Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

Cell Phone, Router, and Production PrinterAt a recent presentation, an interesting question was asked — “What are the most important technologies reshaping our industry?” This is interesting because it goes beyond new technologies that are impacting just the printing industry to include all the technologies that are reshaping how consumers use print and print related services.

According to market research, most printing serves either to help sell a product or communicate information to someone. In that context, there are three things that are impacting and changing the way print customers, and in turn, their customers use print and print related services. Those are Internet based technologies, portable gadgets, and inkjet production printing.

1. The Internet tools changing our industry include e-mail, web pages, SEO ( search engine optimization) e-commerce, and social media. If you’re a print service provider these can be either threats or opportunities. For companies not offering e-mail marketing, QR codes, SMS texting, web page design, web to print functionality, and social media marketing this may be seen as a threat. For companies offering cross media marketing strategies, they are an opportunity.

2. The term “portable gadget” often conjures ideas about e-readers such as the Kindle and tablets such as the iPad. While the readers and tablets are having an impact, it’s smart phones that most experts agree will have the greatest impact on our industry. If you listen to John Foley and Barbara Pellow,  you will hear how the next big thing is mobile marketing. The impact of smart phones on print and print related services is only scratching the surface.

3. The advances and advantages in inkjet production printing are hard to ignore. Depending on the run length and the competing technology (offset, electrophotographic) inkjet can, in some cases, cost a fraction of the price of alternative technologies. The challenge today is cost of adoption. Due to the high cost of investment, the three markets immediately impacted are books, transactional, and direct mail printing. But inevitably the cost of these devices will either come down or the profitable business opportunities will become so undeniable that this technology will become more accessible for commercial printers. At that point, we’ll start to see mass market migration. Of course, finding the right supplier to partner with can help speed this transition – preferably one that can provide expertise in technology, workflow, and help smooth the business transformation.

If you think about it, the challenges in our industry are formidable. The impact of the Internet and gadgets will continue to reduce the volume of print. Companies that embrace the opportunities created with these technologies will succeed, while companies that don’t will struggle. It’s not too early or too late to start embracing these technologies. While inkjet production printing is still gaining traction, there are many companies offering e-mail marketing, QR codes, SMS texting, webpage design, web-to-print ordering, and social media marketing. At the end of the day, the real question is: are you going to embrace or shun the technologies that are reshaping our industry?

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Howie Fenton is a consultant and business advisor at NAPL as well as a paid contributor to this blog. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.