By Olivia Cahoon
When it comes to web to print (W2P) software, wide format print service providers (PSPs) seek specific functions that cater to their businesses. This includes storefront tools that offer custom sizing and pricing, automatic proofing, and preflighting capabilities.
Select W2P solutions are also available with multiple storefronts for public business-to-consumer (B2C) customers as well as business-to-business (B2B) clients. Unlimited storefront options are typically easy to use and offer a variety of multi-branded portals with the same types of products—customized by the PSP. Depending on the W2P solution, pricing options are based on the number of available storefronts.
Above: LB Graph-X of Commack, NY uses RTT W2P software for its unlimited storefronts.
Wide Format Integrates
PSPs with wide format offerings rely on W2P software for a variety of reasons, including 24/7 access, expedited ordering, and accessibility. If executed correctly, W2P software allows PSPs to serve a broader base of buyers online with fewer salespeople and customer service staff. Some buyers even prefer the self-service nature of online ordering, which benefits business owners as orders submitted online are easier to track, archive, and analyze, suggests Usman Ali, principal, Ordant. “The buyer can’t submit the order until all the file data is correct and proofed, and the payment has been authorized.”
Using a W2P storefront is a necessity as wide format printing business evolves. According to Ali, older buyers are leaving the workforce, resulting in PSPs primarily selling to millennial buyers accustomed to the internet and convenience of online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and Shutterfly. “They expect to be able to buy all types of business products online too,” he continues.
In addition to satisfying a new generation of print customers, W2P software also offers 24/7 accessibility so files are uploaded at any time—expediting the ordering process, says Ellen Hurwitch, VP director of operations, RedTie Inc.
A 24/7 global presence helps gain new business, strengthen customer relationships, and build the brand, comments Mark Gallucci, technology marketing manager, commercial software, Agfa Graphics. “Integrating W2P systems with other business and production tools yields greater benefits in the form of increased efficiency, fewer errors, better cost coverage, and accounting.”
Tools are also designed for ease of use. “Even the best designers make mistakes,” admits Adam Witek, GM, PagePath Technologies, Inc. Using a W2P storefront helps prevent error by implementing automatic preflighting, job specification standardization, and proofing during the file upload process. It also simplifies ordering for both the printer and print buyers with jobs completed faster and reorders easily initiated from the customer’s history.
In fact, select W2P systems assist wide format customers in a step-by-step design process using wizard-based tools. “Anyone with basic computer skills can now order a printable product that looks good,” comments Slava Apel, CEO, Amazing Print Tech. For example, artificial intelligence improves automatic text placement, resolution control, and color selection.
Not all W2P storefront solutions include tools specific to wide format. To find the best solution, ideal features include custom sizing, proofing, and bleed marks.
A basic tools package is a good start but a PSP will require customizable features for specific workflows or customer requirements soon after implementation. According to Ali, the features a print provider may need depend on whether it wants to keep one large customer loyal or attract orders from several new clients.
If serving a specific customer, he suggests seeking a high level of customization, including the ability to offer contracted pricing and payment methods, downloadable branded templates, and special services such as kitting point of purchase graphics.
If the W2P storefront is used to sell a smaller range of products to a targeted niche, Ali believes the PSP won’t require as much customization. “You can offer a few standard sizes of banners, photo products, or posters with published prices.”
Custom Sizing & Pricing
To support a wide format product offering and receive instant quotes, PSPs require tools that allow for entering custom sizes online. Corey Puklus, VP of sales and support, PrintSites, says this is important because wide format products are not typically represented by standard sizes. “This was the most frequently requested feature from our customers and PrintSites now supports it.”
Many of today’s commercial graphics buyers expect to order signs and graphics sized to fit a designated window, floor, or wall space. “The ability to offer custom-sized, ultra-wide banners and graphics is important,” adds Ali.
While W2P platforms should handle the maximum widths of the print engines PSPs use, they should also support long roll products. This includes roll products where length may exceed the file dimensions supported by common design applications, explains Gallucci. “Automatic scaling and preflighting for effective solutions are important features here.”
The ability to customize a variety of heights and widths also translates to the need for custom prices. According to Terri Wymore, Pressero product manager, Aleyant, buyers in large and grand format markets are more concerned about customized pricing to accept a variety of sizes, custom substrates, and finishing options such as grommets or hemming. With this feature, print buyers design custom printed pieces while managing the cost.
“It’s difficult to verbally communicate finishing options to print buyers without overwhelming them. Instead, showing them a sample image with finishing during the ordering process is a great way to give the print buyer control,” recommends Witek.
Custom pricing also enables customers to obtain live quotes without having to request one by email or phone—saving time for the customer and PSP. “In the digital world, we are used to the internet as a tool for business interaction,” points out Sebastien Hanssens, VP marketing and communication, Caldera.
Preflighting & Proofing
Redoing an entire job can be a costly error that affects the sale’s bottom line. Automatic preflighting and proofing tools ensure the document is prepped without errors before the printer receives the job.
Preflighting is an industry standard for confirming digital files are correct, present, and accurately formatted.
“Your W2P workflow must be able to automatically preflight incoming files, so your customer can be immediately notified if the submitted file needs to be adjusted to achieve an optimal print,” explains Ali. Otherwise, incorrectly prepared files will slow down in-shop workflow, especially if multiple orders are received online.
Proofing tools also streamline the production process by automatically communicating artwork approval and previewing the customer’s files—providing immediate feedback on designs, which users can understand and quickly make a final approval.
Adding a layer of automatic proofing to the process saves in costly interaction between the PSP and the print buyer, says Witek. “Tools can check for image size, resolution, and bleeds. Use those tools to your advantage.”
Bleed & Crop Marks
The client’s ability to proof large format graphics online also allows them to preview bleed and crop marks so there are no surprises in the finished product, offers Ali. W2P solutions without this feature are susceptible to reprints.
“Having extra bleed to play with during installation is critical for best results,” agrees Bob Raus, category manager, workflow and HP PrintOS, HP Inc.
In addition to traditional tools like custom sizing, proofing, and bleed marks, web storefront solutions also benefit from newer technologies like cloud-based services, mobile-friendly interfaces, and online customer representatives.
W2P storefronts are available as desktop or cloud-based versions. When subscribing to a cloud-based service, Ali says storefronts are updated to take advantage of the newest features in operating systems and security programs—allowing IT to stay focused on other projects.
Storefronts should be designed for easy viewing and ordering from both desktop computers and mobile devices. “Your customers can place orders from wherever they happen to be, and you can be notified if your shop is receiving a particularly heavy stream of new orders,” suggests Ali.
Although many buyers enjoy the flexibility of ordering themselves, it’s still helpful to have a customer service representative available to chat online before an order is placed. Similarly, if a customer starts to place an order then stops before completing, representatives can send out an automated message asking if they need advice or assistance to ensure the sale is finalized, explains Ali.
In regards to pricing, licensing for wide format W2P software differs based on cloud services, storefronts, all-inclusive packages, and pay-as-you-go options.
Licensing partly depends on how much customization is included and how many people visit the site. “Some B2B storefronts are used by only a few dozen authorized buyers,” comments Ali. However, a public B2B storefront is available to 1,000s of buyers, particularly during busy holiday or trade show seasons.
Cloud-based services require no hardware or software. After upfront implementation and training costs, Gallucci says licensing is a monthly fee with various tiers depending on the number of storefronts and storage requirements.
For example, B2CPrint’s B2C platform consists of a one-time activation fee along with an ongoing monthly fee. According to Niro Barom, sales channel manager, B2CPrint, this includes domain updates, payment gateway integration, basic updates, hosting, storage, back up, and support.
Other solutions offer pricing based on one storefront, unlimited storefronts, and pay as you go, which allows the PSP to setup a storefront with no upfront costs and no monthly fees, adds Hurwitch. “They just pay for downloads.”
W2P solutions are available with multiple storefronts—providing individualized portals for each client.
If a PSP offers a public B2C store, Gallucci believes a single storefront is typically enough. But for B2B, he shares that the ability to offer customized stores for each client is important. Depending on the W2P solution, it’s typically easy to create differently branded portals with the same types of products, including product templates, media selection, finishing options, pricing, and shipping, which can be duplicated to additional custom-branded stores.
In fact, Kristen Licursi, marketing director, Cyrious Software, suggests that an ideal W2P solution is flexible enough to create public and private storefronts to accommodate both B2B and B2C customers. “This is the ultimate goal and opportunity for B2B customer use cases.”
B2Bs are typically larger customers with different people placing orders. Because of this, Licursi says they look for a branded site loaded with their unique products and designs to speed up the ordering and approval processes. Each of these sites can also be modified and maintained from the administrator portal.
Public and private storefronts for B2C and B2B customers have individual needs. “Public storefronts need to account for SEO being a driving force of traffic,” comments Licursi. SEO features offer editable fields for page titles, keywords, and image tags. Important features for private storefronts include the ability to match the individual customer’s brand, preloaded products ready for fast ordering, and online designers.
Depending on price and software, some W2P solutions offer unlimited storefronts so PSPs can set up as many branded portals as needed. Sites can also be setup with tagging, which Hurwitch says limit the end user’s options. For example, if the user has permission to see everything, they can access a poster category and pick from a variety of products. Another user may have limited permissions so when they sign into the site they only see one poster in a category where others see several.
Prior to Purchasing
Before selecting a W2P storefront solution, PSPs should understand their business plans including the types of clients they serve—primarily B2B or B2C—and the level of required usability.
Wide format print providers should have a good business plan and evaluate existing systems to ensure they meet the shop’s future needs. Gallucci suggests PSPs speak with ERP, RIP, and MIS vendors to see what W2P tools they offer or recommend.
If clients are primarily B2B, PSPs should have a clear understanding of their requirements. “Since their clients are the ones buying—or not buying—through your portal, it’s important to get them onboard. Making them part of the software demonstration process can be beneficial,” recommends Gallucci.
Because wide format files are typically large, PSPs should pay attention to the W2P’s storage costs and upload limitations. In fact, Witek finds that a surprising amount of W2P suppliers aren’t able to accept extra-large file uploads. “Choose a solution that has been around a while and can flex with the needs of your shop,” he adds.
Ease of use should also be considered. “Make sure it is open and easy to integrate to other business systems,” advises Raus. He suggests PSPs avoid buying systems that do not have open and free APIs, as open APIs provide an optimal method to ensure long-term success and inter-system compatibility.
“Wide format printers should test the solution before making a decision—going through proof of concept and self evaluation,” warns Naresh Bordia, VP of business development, OnPrintShop.
Established in 2005 in Lynwood, CA, PrintCo Direct Inc. originally focused on offset printing. It since expanded to include direct mail, promotional products, large format printing, wraps, signs, and trade show displays with a staff of four employees.
Nearly four years ago, Carlos A Diaz Jr., president, PrintCo, became frustrated with the shop’s missed deadlines and costly order mistakes. He decided to search for software capable of consolidating its workflow processes.
“At the time, I was using four different cloud-based software programs to manage orders and invoices,” comments Diaz. The different programs, functions, and features quickly created bottlenecks in the print shop’s production—requiring reprints and leaving customers unsatisfied.
Diaz evaluated over 15 different workflow solutions until selecting Ordant. The cloud-based print MIS software with an integrated W2P storefront is designed to simplify print estimating and order management capabilities.
“The dashboard, intuitiveness, and customizability are what sold us,” admits Diaz. Ordant’s dashboard, Order Manager, is a touchscreen friendly, drag-and-drop functionality that creates custom fields to update order status and track progress in a single view. It allows PrintCo’s staff to quickly see a project from beginning to finish—all in one screen.
PrintCo now spends less time with paperwork and figuring out missing order details—allowing more of a focus on clients. “We have automated emails sent when projects enter different stages of production and to notify customers when the order is complete or shipped,” says Diaz. This feature gives clients constant order updates, reducing the number of daily calls for status check-ins.
Storefronts Offer Efficiency
LB Graph-X and Printing started in Commack, NY in 2000. With ten employees, the PSP offers offset and digital wide format printing, online ordering, and graphic design services.
It selected RedTie Template (RTT) W2P software in 2008 for its ease of use, front and back end capabilities, and unlimited storefront sites. RTT is RedTie’s flagship W2P template software solution. It combines a user-friendly webstore platform with product and webstore customization tools.
According to David Garcia, president, LB Graph-X, RTT’s unlimited storefront feature is a major factor in improving the shop’s workflow. For example, a large portion of the PSP’s work is with major food franchises across 15 states. “Each has its own products and pricing based on territory and by creating storefronts for each of them, it alleviated countless hours of design time for making all of these changes for every franchise.”
With the software, franchises also upload mailing lists or buy lists from third party vendors, all in one location. Garcia says this gives his clients the opportunity to target zip codes close to their location.
In addition to improved franchise service, RTT’s unlimited storefronts attract new customers such as local high schools. The storefronts offer custom athlete products and school event materials like banners and posters.
Other tools include online pay, variable data, and the ability to upload large files when necessary. RTT features proofing capabilities that check size and file quality along with online proofing, which speeds time to print so the shop doesn’t have to check each file manually. “It also calculates all the shipping costs with the option of local pick up, giving our customers the ability to see shipping charges in real time,” adds Garcia.
From custom pricing to options for bleed and crop marks, W2P storefronts offer wide format PSPs a variety of features for their business. This includes unlimited storefronts for both B2B and B2C clients, with pricing ranging from cloud-based services to all-inclusive packaging and pay as you go.
Before selecting a W2P solution, it’s important to consider the product’s ease of use for staff as well as customers. Also, pay attention to storage costs and upload limitations since wide format file sizes are often large. Considering all of these ensures a W2P solution that fits your budget.
Jan2019, Digital Output