A week ago, at #BOPE22 – the Benelux Online Print Event 2022 – in Antwerp, the motto was “Back to e-Business.” But what does this e-business – or more correctly digital commerce – actually look like for print shops in the future, now that Corona has reshuffled the cards? On the one hand, I’m sure it will be simpler and more personal for customers, and on the other hand, it will be “headless” – and THAT, in turn, has nothing whatsoever to do with headless business.
On the contrary, “headless commerce” is a platform architecture in which back-end processes and frontend, i.e., the virtual environment in which the user moves, are deliberately separated from one another and communicate with one another via an API. This kind of “decoupling” is intended to enable platform operators to react more quickly to changes in the market or user behavior and to implement new features, information or designs more easily – and without impairing the customer journey in the front end. Which – by the way – in the future will work or can be initiated on significantly more devices, channels or touchpoints than we currently think.
This results in a variety of different benefits, including better trial and testing capabilities, easier scalability, greater flexibility, and more extensive customization options, to name a few. The “headless commerce approach” therefore fits seamlessly into what I have already talked about at OPS – and now at #BOPE22: In order to find the right answers to the challenges that are coming at us from all directions today and in the future, we need to rethink online print. In my opinion, this means making online print more personal, simpler, and making the customer journey more attractive and more focused on the individual customer.
Why is this so important? Because the customer has become more demanding and now understands how online and mass customization work – and demands the benefits of it all. We therefore cannot stand still and must always think one step ahead. Because even if the overall print volume shrinks in the future, in online print the signs are pointing to growth despite all the obstacles. This is precisely because automation, digital sales channels and customized mass production make it possible to create more valuable, more meaningful and more responsive print products, which – if they are cleverly made – can be real sales drivers.
Local meets international
But of course, there were other interesting presentations at #BOPE22: on classic print shops that have successfully made the journey to becoming a W2P provider, on authenticity as an important pillar for business success, or a DaaS – design-as-a-software solution. With Miki Rubin from Imprimu, who previously spoke at the Online Print Symposium 2022, an excursion into the Latin American online print market was also on the agenda. A total of eleven speakers had their say, including Philip Hofmann from Hoodie Hoo, who we also had as a guest at the OPS, and Morten Reitoft from Inkish, who spoke about the revenue drivers in online print.
“The goal of #BOPE22 is to inspire entrepreneurs in our industry on the topic of online printing. Perhaps less technically, but above all with real cases brought in by real people,” explains Jos Steutelings, Managing Director of VIGC, the Belgian Innovation Center for Graphic Communication. “The international approach – the window on the world, so to speak – alternating with local cases is the strength of this event. For example, we had two authentic presentations from Belgian entrepreneurs, Cartim and Buroform. The first is a classic commercial printer who has switched to an online concept where he only serves professionals (reseller concept). It already generates 80% of its sales online. The second company has just launched – after a long search marked by ‘try and error’ to find the ideal online platform – a new B2C website called Inkoprint.be.”
In total, the #BOPE22 event attracted a good 140 participants, mostly from the BeNeLux countries, but also from Denmark and Germany, who are print service providers not only in commercial printing, but also in large format printing and labels and packaging.
#YP!P – or Young Professionals in Print
“This year, we also had many young entrepreneurs among our participants,” Steutelings points out. And that, in turn, was due in no small part to the fact that the VIGC has launched a new initiative, the “Young Professionals in Print,” or #YP!P for short.
“The idea is to regularly bring together young professionals from our industry. The initiative is open to VIGC members under the age of 45. Participants run a business or are a son or daughter who will take over the reins of the family business or have C-level management responsibilities,” explains the VIGC executive director. “It is a bottom-up initiative. That means the members are in the driver’s seat. VIGC merely provides support here. At least twice a year, we meet on a topic chosen by the group. It can be a technical topic, but topics in human resources, workforce, economics, or sustainability are also possible. Ideally, the meeting will take place at one of the members’ homes, as a company visit is always an interesting extra. The content portion will be limited to one hour, as networking comes first. We want young people to get to know each other, network and share experiences and information about their daily concerns or opportunities. The initiative is not limited to the BeNeLux countries, however, the companies behind it should be VIGC members.” Right at the start, by the way, the “Young Professionals in Print” initiative already has 30 members.