- Although many PSPs are finding that they need to pivot to accommodate the market’s changing demands, many of these new applications tend to involve the same procedures and methods that today’s printers are already using.
- Ongoing technological advancements make it possible for businesses to stand out while also keeping their customers safe.
- Today’s clients need to be reached differently, and relationships have become particularly valuable.
By Eve Padula
As we close out what will undoubtedly be one of the strangest years in recent history, print service providers (PSPs) understand that they must remain profitable and weather the storm as we continue to navigate through the pandemic. To protect themselves from the fallout of COVID, many printers are implementing new technologies, penetrating new markets, and adjusting their prices so they stay well-prepared for any shifts in market demand. As always, printers have proven themselves to be very resilient to any challenges that come their way, and today’s digital print solutions offer unmatched opportunities for flexibility and customization. This article explores how PSPs are leveraging their core competencies to uncover new opportunities that will carry them to the future.
The Digital Print Opportunity
When the pandemic hit the world by storm earlier this year, few could have anticipated the changes—some of them permanent—that would occur as a result. The early months of the pandemic were challenging for everyone, and the printing industry was no exception. Even so, these challenges brought with them a great many opportunities. Businesses of all shapes and sizes had a sudden, urgent need for face masks, social distancing graphics, and other printed items to keep customers and employees safe and healthy. Even with a vaccine being distributed, these pandemic-related printed products will likely remain essential for quite some time.
Fortunately, digital printing technology feeds right into applications like these. The pandemic has actually accelerated the transition to digital because so many of today’s in-demand applications can benefit from shorter runs, quick turnaround times, and personalization. It is sometimes necessary to swap out print applications on a frequent basis, and digital print makes it possible to respond and pivot at the speed of now. What’s more, the technology is improving all the time. Advancements like white/metallic/clear ink and new, expanded substrates mean that PSPs are now limited only by their imaginations. Although many PSPs are finding that they need to pivot to accommodate the market’s changing demands, many of these new applications tend to involve the same procedures and methods that today’s printers are already using. So although the opportunities and applications themselves may be new, they are still dealing with the same digital print technology that is already well-established.
Pivoting to New Applications
To better understand how COVID-19 is impacting the print industry, Keypoint Intelligence conducted an extensive vertical market study entitled Vertical Industry Views from a Socially Distanced Perch. According to this research, nearly 90% of the 1,058 total respondents had needed to purchase printed products in response to the pandemic (e.g., for events, initiatives, communication requirements, or protocols). Although the printing industry has certainly been hit hard by the pandemic, print remains a vital channel for connecting with and communicating to customers.
Business respondents that did need to purchase printed products in response to the pandemic most commonly reported purchasing indoor signage, face masks, and flyers/newsletters. Hanging signs, outdoor signage, and floor graphics were also quite popular. None of these applications are surprising because businesses have an obligation to keep their employees and customers safe and healthy as the pandemic persists.
Figure 1. Printed Applications Purchased in Response to COVID-19
N = 943 Respondents who were required to purchase printed products as a result of the pandemic
Source: US Vertical Vision Study: Vertical Industry Views from a Socially Distanced Perch; Keypoint Intelligence 2020
When these same businesses were asked if they expected to make repeat purchases of these products in the next 3 to 6 months, well over half reported that repeat purchases were likely or very likely for all applications. This indicates a steady, ongoing need for these pandemic-related applications.
Ongoing technological advancements make it possible for businesses to stand out while also keeping their customers safe. Today’s PSPs are stepping up to the challenge with an ever-widening array of applications. Some are printing on clear substrates, some are creating face masks or shields with custom logos or colors, some are developing floor graphics that get noticed and enforce social distancing, and still others are developing entire “reopening kits” so their clients can quickly get back up to speed.
The Importance of Relationships
The uncertainty associated with the pandemic has a lot of people—and businesses—on edge. As a PSP, it’s important to remember that your clients are concerned about the future, just like you are. Clients need to be reached differently, and relationships have become particularly valuable. It’s also important to keep the lines of communication open with your customers. If you’re offering a new or expanded product set to support your clients, make sure they know about it! Self-promotion can be a great way to capture additional share of wallet from additional customers while also attracting new ones.
The Bottom Line
We’re all looking forward to a better and brighter 2021, but these things will take time even with a vaccine. Many businesses’ needs changed virtually overnight when the pandemic hit earlier this year, so PSPs must change their selling strategies as a result. A number of businesses are struggling, so it might be more difficult to secure sales. This makes established relationships that much more important, because you want to be top of mind for your customers when things do turn around. In some cases, you might just need to sell different things to meet your customers’ changing requirements.
Try to find new ways to help your existing clients, because they may not be aware of everything you have to offer. Also, keep in mind that this doesn’t need to mean reinventing the wheel—you can usually stick with what you do well and shift this knowledge to new, in-demand applications. With any luck, this pandemic will be behind us sooner rather than later. In the meantime, it’s important for PSPs to nurture their existing relationships while working to form new ones, because relationships like these can carry you through these uncertain times.
Eve Padula is a Senior Editor/Writer for Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Production Services with a focus on Business Development Strategies, Customer Communications, and Wide Format. She is responsible for creating and distributing many types of InfoTrends content, including forecasts, industry analysis, and research/multi-client studies. She also manages the writing and editing cycles for many types of deliverables.