Whether we choose to buy into it or not, every new year brings expectations—the new year in digital print is no exception. From constant improvements in CTP printing to advances in quality control and color quality, manufacturers and distributors have witnessed both the commercial and consumer printing markets’ adjustments to digital printing slowly gather steam since its introduction into the marketplace. With all of the changes the printing industry as a whole has undergone this year, what will the face of digital print look like in 2007?
Observing the larger digital culture reveals the nation’s desire for customization, with the popularity of Web sites such as YouTube (which was sold to Google for $1.65 billion last year) and Myspace (which hit an account total of 100 million in 2006), as well as the continued financial success of iTunes. This overall trend also reflects the wants of digital print’s customers.
According to industry professionals, aspects of customization in digital printing should be a defining factor of the market in 2007. With demand for customization comes the further custom integration of offered products and services. Similar to Web consumers expecting individualization, digital print customers will come to expect their vendors to provide one-stop, custom services. The streamlined organization of data will also be in high demand. Here, five business leaders share their views on the future of digital printing.
Barbara Pellow, president, Electronic Document Systems Foundation, Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.:
“Software and digital technologies have streamlined traditional offset workflow. Digital printing has become the norm for ultra-short-run print jobs, both black-and-white and color. Through digital technology and the Internet, 2007 will see graphic communications service providers integrate more tightly with their customers’ business processes. Graphic communications service providers will extract value from becoming part of supply chain management systems for documentation and supporting Web-to-print solutions to effectively distribute marketing materials. They will start to help clients with multi-channel marketing campaign management solutions that have both electronic and print components. All of these new services will drive print volume, as well as
provide new sources of revenue from value-added services.”
Jim Hamilton, director, On Demand Printing and Publishing Consulting Service, Infotrends, Weymouth, Mass.:
“Except for a handful of vendors, most toner technologies are limited to process colors, and perhaps a few selected spot colors. Mixing specific spot colors has not been a strong point of most digital print implementations, but there are some indications that this is changing—which could have significant implications for applications where a specific brand color is required and where variations in that brand color are unacceptable. The market will decide whether the cost of such offerings are worth paying [for], or whether the consistency of CMYK simulations of spot colors will be good enough.”
Scott Becker, senior vice president of marketing, Oki Data Americas, Mount Laurel, N.J.:
“The industry will see continued growth in color on-demand printing as color products improve in quality and speeds, and become more affordable. There is also opportunity for impressive growth in a number of segments, including [the] retail, education and public sectors. In order to optimize the benefits of on-demand printing in these areas, the industry will need to focus on new applications, technologies and services that streamline the workflow processes responsible for managing documents before they ever get to the printer.”
“As businesses rely more on electronic communications to move documents, [Oki Data Americas] believe[s] it is critical that printing solutions deliver value in immediate and relevant output in the
form desired by the end-user. The industry will need to refocus its energy on developing customized solutions that address real-world business needs.”
Ron Gilboa, vice president of marketing, Inkjet Printing Solutions, Graphic Communications Group, Kodak, Rochester, N.Y.:
“In 2007, growth in digital print will be driven by an [all-encompassing] approach to managing relations with clients. Handling client needs, from document creation to final delivery, is key for this new world of client communications. Kodak sees many more applications being developed for client-intensive communications such as transaction, TransPromo and direct mail.”
“As image quality and substrate range improve, we will see these migrate into commercial applications such as newspapers, books, catalogs, circulars and many more. These will be driven by the need to improve production efficiency and the need to deliver value to the end recipient. The latter is driven by the need for content relevancy. Recipients clearly prefer to receive timely, relevant content rather than broader, undifferentiated
John Mancini, president, Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), Silver Spring, Md.:
“On the supplier side, we see 2007 as the year when some of the major acquisitions in the document marketplace from 2006 (IBM/FileNet, Oracle/Stellent and Open Text/Hummingbird) really start to resonate through the industry. Coupled with Microsoft’s entry into the enterprise content management (ECM) market, there will be a lot of scrambling as the major vendors vie for dominance in the ECM infrastructure.”
As 2007 promises a focus on rising customer demands and a more personalized marketplace in the year ahead, it is time for distributors to forge ahead with resolution.