Online Print Procurement "Coms" of Age
Taken as a technology, not a business sector, e-commerce is an unmitigated success.
As Industry analyst Eliot Harper tells it, the birth of e-commerce can be traced to 1986 and Henry Freedman's "829" patent—a pioneering invention allowing for the interconnection of printing requesters to printing facilities on telecommunications networks (visit www.henryfreedman.com).
"However, we started to witness the real introduction of print dot-com providers in 1999 at Seybold in Boston, when we saw Collabria, Impresse and others springing up," said Harper, on staff with WhatTheyThink, Lexington, Ky. "There were a total of nine new dot-com companies at this show. Today, there are more than 200."
Collabria's model uses eCatalog, a centrally approved procurement point where end-users can places orders for multiple locations.
This report looks at three of those companies—58k.com, Four51 and Collabria—and the unique approach each takes in streamlining print procurement services for distributors and their customers.
Models, Methods & Means
The e-commerce gospel according to David Robb, vice president of marketing for New York-based 58k.com, is that an e-commerce model must save people money while helping others to make money, the concept must be easy to explain and absorb and the site must be easy to navigate and use.
"You also need a voice behind the site," he added. "Our customer service staff is readily available to assist and continuously reviews criteria for completeness."
Essentially, 58k.com is a free-market auction site where print buyers post RFQs online and printers bid for the jobs in an atmosphere of uninhibited dialogue. "It's an open posting," explained Robb, "where all specs and prices are visible to all parties, so buyers can select the most effective producer for the job."
Different from a bid site, which doesn't necessarily facilitate a better transaction, the auction format lets buyers see beyond price and allows sellers to showcase their areas of expertise to forge the most productive relationship.