A Web of Information
If you ask five people to explain what the term "web-to-print" means to them, you will most likely end up with five different answers. Quite simply, different needs require different implementations.
"If you start to really get into meeting the needs of an organization and customize their workflow for them so that there's a real optimization effort going on, both for the client as well as the supplier, then you're going to hear lots of different kinds of implementations depending on what the need is," according to Mark Weiss, president of Pennsauken, New Jersey-based CRW Graphics and ColorQuick.
Print Professional spoke to several experts to get a better understanding of how this sophisticated technology can be utilized in your business.
1. A Good Old Fashioned Storefront
Vitaly M. Golomb, founder and CEO of San Mateo, California-based Keen Systems, believes one element of web-to-print is the idea of ordering print online, which has been his company's primary objective.
Over the last two years, Golomb and his team have built the Keen e-commerce and customer relationship management online service for print shops and brokers of all sizes. Golomb described the service as an e-commerce platform designed to help printers transition their database communication workflow from traditional methods, such as e-mails, phone calls and faxes, to an e-commerce workflow.
"What our system allows print service providers to do is to create one or multiple storefronts where each one becomes a fully capable website that's optimized for search engine traffic, allows them to build a catalog with products and accept customer requests for quotes that are structured. And their end-user customers are able to sell products, place an order, pay for it, upload files—there's an integrated preflight [to] inspect files," Golomb said.
The term "web-to-print" has become an integral part of industry vernacular over the past few years. However, its value is more important now, commented Jason Pinto, CMO of Wilmington, Massachusetts-based interlinkONE, a marketing software company.
"For one thing, people are more accustomed to purchasing items online than they were three years ago," he noted. "Thus, it's very important for printers and distributors to provide easy ways for their customers to research and order products online."
To facilitate the ordering process, more companies are ensuring their web-to-print storefronts are optimized for tablets and smartphones. "The whole business world is working on ensuring that all of their Web content is mobile-optimized. Printers should ensure that they're doing the same, as much as possible," Pinto encouraged. "Some people may still be hesitant to order anything on their phone, but I think this will become a more common practice sooner than later."
2. A New Marketing Tool
Web-to-print systems are not limited to e-commerce storefronts. In fact, more and more companies are turning to this technology to enhance their cross-media marketing campaigns. In layman's terms, cross-media delivers relevant content and a call to action through multiple channels (e.g., print, e-mail, personalized URLs, QR codes, etc.) simultaneously as an integrated campaign. Web-to-print can tie into this action (in addition to a closed-loop marketing campaign) in several ways.
"A web-to-print storefront should make it much easier for marketers and sales reps to select, personalize and send collateral to a prospect in a very timely fashion," Pinto mentioned. "With these strategies and tactics, businesses should be able to increase awareness and demand, which should provide them with more leads. Then, they should be able to convert more of those leads into sales by delivering relevant information in the right channel at the right time."
Several steps must be taken when developing this type of campaign. The first step is understanding goals and the measurement criteria.
"Take the time to clearly define strategic objectives and look at the campaign as a process of building relationships and generating leads and/or improving one's understanding of customer profiles," instructed Lindsay Gray, CMO of Greenville, North Carolina-based AccuLink.
Pinto recommended integrating marketing efforts.
"If you have a separate database storing your customers, prospects and their activities, it can be very hard to deliver coordinated and relevant efforts," he advised. "By integrating your data and the channels that you'll be using, it'll be easier to launch, manage and measure successful campaigns."
Sometimes it's best to learn by example. Pinto recalled how an insurance company effectively used web-to-print in a cross-media campaign.
The company offered different types of insurance (e.g., life, health, auto, etc.). The goal, of course, was to sell insurance to people, but the company wanted its sales efforts to be relevant. The problem? The insurance company had a mailing list of prospects, but didn't know much about these people beyond their name and address, Pinto related.
The company came up with a solution to create a personalized URL (PURL) for each person and send out a direct mail piece to them. When recipients visited their PURL, they had the option to select which type(s) of insurance were of interest to them.
"Once they hit 'submit,' the system automatically generated a customized brochure for those people. It contained information—text, pictures and offers—based on the type of insurance selected," Pinto explained. "A print-ready file was created, sent to the printer and then mailed to the prospect shortly afterwards. Not only did this give the insurance company a better database, but [it] also was able to automate [its] follow-up processes."
3. The Trickle Down Effect
For ColorQuick Director of Business Development Scott Levy, web-to-print is all about supply chain optimization, immediacy of purchase, efficiencies and digital asset management and brand management.
Brand arguably is the most important asset of any company, with the logo being the most important identifier. Any tampering of a logo's color, font, sizing, etc. could change the entire perception of a company. A web-to-print portal can control brand management because it centralizes all of a company's marketing collateral in the digital asset management component of the portal.
From a corporate perspective, Levy said, anyone running a decentralized organization benefits greatly from coordinated marketing. He continued, "The digital asset management is where you have control of all of your images in one central area. It's where you can put in images to be used and take out images that you don't want to be used anymore. You know things have the right DPI, the right look and feel. You could set up a template where the company's logo is the right resolution at the right font size locked in a position where you want it to be.
"[In terms of web-to-print] you can limit options, font types, sizes and colors so that someone working on the composition of a direct mail piece, for instance, can't really mess too much stuff up except for the actual words that are being said. Or, they could combine words with images that make no sense. The final approval cycle, where someone from headquarters just clicks an approve button takes care of that. [...] This saves an enormous amount of time and energy and increases speed to market dramatically."
Clearly, web-to-print offers endless possibilities. One thing is certain—web-to-print technologies can make it easier for customers to conduct business with companies.
"The new stream of revenue that I'm most interested in as a web-to-print provider is how much is my customer able to sell or accomplish their goal," Weiss concluded. "As long as I'm enhancing their ability to get a message into the marketplace, they'll keep coming back for more."￼