Written by Howard Fenton, Senior Technology Consultant at NAPL

I am in the middle of an evaluation of a large university in-plant and discovered that even though they bought the web-to-print software months ago, they are still not using it. For me, the lackluster adoption and use of web-to-print technology is a mystery. According to market researcher InfoTrends, web-to-print is growing and is scheduled to grow faster.

“The Internet continues to have a major impact on printing operations. The ability to submit, approve, and track print jobs via a Web-to-Print system has increasingly become commonplace. InfoTrends estimates that the share of e-enabled commercial print volume (submitted via a Web-to-Print solution) in the United States 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. By 2014, $31bn of the $107bn commercial print revenues (NAICS 323 plus in-plant print shops) will be submitted through a Web-to-Print system.”

As someone who goes out everyday and talks about the benefits of web-to-print, I am frustrated by what I see, which is slow adoption and limited use. Talking to someone about it reminds me of an old joke that goes like this, “How is web-to-print like your mom or kids?” The answer is that no one wants to say anything bad about it, but after a few drinks, their real opinions emerge.

Everyone says publicly how much they support web-to-print. But after a few drinks, you can hear salespeople, estimators, customer service and even some in management talk about how it diminishes or eliminates their role or value.

As a result, not everyone embraces online solutions, which can hinder the adoption, the implementation or the promotion to their customers. The problem is those fickle customers. While some love to talk to their salesperson or CSR, others want to get estimates, confirm their work is on time for the delivery or reorder work quickly.

The fact of the matter is online solutions are available today and for those customers who feel it has value and want to use it they are going to search out companies that offer it and buy from them. You can try to pretend they don’t exist or don’t work well and that may work for all of your customers. But for others, if they want to work online and you don’t offer it, someone else will walk in their door and you will lose those customers.

Does this mean that hot technologies will diminish the value of a salesperson? It will only diminish the value of those people that ignore it and hope it will go away. Something I have learned about world-class salespeople is that they are constantly evaluating and reinventing their value proposition based on new products and technology that are offered by their company. Are you?

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.