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Commentary & Analysis

Web-to-Print From the Customer’s Perspective

Web-to-Print software is sold to printing companies. Yet, the primary users of web-to-print solutions are a printing company's customers. This situation is the cause of many issues with the success of web-to-print programs. We have three perspectives at work (only one really matters).

By Jennifer Matt
Published: July 13, 2016

Web-to-Print software is sold to printers. Yet, the primary users of web-to-print solutions are the printer’s customers. This situation is the cause of many issues with the success of web-to-print programs. We have three perspectives at work (only one really matters).

  1. Printer’s Customers: their business isn’t about print at all, it’s about their product, their business challenges, their boss’ expectations, their promotions, and their priorities. They want working with their printer to be easy, convenient, affordable, and timely. They want vendors who help them succeed.
  2. Printers: their business is to create more differentiation in the market, solve more and more challenges for their customers, and create efficiencies in all parts of their business.
  3. Web-to-Print Software Vendor: their business objective is to sell more software and depending on the business modal, in some cases it doesn’t matter how much the software gets used. Unfortunately, most sales decisions are emotional based either on “cool features” or volume of features that are seen as “more value for the money.” Hence web-to-print vendors build more and more features that are “deemed cool by the printers” because they are the people making purchasing decisions.

Most printers are thinking from their own perspective – as a printer.

The printer’s manufacturing perspective

While the printer’s customers are thinking from their perspective.


The customer’s business/communications perspective

It is vital to the success of your web-to-print project to climb out of your perspective as a printer and into the perspective of your customer’s. It’s not about you! Customer adoption of your web-to-print program is the most important factor to your success. You can get everything else perfect and fail miserably if you don’t nail customer adoption.

Put Yourself In Your Customer’s Shoes

When you’re considering a web-to-print technology decision, start by seeing the solution ONLY through the eyes of your customers. Don’t even consider workflow automation or anything that benefits YOU, until you are convinced that the solution would solve relevant challenges for your customers. Two very important questions you should answer:

What customer challenges do I need web-to-print to solve?


What “jobs” do I want the web-to-print system to do for me?


Could my customers use this solution with no instructions, no training, no documentation?

A very common mistake made in selecting a web-to-print solution is that is solves challenges your customers don’t have. For example, I’ve seen way too many printers buy a web-to-print solution which only supports repeat catalog orders only to find out they don’t have customers with those challenges! The challenges customers have with ordering print come in patterns, don’t tell me your situation is 100% unique, chances are it’s not. I see a very large differentiation between two kinds of order entry challenges; one challenge is the customer has unique artwork/assets/files and wants to provide you those assets and print them once. The second is the customer wants you to store artwork/assets/files and they want to order again and again, maybe personalize (VDP), but the core asset is stored by the printer and either ordered as is or versioned/personalized.

You have to get clear on the what kind of challenge your customers have before you spend money on a solution (in the form of a web-to-print product). Please don’t say; I want a solution that does it all, that is not a valid answer. Even if you have a very diverse print business, you need to prioritize and make sure the solution you pick solves the most important challenges for your customers first.

See your business through the eyes of your customers, prioritize your order entry technology decisions based on what customer challenges you want to solve with it. Yes, you can then consider how beneficial the technology will be to your business but never let anything come between the very most important aspect of web-to-print: will your customers use it!

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 Scott Eganhouse on Jul 13, 2016

This is a great nugget of wisdom. One of the valuable (read painful) lessons I’ve learned building web environments in which products and services are consumed is this: It’s never too earlier to get an end users (your print client) involved in the usability and creation of a web portal.


By David Hultin on Jul 13, 2016

That's a good, solid reminder Jennifer ... well-said! Fresh in my mind from a webinar we presented earlier today: Printers need to show their customers (the print buyers) how the web-to-print solution will increase revenues or decrease costs for the print buyers. That's what customers want to hear about!


By Robert Arena on Aug 01, 2016

As you may have stated, web to print is very important as print runs become smaller and smaller. It solves the problem for the printer of too many touch points. From the clients perspective it may make it easier to order and track order history. But how do you get your established clients to come over to the new system? They say, It is much easier for me to call you up and just tell you what I want, like I always have done. If I add a personal service fee I may then become more costly than my competitor. They would feel penalized. I would appreciate any insight you may offer. I am truly impressed by your grasp of these matters.


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