How to Succeed in E-Business
An outbreak of online print solution providers offers an opportunity for convenienceas well as the potential for confusion
By Eric Fiedler
Just five years ago, electronic commerce was an obscure, futuristic idea. Today, it is everywhere. Five years from now, we may wonder how we ever did business without it.
In two years alone, approximately 30 start-up print e-commerce services have been launched or have announced their intention to launch.Services vary significantly, but the most prominent ones provide collaborative tools to facilitate project management between printers and print buyers.
Generally, the services enable printers and print buyers to interact through a secure Web site and exchange information about specific print projects.A print buyer can post detailed requirements of a print project in an organized form and then make the project available to selected vendors for competitive bidding.Once a project is awarded, some services feature additional communication and workflow tools to facilitate job processing.
The benefits of such a system are nearly endless. "Print production is a complex process with countless variables for each project," said Ray Roper, president and CEO of Printing Industries of America, headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
"When implemented based on a common set of standards and guidelines, print e-commerce could potentially revolutionize how print is purchasedbenefiting print buying firms, printers and the suppliers to printing firms." Roper said. "On the other hand, poorly designed business models will benefit no one and will likely impair the ability of the industry to effectively implement e-commerce."
Excitement about e-commerce runs deep within most segments of the industry. "I think we are in the first quartile of a revolution," said Brooks Warner, director of sales and marketing for Web Graphics, Glens Falls, N.Y.
Warner's enthusiasm stems from the success of his company's e-commerce solution, the Web Internet Ordering System (WIOS). Web Graphics claims that the system eliminates the need for paperwork and processing, reduces order processing time, ends ordering and printing errors and gives customers the advantage of ordering anytime from anywhere.