By Melissa Donovan
he first part of this series on Web to print (W2P) for wide format examined the catalyst for its recent popularity and presented the benefits—for both print service providers (PSPs) and their customers. Here, we go straight to the source, the end user.
Whether you specialize in fine art prints, vehicle wraps, or are a multi-faceted shop with various size print devices, W2P is a fit for you and your customers, both prospective and legacy accounts. Current customers find ease in ordering from the comfort of their own desk, especially repeat clients who click on the order submit button for recurring jobs. New customers are attracted because W2P expands geographic reach. Based in MA, why not print for someone in CA? ecommerce storefronts make this a convenience instead of a challenge.
Atlanta, GA-based Digital Arts Studio (DAS) began in 2003, looking to focus on fine art and photographic printmaking in narrow to wide format sizes. Today, the ten-person staff offers just that, in addition to scanning, custom framing, image editing, an online art gallery with order fulfillment, and marketing materials.
“We’re not a typical print shop; we work primarily with artists and photographers looking for the highest possible value and care in producing museum-quality giclées. We offer many options to our clients and ask for detailed information so we can get it right,” explains Barry Glustoff, president/co-owner, DAS.
The catalyst for searching, and eventually implementing, a W2P storefront was to attract new clientele from anywhere in the country. DAS always offered order fulfillment and drop shipping for local clients, so increasing the volume of daily outgoing shipments wasn’t an issue—it was creating an easy way for non-local customers to order from the site.
Glustoff, along with his co-owners, Peter Leafman and Robin Zelizer, coincidentally learned about its eventual W2P storefront solution via their own Internet search, typing the key phrase “ecommerce integration” into a browser. One option that popped up was Rocketprint Software LLC, which they found offered an affordable and customizable template that easily integrated into its existing Web site framework.
Because DAS requests detailed information from its customers and offers a vast array of print options, many of the W2P solution’s built-in capabilities are used. Drop downs for various media, varnish, and frame types create a more detailed site.
With Rocketprint software in place and the storefront live, DAS services customers in almost every state in the U.S. and even some outside of the country. Artists in other states bring in their work for initial setup—original artwork is transferred to the store to be scanned—and then use the online portal to check job status, proof, and order reprints.
While the vast majority of DAS’ clients are local and regional, they still use the W2P storefront. “Atlanta is well known for its traffic issues, so many local clients prefer to upload files, order online, and cut their traveling time in half,” concludes Glustoff.
Specializing in vehicle wraps, The Dezynery has been in business since 2012. With its primary location in Peoria, AZ, a team of 16 operate out of three facilities total, which includes training and installation. No stranger to the graphic arts, Sergio DeSoto, CEO, The Dezynery, learned about Mutoh America, Inc.’s Virtual Storefront (VSF)—powered by PrintSites—at an International Sign Association trade show.
The company wanted to expand its customer base beyond its main service offering and capitalize on those customers primarily interested in purchasing signage online. “What makes it nice for us is that we can sell items that we don’t focus on with our main advertising or branding, such as banners, signs, and cards,” explains DeSoto.
The W2P storefront offers signs and banners on a budget. Users can upload designs to the site or work within a pre-designed template. With a goal of creating the signage quickly, the job is printed on a Mutoh ValueJet 1624 and then finished with a Mutoh ValueCut and Kala Finishing Systems laminators.
While DeSoto does not see the solution replacing brick and mortar stores in the future, he believes its merging fast into the wide format space based on what he’s seen in the back end. “The one thing I do know is if the online shop is run well, adding new orders to your hot folder without having to do much of anything is an amazing thing,” he shares.
Range, Inc., in business since 1968, has a history in print. As a full-service marketing provider, spread throughout four locations, its staff of 65 is equipped to handle a range of offerings. The company specializes in print, wide format, creative services, fulfillment, apparel, and promotional items.
Based out of MN, Range currently uses EFI’s Online Print Solutions platform. While many of its clients request narrow format projects, the jump to a wide format-based sell via the Web was not that different, according to Mike Caruso, CTO, Range Printing.
“Other than size, wide format possesses some of the same characteristics as other print providers. Customers still need branding standards, high-quality output, control over spending, proper authorization, and ease of ordering with these larger projects,” he explains.
The business continues to grow. Range has launched various sites for both itself and its customers, which receive anywhere from hundreds of orders per week. These projects are printed quickly, at high quality with the service providers’ Epson SureColor S30670 64-inch solvent printer.
Micro W2P storefronts are also popular. With Caruso stating that the company generates over 2,500 orders in just three weeks time from these types of solutions.
Momentum Media began in March 2003 in Tulsa, OK. Its goal—graphic design and printing for churches nationwide. At the time, the company subbed out jobs to strategic partners, but business grew quickly and the success allowed the PSP to purchase its first wide format printer.
Today the print shop calls Murfreesboro, TN home. Two full-time employees and contracted designers and installers make up the team. Print services of up to 16 feet wide are offered to churches, businesses, and bands nationally. Hardware used includes two Hewlett-Packard (HP) printers—Designjet 9000 and Scitex XL1500; an EFI VUTEk GS3200; and a Zünd digital router/cutter.
To reach out to customers on a national level, a W2P solution became somewhat a necessity. Cory Richmond, owner, Momentum Media, looked at a lot of options and struggled to find something at first that fit his needs.
He looked into building his own site, but it was too expensive. Richmond then found Keen Systems, Inc. and served as a beta tester on the product, prior to it being launched to the public. As a beta tester, he provided feedback and watch his ideas become reality.
With a variety of customers visiting Momentum Media’s site, people with or without a background in design and print, Richmond required a W2P storefront that was easy as possible for his clients to use. In addition, new products are constantly added and these need to be populated on the ecommerce site efficiently and cleanly. Keen took all of these factors into consideration and worked with the PSP to create the correct site for him.
Designed as a Software as a Service, initial costs are kept down on the front end of the site. Additionally, Keen eliminates the need for more workers in house. “It is a very streamlined approach to handling business. This system does for me what some companies would have to have over ten people do,” explains Richmond.
The ecommerce site provides efficiency throughout the order taking process with job status updates, a production schedule, tracking hot files, and ensuring payment after a job is completed. With these tasks regulated to online, it frees up Richmond and his staff to take on more projects and increase brand awareness.
Richmond reports that the number of orders coming directly from the Web continues to grow and many times these are from clients he has never seen or known of before.
Here we profile W2P solutions with a focus on wide format shops looking to create retail business-to-consumer and private business-to-business (B2B) storefronts.
Asanti StoreFront from Agfa Graphics is a cloud-based W2P solution that provides ease of use, ease of entry, flexibility, and integration. It can work as a standalone solution with any RIP or workflow, or be integrated with Agfa’s Asanti workflow.
Aleyant Systems’ Pressero is a W2P ecommerce storefront solution that offers instant interactive pricing and order management capabilities. eDocBuilder, an included online designer, provides print buyers with online design and proofing of posters, banners, signs, and wallpaper.
Avanti Systems eAccess W2P is fully integrated into Avanti Slingshot, its management information system (MIS). Together, the platforms handle file submission, inventory management, and logistics in wide format projects.
Caldera WebShop is fully integrated into the Caldera RIP and Flow+ business workflow solutions, but can also act as a standalone. Both the back end and dashboard are hands on, with quick training and support.
Cendix hosts a fully customizable W2P solution. Available for integration into a number of custom workflows and/or external applications, there are no built-in restrictions on the number of users, storefronts, files, or transactions.
ColorGATE Digital Output Solutions GmbH’s online shop solution, Webgate, is standalone but can integrate into fully existing print workflows. Hosted, it is based on Magento, a worldwide open source ecommerce platform. LayoutBuddy modules assist in the front and back end design.
Cyrious Software recently released Cyrious Online. The software gives print providers the ability to create tailored storefronts for each customer or group of customers. This offers buyers the ability to design, approve, and order digital prints from any device that can access the Internet.
EFI Web2Print solutions are customizable user interfaces that allow for additional customers and storefronts on demand at no additional cost. Offered as either self hosted or cloud based, EFI Web2Print solutions are positioned for a range of PSPs. The number of storefronts is unlimited.
HP offers its SmartStream Director, a solution for online shopping to shipping. The front end includes job ordering, preflighting, and pricing. Designed for B2B applications the server-based product supports up to 100 concurrent users out of the box.
Keen, with a focus on wide format variability in sizes, quantities, and numerous finishing options, offers its standalone W2P solution. Based on next-generation architecture, it hosts thousands of PSPs in a multi-tenant cloud environment. Thanks to the cloud, enhancements and new features are automatically updated.
Mutoh’s VSF provides a W2P solution with back end store management features including design tools, freight, and product selection. Based in the cloud, it is easy to set up and use, designed for print shops to manage with their existing staff.
Pixopa offers enterprise W2P ecommerce solutions with an advanced HTML5-based online design studio, hosted ecommerce storefronts, and the Magento W2P plugin. Features tailored for the large format PSP include the ability to sell custom photo canvases, custom wall art, signs, and banners.
Pixta, Inc. offers PixtaCatalog, a W2P solution that allows print buyers to sell products from a 24/7 sales channel. The product is best used when integrated with the company’s PixtaFlow cloud-based workflow software and PixtaSynapse, a secure file transfer solution.
The wide format segment of Rocketprint’s W2P is designed to allow more accuracy, flexibility, and variety. The storefront can operate as a standalone product, but is also offered with a built-in workflow/scheduling module at no extra cost—in addition to integration with certain MIS providers.
SignStore.net is a cloud-based solution that allows PSPs to create a Web store for their clients via HTML5. A sign catalog offers a product database full of popular wide format applications and users have the capability to customize their own products as well.
ecommerce is a large part of the buying culture, so it makes sense that purchasing digital print moves that way as well. While wide format buyers may be more hands on, controlling brand and colors, popping into the shop itself rather than simply ordering online, that doesn’t mean that certain print buyers won’t find this solution a fit. Customization in the form of banners, wall décor, and other consumer-based items are ideal for this market. W2P storefronts provide customers with easy access to the products they want.
Jan2014, Digital Output