Digitalisation of print

Strategising towards e-business print

Strategising towards E-business print

A lot needs to go right to be successful in e-business print. It’s not just a case of copying an online business model from elsewhere – a unique strategy needs to meticulously formulated and implemented which recognises that e-business print can’t just be treated as an “add-on” or an extension of existing operations.

E-business print is the combination of several “e-services” and combines the areas of sales, service, procurement and marketing into one concept. The business is therefore based on serving different media channels – and not just print.

The strategy needs to answer how the business will serve these areas in a way that is either better or different to how current market players are going about it.

Identifying your specialisation

Your strategy will be heavily informed by what your business specialises in. The internet offers every “specialist printer” a considerable opportunity to sell their products across local borders – if you get it right, in the right area, there is significant success to be found.

The unique selling proposition or unique selling point (USP) is the factor or benefit that makes your e-business offering different—stand out—from other firms on the market.

Not only is it important to have a USP to see where you fit within the marketplace, a strong selling proposition, well communicated, will help customers quickly understand what your business offers and why they should choose you over the competition.

Finding your USP means having a good understanding of your target market, your competition, and your industry – then matching those up with the things that you believe your business is really good at.

At the same time, you need to look at those needs that aren’t being met by anyone, and also think about the key trends in your industry.

Being adaptable to trends

The printing industry, just like any other, is subject to social and sometimes very fast-moving trends. Today’s best-selling products could form next year’s slow-moving inventory.

Trends don’t just influence production selection but also the scope of services in the shop, the customer approach, the design of the online shop and of course the costs.

In order to adapt, a company must have its antennae tuned to signals of change from the external environment, decode them, and quickly act to refine or reinvent its business model and even reshape the information landscape of its industry.

The common metaphorical phrase, ”The only thing constant is change,” is a casual but accurate description of today’s business environment. Of course, the business environment is always changing, but the internet and other Information Age technologies have put the business environment into an extremely accelerated rate of change.

To adapt is to recognise environmental changes (often changes that the individual cannot control) and make the necessary modifications to continue to thrive despite the change.

Creating the right services

If you’re going to operate in the online world, you’ve got to play by its rules. All too often, we see printing companies set about expanding their existing service in the direction of an online shop, only to provide analogue services on the internet.

A good example of this is customer support. In the offline world, customer support is only available when the shop is open – for the sake of argument, let’s say between 9am and 6pm. In the online world, however, the door to the ‘shop’ never shuts – that means that customer support must also be round the clock. A sophisticated online portal can help here, but a hotline must still be guaranteed because the target group demands it.

Many online service providers, however, do not sufficiently comply with this even after years. This requires considerable work on the company and its level of knowledge as well as service readiness.

When creating your services, you need to ensure they align with the expectations of your customers. In the case of e-business print, service is perceived as part of the product. Therefore, you need to ensure that customers have a seamless experience without any hurdles.

This challenge is complicated by the e-business print buying process chain, which differs considerably from that of other e-commerce portals because the purchased goods are configured individually and can only be produced once the customer has supplied their content (data). This makes the process chain much more complex than in “normal” e-business.

A final word

In short, e-business print is not simply selling printed matter on the internet – online printing requires a fundamental rethink of the economic fundamentals of the printing industry. What has worked well in offline business for decades will no longer work in e-business print.

So, when building your strategy, you need to ensure you’re carving out your own niche, aligning with the latest trends and providing the service that your customers expect from you.

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