A strong e-commerce platform is becoming more and more of a necessity to compete in today's printing world. And by "strong," we mean "more than just an online store." Anyone can throw some PayPal buttons and a quantity drop-down menu up online and call it a store, so those who really want to succeed online have to go above and beyond. They need clean, intuitive design. They need customization. And, most important, they need to keep up with the trends.
Mark Johnson, CEO of Four51 Inc., a Minneapolis-based B2B e-commerce company that specializes in connecting print vendors with online buyers, and Kimberly Jones, e-commerce marketing manager for Ennis Inc., Midlothian, Texas, shared some insights into what's new with their companies, and the web-to-print market as a whole.
Print+Promo (P+P): Do you have a new web-to-print product, process or innovation you'd like to talk about? What is it, and what makes it important?
Mark Johnson (MJ): As a vendor of web-to print (i.e., e-commerce services and technology) since 1999, we've seen a change from acquiring capabilities and responsibilities to a desire to acquire capabilities but not assume the responsibilities, like much of the technology space. So we're innovating our relationship model. Instead of forcing printers to take on the licensing and administrative burden, we're providing an outsource option where we work with the printer on a catalog, by catalog basis, greatly reducing the costs of time and money associated with entering the e-commerce space. This also allows a printer to be reactive to the next customer's needs, even if they've already invested in one system.
Additionally, we're working to assist printers on the sales and marketing positioning of online ordering. The features of technology are great, but if you can't position it well with an end-user, it's not that helpful. Position it in their language, not yours. We're focused on making everything easier. Easier for the printer to get started, and easier for the end-customer to understand the value.