By Olivia Cahoon
Print service providers (PSPs) use Web-based storefronts to grow expand businesses by catering to customers online. This process is designed to provide a simple gateway for orders and purchases while completing jobs quickly and efficiently. In response to the increasing need of a Web presence for many PSPs, hardware vendors offer Web to print (W2P) storefronts bundled with their wide format printers. These solutions include features to kick start a PSP into W2P without overcomplicating the process.
Printing at the Storefront Level
W2P storefront solutions are sometimes bundled with wide format printers to give PSPs all the essentials to operate Web-based storefronts without having to develop it themselves. Software is bundled with hardware to create a flowing system that drives business online and operates efficiently. These combined offerings include all of the features found in traditional W2P solutions, allowing for customers to order premade and customizable templates that are uploaded online and proofed.
For example, Mutoh America, Inc.’s Virtual Storefront (VSF) is powered by PrintSites to deliver an interactive large format online design studio and W2P process for Mutoh’s large format printers. This includes storefront graphics, banners, and images; integrated RIP engines; and a native file upload utility.
Novus Imaging, Inc. bundles its own PrintFlow software with its printers. It is specifically designed to help PSPs enter into W2P without developing a complete online solution. A free customizable W2P user interface allows a print provider to brand their individual business.
Ellen Faith Hurwitch, VP, RedTie Group, says that RedTie has both unofficial and official partnerships with many print hardware manufacturers. “Being press agnostic is something our customers value as they often have various equipment in house that they want to drive volume to via their W2P solution,” says Hurwitch.
Amazing Print Corp. modifies its software to offer a W2P storefront bundle solution for Canon wide format printers. The relationship is simple so that customers can purchase bundles of software and hardware that complement each other.
The partnership involves Amazing Print providing high-resolution images for Canon’s Poster Designer Plus+ software. “A typical PSP starts immediately with millions of available stock photos, clipart, and premade poster templates that customers can customize online,” says Slava Apel, CEO, Amazing Print.
Customers can also enter specifications for their orders and choose from stock offered by the PSP as well. With the ease of purchasing at their fingertips, Web-based storefronts attract customers without them ever having to step foot in the shop.
Caldera offers W2P software through dealer channels that sell hardware and RIP solutions. While the RIP and the printers are bundled together, the W2P solution is not. However, Joseph Mergui, CEO, Caldera, says the company hopes to sign a deal for W2P at the manufacturer level to democratize the concept and accelerate the adoption rate of W2P technology.
“W2P is key to print shop growth and the logical step that goes well with production and business automation. W2P is the way to make the shop open 24/7 and sell beyond the state of the physical shop,” he adds.
It’s important for PSPs to identify the features that are most important to their current and future operation before choosing a W2P solution. Characteristics like ease of use may be the deciding factor between one bundled solution over another.
Charlotte Tueckmantel, W2P and value added products GM, EFI, shares that some storefront bundles—like EFI’s core eCommerce W2P product—allows print companies to easily create custom sites for their clients’ internal use for branding.
Ease in accessibility is an important factor. Customers purchasing W2P storefront bundles from Novus Imaging are generally for each client free of charge. “All the client needs to do is add a link from their website to the PrintFlow app,” says Mike Mills, president, Novus Imaging.
The end customer should be considered as well. Customer orders are handled correctly from the moment they begin browsing through delivery. “It is critical that the customer experience is straight forward. Less is more when it comes to the steps required to conduct a search and complete a transaction,” says David Conrad, sales and marketing director, Mutoh.
W2P storefront solutions part of a hardware package must handle large images for wide format printing. “Speed of dealing with large files and ease of image manipulation adds comfort for the buyer to continue with the purchasing process,” shares Apel.
Mark Gallucci, technology marketing manager, Agfa Graphics, says that ease of use for customer and print provider is integral. Asanti from Agfa is a cloud-based system that requires no hardware or HTML code knowledge so that the print provider can immediately begin taking orders. “Online help, integrated chat widgets, and FAQ pages offer the buyer a variety of customer service choices. Immediate feedback by email, simple order history search and re-ordering, and a variety of payment and shipping options keep the buyer engaged and in control,” says Gallucci.
Some W2P solutions handle outsourcing for products that aren’t produced in house, like Rocketprint Software. By using its Job Sourcing feature, orders are outsourced to a vendor of choice. This helps PSPs build a vendor list to submit the order, featuring all the details and files, says Larry Presnell, product development, Rocketprint Software, LLC.
Conrad says that PSPs should consider W2P storefronts that offer complete product lists, e-commerce, and logistical support that includes freight and delivery. To prepare, PSPs need to establish a solid foundation of controlling and managing traffic to allow for the simplest possible customer interactions and transactions. Mutoh’s VSF offers customizable storefronts and leads with three steps—design, download, and deliver.
Some storefronts are available on the cloud or as non-hosted versions. “For many customers, especially those that are new to W2P, the ability to have a cloud-hosted system is key because it reduces the IT burden on the customer,” shares Tueckmantel.
Finishing details are also challenging without the proper W2P solution. “The ability to have customers accurately specify grommets and seaming, for example, before a job is submitted works better than having to interact with a customer after the fact to add in finishing details because they were not available as options in the original W2P ordering menu,” says Tueckmantel.
Presnell adds that features like accurate price quoting, mobile friendliness, customer support, and integration with other software such as accounting and shipping are all characteristics PSPs should consider for their W2P storefronts to avoid complications.
While there are many different features for all types of W2P storefront bundles, one thing remains—efficiency for the customer. “W2P, when done well, drives customer loyalty and repeat business for sign shops. Ease of use from a print buyer perspective is the key to that,” adds Tueckmantel.
Cost it Out
Cost is a concern with any new purchase, and W2P software is no exception. However, investing in a W2P storefront solution that is part of a hardware bundle is one on the more inexpensive approaches.
For example, VSF from Mutoh is offered for as little as $99 a month, as long as the PSP is running one of a range of Mutoh printers. For this monthly fee, a PSP receives full accounting and logistics capability and the ability to print custom designed signage from the Web.
Novus Imaging’s PrintFlow W2P solution has no initial upfront costs for print providers with Novus Imaging printers. The storefront and all associated background applications are set up and hosted at no charge. As each order is processed customers are charged according to the pricing provided by the PrintFlow print provider. A nominal processing fee is deducted from each order to cover payment and processing costs.
W2P storefronts sold with a wide format printer include all the necessities PSPs need for beginning W2P, but eventually more advanced features are warranted. While bundles may be ideal for some shops, there are other options for PSPs looking to advance.
By upgrading W2P storefronts, PSPs can tackle more in-depth processes. Presnell shares that PSPs should choose a W2P solution with an expectation to grow business and not outgrow the software. For some, it may be better to begin with a more advanced software if they expect to surpass the basics.
Agfa’s Asanti integrates with other services like tawk.to, Olark, and PrintSphere for more robust solutions. “For a business to consumer store, there are SEO tools built in to increase search ranking and visibility. Order and financial data can be exported by several methods for import into accounting or management information systems,” explains Gallucci.
Other software options are available for PSPs looking for a more robust solution. “It is easily expandable to go well beyond job submission and it comes standard with key tools like email tracking, job history records, and re-ordering features. Commonly added features, such as credit card processing and Single Sign-On capabilities, make the software that much more effective and efficient for both PSPs and the businesses they serve,” says Tueckmantel.
W2P storefront solutions bundled with wide format printers are designed with easy to use features that include customizable and premade templates for customers. Cost is minimal as many options are rolled into the fee of the hardware. If a W2P storefront solution that is part of a hardware package isn’t robust enough, there is always the option of upgrading to a standalone product with more advanced features. Bundled with wide format printers, PSPs less familiar with W2P storefront solutions can handle Web-based purchases simply and efficiently.
Jan2017, Digital Output