Written by Howard Fenton, Senior Technology Consultant at NAPL

Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm” talked about technology adoption cycles and referred to the gap between the early adopters and the early majority as “the chasm.” Crossing the chasm represented a momentum, which resulted in the beginning of mass-market adoption. In other words, when a technology got hot.

When we look at web-to-print software today, we still have not seen the momentum build to mass-market adoption but there are some predictions that it will occur soon. According to the latest InfoTrends research, the share of web-purchased commercial print volume will double from 15% in 2009 to 30% in 2014. When compared to data from a decade ago (2000), the percentage has grown over 5x, where only less than 3% of print volumes were e-enabled.

But let’s look closely at this, because sometimes there are hurdles that slow the adoption of new technology. They include: cost of entry, ease of use, integration into existing systems, ROI and perceived value. In my experience, there is about 30% adoption of web-to-print in the companies I visit and only about 50% have it working well and are successful in making it a profitable part of their business.

Two Issues Slowing the Success of Web-to-Print

The two most common reasons are poor system integration and a lack of awareness. In some companies the web-to-print solution is not marketed or promoted. It reminds me of the saying from the movie Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come.”

The company created the site but did not spend much time on a go-to-market strategy. If that just caused a cold chill to go down your back, take a deep breath. The expression “go-to-market strategy” does not necessarily have to mean a process that takes a long time or costs a lot, it simply means it needs to be thought out and done properly. In addition, some sales people or CSRs consider it a threat and don’t encourage customers to use it.

The integration issues have to do with web-to-print solutions not talking to other systems such as MIS and prepress PDF workflow systems. Older MIS or prepress PDF packages may not communicate with the web-to-print system. This may mean that you need to update the MIS or PDF workflow software or buy a web-to-print solution that includes those outdated modules.

Critical Success factors

For web-to-print to get hot or result in mass-market adoption requires overcoming the four issues that exist today. Obviously, first you have to get it working. If it’s sitting in a box or installed and not in use then you have to get it up and running. Second, if you are introducing it, you should start with some beta testing on a limited number of customers. Third, once you work out the bugs you need to create a go-to-market strategy and get staff buy-in. And forth, if you have system integration issues that will require investments to overcome you should prioritize those requests and tackle the most important first.

Where are you in the adoption of web-to-print? Are you stuck because of poor implementation, staff issues or a lack of promotion?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Technology Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.