate billboards so guess what I don't look at them. So much advertising gets ignored. The internet is able to track everything so smart companies are using all that data to serve up stuff that you've proven you're interested in by your browsing behavior. When I was shopping for a new bed, I saw bed ads for a couple weeks.

The worst thing we can do is tell people not to participate in the online ecosystem because we're afraid of a more educated buyer. The buy side of all transactions has access to more information than ever. You are not going to control that trend it is global, it is progressing, it will continue with or without you. Everyone has to up their game and compete with a customer who can do research, scope out the competition, and make better buying decisions.

We have to compete, we have to engage, we have to be an active member of the online ecosystem. Your website is your real estate (home) on this ecosystem - you want as many visitors as possible to come there and then as high a percentage as possible (conversion rate) to either buy something from you or reach out to you to establish a business relationship.



By Robert Leonard on Aug 14, 2015


I think you are missing the point.

First, lets recognize, these are people we are talking to; real warm lead or customers.

I do not try to control my customer at all, I am just trying to not send them to my competitors right from my store.

I do not have control or send them to a TV to watch Vistaprint commercials (they don't leave me to go watch TV)

I do not have control or tell them to jump in a cab with a vistaprint plaque (they don't leave me to go jump in a cab)

I DO have the ability to not email Vistaprint ads to my client. So I don't. My cistomers and prospects do read my emails - top of mind - print (not in the 2 above scenarios).

I agree totally with your last paragraph, it is just that conversion rates and return exist for only a few - even fewer who are "Local".

Maybe they are all using the wrong website; which one are you recommending today?



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