Insights #OPS2017 – will online print forever be an industry of start-ups?


Friday afternoon at 2:45 – and the rows of seats are still full of people. That clearly speaks volumes for the quality of the Online Print Symposium, which was staged for the fifth time on April 6 and 7, 2017 in Munich.

When nearly 300 visitors thoroughly enjoy the presentations right up to the last minute, then the organizers must have got it absolutely right, having selected topics that keep the audience on the edge of their seats right up to the end. And that’s because it did not highlight an ideal eBusiness print world. It’s difficult to top it! Klaus-Peter Nicolay from the Druckmarkt, sums it up for beyond-print. (Great job Nico!) and who like to read more, here is a summary of Andreas Weber of Value Communications.

This is how Eva Malawska, founder and CEO of Kleine Prints, described towards the end of the event how her “Photobooks for Children” project almost failed spectacularly, because she tripped up nearly all the time. She said that she as a designer had approached online applications “somewhat naively”, had underestimated the logistics effort involved and perceived herself to be confronted by print companies (go-ahead digital print providers) that demonstrated how “old-fashioned and cumbersome her thinking was”. But she has managed to get her platform up and running and now regards her business idea as having been validated. “Perhaps because we got a lot of things instinctively right“, she says.

Eva Malawska, Founder & CEO Kleine Prints (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Oh my god

Actually the Lost My Name platform is successful too. Since 2012 it has been supplying children’s books with custom content created using special personalization software. The London-based company’s picture book concept lets children aged from 2 to 6 live out their own personal heroic tales. Tal Oron, co-founder of Lost my Name, provided behind-the-scenes insights in his special “Publishing is back, Baby!” keynote. And in the same way as the personalized books are designed to guarantee the kids an adventure, he described his company’s rollercoaster ride during which it made little or no profits during the last three-and-a-half years despite sales of 2.7 million books worth 88.5 million Euros. At the end of his presentation you were left with the impression that Tal Oron had also lost interest in Lost my Name on account of the manufacturing costs involved as well as high logistics and marketing costs. Why would he otherwise proactively offer the company for sale? Indeed, he is at the very least on the lookout for partners.

Tal Oron, Co-Founder Lost my Name (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

At any rate that didn’t sound like a heroic tale to many of the delegates and raised the issue of whether mass customization can really be an effective business model in publishing. Or were the movers and shakers at Lost My Name a little overwhelmed by the challenges that they as a start-up had not factored in? This case as well as Kleine Prints at least demonstrates that eBusiness print is not just fun, design and print, but an extremely complex business, in which a wide range of different production and commercial issues need to be mastered.

And both presentations also showed how important and spot on the 5th Online Print Symposium‘s topic “Online Challenge – Focusing on Customer Centricity” was. That’s because printing is just one of many disciplines that traditionally are not widely discussed at the Online Print Symposium. Print products – yes, but not printing methods. After all you have to assume that all those that venture into the online print market are able to print products themselves, or have them printed. But no matter whether you do it yourself or commission others to do it for you – the biggest eBusiness print challenges are to be found in segments other than conventional printing.

The supreme discipline of clairvoyance

Clairvoyance of all things! That’s because who really knows their customers and what meets their expectations? What preoccupies customers today and what are their needs tomorrow? How do you develop markets and which businesses are even going to be successful? Such questions and better still the answers are of course generally relevant to any company. Yet these questions and answers are at a wholly different level of importance to online print providers. After all as print and eCommerce service providers they don’t just operate on the fast-moving Internet but on every conceivable media channel. At least they are supposed to. That’s because multi-channel strategies are now the only way to appeal to many customers and motivate them to buy. In this respect customer relationships play perhaps an even more important role than the traditional retail business, despite the latter’s greater degree of personal interaction.

The three MCs (Bernd Zipper, Dr. Andreas Kraushaar and Jens Meyer f.l.t.r.) skillfully guided the delegates through the program with plenty of charm and humor (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Forever startup

To what extent online print is a combination of state-of-the art production methods, automated processes and the online sales channel was illustrated by Hartmut Kappes, Group CFO at Flyeralarm. “Nothing less than refocusing daily on customers’ needs guarantees long-term customer relationships,“ he said in his keynote and warned: “Yesterday’s performance no longer gets any applause today.” The family business, Flyeralarm, also frequently described as “forever a start-up”, regards itself as a full-range print products provider, it now generates sales of 330 million Euros, fulfils some 3.3 million orders from 1.5 million customers a year and ships up to 22,700 parcels a day.

Hartmut Kappes, CEO Group CFO Flyeralarm (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Online print has changed considerably during the course of its short history. Of course online print is still associated with a “major decline in prices”. “5000 flyers were still priced at around 300 Euros  in 2004, today they cost  35 Euros”, Kappes confirmed. Yet the lowest possible prices are no longer what matter. For some time now prices have been in the public domain and have tended to be stable. Today what matters more is how customers want to order products in future and how quickly they wish to take delivery of what they order. “Print to go” – taking the print products that you pay for with you, is a reasonable approach, Hartmut Kappes explained, but at the same time he qualified it, saying “local presence and stores- yes, but online is a must.” The company is also considering “curated shopping”. While this is very time-consuming, it increases customer retention and satisfaction substantially.

So what’s important is maximum flexibility to generate maximum customer satisfaction and seamless linkage of various channels. “Just get on with it” says Flyeralarm ambiguously. Just getting on with it, without having a concept, would however be suicidal. “Simplicity is the key to ingenuity”, Kappes believes.

There is far more hard work involved in Flyeralarm’s success story than meets the eye. That’s because nothing falls into Flyeralarm’s lap. “We are constantly searching for new products and solutions in our Flyeralarm Future Labs. We are currently working on 30 projects“, Kappes explained. Whether all of them will have successful outcomes remains to be seen. For instance, the 3D figurine offering is one such example that has now been discontinued. “Although the major slices of the online print cake have been apportioned, there is still always room for new ideas. Anybody with an original idea and not just a copy of something else can occupy a niche. Find your niche”, Kappes challenged his audience.

Focus on customer centricity

Market share can still be gained in the future if you have the appropriate strategy, the right focus and take a needs-based customer centricity approach. But what constitutes an appropriate strategy? And what is actually meant by customer centricity? Companies’ efforts to improve their customer focus and ability to interact are one possible interpretation. That’s because on the one hand efficient use of customer-related data is now possible. On the other hand customers proactively share their experiences of brands, products and companies with others. The resultant insights gained should be reason enough to take customer needs even more seriously and to align your own organization consistently with these requirements.

Of growth and contraction

However there is no patent remedy here, especially as there is no such thing as the typical online print provider. “There is a wide range of different types of provider“, Bernd Zipper, CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH and co-organizer of the Online Print Symposium, noted in his presentation. “But sales are generated online. And they are set to increase to 7.5 billion Euros in the D/A/CH region in 2017”, he explained. First-generation online print providers are not the sole drivers of growth. Although their sales generated via their open stores are set to increase by 15.4% to 3.0 billion Euros, the higher proportion of sales at 4.5 billion Euros is accounted for by closed stores growing at nearly 10% and typical B2B business between print providers and customers. Overall growth rates are however higher than expected, said Zipper. However the biggest beneficiaries are the major print factories.

In his presentation Bernd Zipper illustrated the development and trends in the online print industry in 2017 (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

And that has implications for those print providers that are still competing offline in the market. According to Bernd Zipper’s figures, the number of print providers in Germany is set once again to plummet. That’s because with increasingly tougher competition and shorter innovation cycles, smaller print providers in particular are no longer able to compete. Online print will play a not inconsiderable role in these shifts. That’s why it will be interesting to observe the shifts in market share between onliners and offliners, as well as what technological enhancements are launched up until the Online Print Symposium 2018.

The to-do list

Although print (not including packaging) in Germany is set to contract further until 2025, this decrease of 1% per annum is significantly lower than forecast. Although that is welcome news, “we have no time to rest on our laurels”, said Zipper. Many online print providers have underestimated the mass customization trend and have concentrated on automation and eCommerce. However the era of mass production has passed, according to Zipper. In this area there is more competition (for instance from Amazon) and there are new trends, which online print providers will have to get to grips with in the next few months. “Pure-play is on its way out and multi-play is on its way in – and the local online print provider is gaining popularity”, Zipper noted. And he warned against just letting things continue as they are. Online print is about more than just having an online store. “Although online print generally delivers good quality, the results of more than 200 mystery shopping orders provided us with a reality check”, Zipper explained. That’s because as far as quality is concerned, what you sometimes get is abysmal – print items stuck together, because the inks had not dried properly or oblique, uneven offcuts. Packaging was often inadequate or shipping addresses were incorrect. Added to that is thoroughly inadequate complaints management, because obviously no guidelines have been provided. “Print products that are the subject of complaint should not take longer to replace than the original print order”, Zipper warned. He also identified websites as being in need of improvement. Many are confusing or not target-audience-specific and there is a lack of transparency as far as product ranges and pricing is concerned. And the user experience is still an alien concept to many companies.

The nearly 300 Online Print Symposium delegates followed the outstanding presentations with interest (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

In summary, Bernd Zipper argued as follows: “Never in the history of the print industry have there been so many sales channels for print, there have never been so many opportunities to generate growth using print products; it has never been so easy to showcase a product portfolio and it has never been as important to champion your own business rather than simply acting as a fulfillment agent for another provider. That’s why smaller print providers in particular have to understand that customer centricity, i.e. focusing on the customer, plus the right marketing mix are just as vital as first-rate production facilities!” After all there is a clear trend towards emotional commerce: “Buying must be fun”, Zipper urged. “That’s why online print stores have to get away from being boring.”

Print is lifestyle

Peter Gunning, CEO of UK-based Grafenia plc, illustrated what the opposite of boring looks like. “The print store is dead, long live the print store!”, he said and described the rise, fall and renaissance of print in retail outlets. He practices precisely what print companies did for decades  in the heart of Birmingham, London, Manchester, Dublin and some 100 other cities – providing business print products for local customers. However nowadays these include more than just business cards – printed matter, websites, cross-media applications etc. Nettl, as this particular chain is called, provides an all-round package and is aimed primarily at small business customers. They get advice, web and print solutions to meet their marketing needs and above all a design implementation service. Partner stores that belong to the network enable the company to take advantage of personal contact opportunities to acquire online print customers.

And the stores have a completely different appearance compared with the past. They look more like design agencies and feature the friendly ambiance of a coffee shop or a gallery. There is no hard selling, instead you get advice and there is a feel-good factor about the place. You come in for a coffee and leave having (possibly) ordered a poster or a website. It’s lifestyle, basically. The success enjoyed by the Nettl stores can obviously be attributed to the fact that online and offline are blended together and print is marketed as lifestyle.

Peter Gunning, CEO Grafenia plc (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Peter Gunning’s business idea has made use of changing customer behavior and he is convinced that print providers have to reposition themselves in order to survive. “We want to be a one-stop-shop for small businesses. It does not matter whether they are interested in eCommerce, ordering apps, signage or print – we are happy to help and we are in places that are easy to find”, he says in summary. “As a full service agency we partner with many types of different web designers and print companies. We sell print as something to be fascinated by”, says Peter Gunning. And this fascination also includes 4-hour delivery of last-minute jobs.

Simplifying the ordering process

Hans Scheffer, founder and CEO of Helloprint, is taking a different approach. At a massive jump in sales from zero to 40 million Euros in just under three years in eight countries, Helloprint is a copybook success story. The strategy underlying it is actually pretty simple – the conventional eCommerce principle of a platform model. Absolutely vital to Helloprint’s was and is the idea that ordering print products has to be as simple as possible. Scheffer explained, using a hotel booking platform as an example, how the world has changed. Up until a few years ago the big hotel chains still dominated the overnight accommodation market. Hotel booking platforms however have enabled smaller hotels to find international customers without having to invest in marketing or in their own platforms. The hotels only pay a percentage to the booking platform when customers book a room.

Hans Scheffer, Founder & CEO Helloprint (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Scheffer sees parallels with his Helloprint platform. Here too local print providers that join the Helloprint network, now numbering some 160 members, benefit from internationally focused marketing and the network’s large customer base. That requires a change in thinking. But Hans Scheffer believes that “the print providers of tomorrow cannot afford to think like the printers of yesterday.”

Global concept for print

Gelato is not an online print provider but a technology company and a print job broker. The Gelato network and the Gelato Globe print cloud form the core of its international business operations. They enable marketing materials to be printed at an international level more efficiently. Print products are commissioned centrally and to a large extent using automation methods – including shipping to more than 40 countries. “That increases marketing efficiency and makes most production and administrative processes in commercial printing redundant“, Mike Arbuzov, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at the Norwegian company Gelato AS, explains. By using Gelato, companies can achieve savings of up to 50% on expenditure of time, 90% on shipping and 25% on wastage. Thanks to optimized logistics, companies can act globally but print locally.

Mike Arbuzov, Co-Founder and CTO Gelato AS (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /


Thanks to optimized logistics, companies can act globally but print locally. Since Gelato has no printing facilities of its own, the orders are pooled and forwarded ready-to-print to one of the partner print companies that meet Gelato’s stringent quality standards. Joining the network means significantly higher production capacity utilization and more efficiency for digital print providers. Around one million individual orders were fulfilled via the network last year. Artwork masters are provided centrally online for subsidiaries. They are updated there, printed locally and delivered within 48 hours as a rule. The globally standardized quality of print products in line with corporate design specifications is guaranteed, given that all associated digital print providers employ state-of-the-art print systems and standardized methods.

Utter dependency

Following this array of opportunities for marketing print products by applying new concepts and partner models, Willie Brandl, founder and CEO of, described his personal experiences on the way to becoming an eCommerce retailer. In his estimation there is only one way for smaller companies to remain competitive – integrating multi-channel strategies and online marketplaces into their own business models. Since the majority of retailers with a local focus barely know how to use digital marketing tools, they usually put their faith in platforms like Google or Amazon.

Willie Brandl, Founder & CEO wilma republic GmbH (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Brandl pointed out in his presentation that Amazon is increasingly morphing into a search engine and therefore into a “substantive distribution channel with considerable sales potential”. At the same time he emphasized that marketing via Amazon can definitely be financially appealing, but it can be time-consuming and you are making yourself utterly dependent. That’s because individual companies have absolutely no influence on this sales channel.

Digital processes and new ways of adding value

Of course it would not be necessary to explain to online print providers what disruptive changes digitalization has brought to production, retailing and service provision value chains. Nevertheless it’s interesting to see how this will pan out. Martin Groß-Albenhausen, deputy CEO of the eCommerce association, bevh, raised several questions about this issue and demonstrated using a wide range of examples that the future of the economy does not necessarily belong solely to platforms and eco-systems.

“The dominant GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) alliance is putting traditional business models under pressure. Digitalization is disrupting traditional packages of goods and services provided by retailers, craft trades and the service sector. The mechanics of pricing are no longer effective.  Yet at the same time new value-adding activities, which back up genuine digital processes, are being created. These are new ways of adding value that are being developed by customers and thus avoiding comparison with standardized products”, says Groß-Albenhausen. This involves changes in buying behavior. Yet what opportunities are there to set up a business model based on services and benefits instead of price, despite the dominance of the Big Four? Groß-Albenhausen attempted a theoretical circumscription. “The term digitalization describes the approach of characterizing things, actions, processes and resultant data or outputs as data in a uniform syntax using information technology. This standardization facilitates data comparison on the one hand and the break-up of existing correlations or relationships on the other. Digitalization therefore generates transparency and facilitates recombinations of these elements in altered formats to add value again.”

Martin Groß-Albenhausen, Deputy CEO bevh

How you approach this task can be summarized in a few keywords:

  • The focus is on data rather than things. That requires data skills.
  • Users rather than consumers are the focus of attention. That’s why the focus is on customer centricity (consumer centricity).
  • Value is added by controlling processes rather than ownership of goods and machinery. Therefore process modeling has priority.
  • Growth is generated by maximum integration on platforms and by the vertical interlinkage of value-adding tiers.

“The value of a company increases the better it is able to provide goods or services to the user at the time of need, tailored to the user’s requirements, in a manner that can be controlled by the user via their preferred platform at their preferred location.” Martin Groß-Albenhausen added a piece of advice to this rule of thumb, which is certainly worth thinking about. “There are strategies for sidestepping Amazon’s superiority: proprietary pricing, proprietary products and proprietary processes.” This is how you can therefore avoid comparability.

“Innovation is a great way of tackling this problem head on. Market-dominant companies have recognized this too”, Groß-Albenhausen explained during the discussion. “Who can say whether Google will still be around in ten years’ time? Ten years ago Nokia was still the undisputed market leader in the telecommunications business.”

How retailers are (re)acting

Conventional retailers and their online competitors are therefore equally under pressure. Sales channels are changing and market shares are constantly shifting in favor of online retailers. Although percentage growth is lower, growth in absolute terms however continues unabated. “And the biggest beneficiary at a current market share of more than 41 percent is Amazon”, remarked Dr. Kai Hudetz, CEO of IFH Institut für Handelsforschung GmbH. In order to keep pace to some degree with this colossus, which in Germany alone lists 240 million products, you either have to own a strong brand or focus on specific products. “Consumers welcome the opportunity to design (configure) products themselves. This gives one in three consumers the feeling that the company is focusing on them”, Dr. Hudetz stated. It doesn’t matter whether shirts, mueslis, spice mixes, cuddly toys or print products are involved. Customizing the sales approach all the way through to personalization is called for. In this respect mass customization not only applies to products but to marketing activities as well, says Hudetz. “What matters with sales approaches is actively making use of these opportunities across all channels, especially in the print industry.”

Dr. Kai Hudetz, CEO IFH Institut für Handelsforschung GmbH (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

That’s because print continues to be relevant in the world of eCommerce. “Even today the majority of consumers still use print media. The brochure is particularly popular”, Dr. Hudetz emphasized by quoting from a very recent IFH survey. Personalized advertising letters are highly effective and appropriate or even personalized in-parcel information leaflets make parcels an important method of conveying a marketing message.  “But the customer journey is changing rapidly”, Dr. Hudetz warned. The right sales approach therefore has to be reviewed on a regular basis and adjusted as necessary. “There is no point in rowing faster if you are headed in the wrong direction.” Competition is forcing retailers to increase their customer focus in order to ensure customer loyalty.

Meeting individual customer requirements

After all, customers take flexibility and individuality in all aspects of life for granted nowadays. This is a challenge that even confectionery businesses have to face up to, as Reto Schmid, owner and CEO of Grisons-based La Conditoria und Marcel Schmid GmbH, affirmed. “What matters to our customers is being able to order products in the quantities they require at any given point in time.” These products include mini “Bündner Nusstörtli” (Grisons nut cakes), which per se are already appealing and extremely delicious, yet which morph into “must haves” if you include the appropriate packaging. Reto Schmid believes this trend is a way of grabbing the bull by the horns, because he was confronted by so many challenges. In 2014 he created the new food label La Conditoria Sedrun-Switzerland, under which he now markets these 4cm-sized, 19gr. cakes. However he wondered how he would be able to present new products professionally and without his costs spiraling out of control.

Reto Schmid, CEO La Conditoria (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Schmid now partners with the packaging manufacturer colordruck Baiersbronn, whose “Packaging Digital” division is able to meet such requirements in full. Its capabilities include rapid packaging development, the production of mini print runs through personalized packaging and testing of new creations at key accounts.

No, that is not a typical online print application. But it is a mass customization application par excellence and proof that high-end packaging print products also have online print potential, because production of such products can increasingly be automated as well. It is still not a standard application. To quote Bernd Zipper: “If you want to order a complicated folding box by smartphone, you need to take your temperature first.”

The mobile customer journey

That certainly does not apply to accompanying consumers on the customer journey. That’s because modern online shoppers want to communicate with the companies they buy from – on social media apps, on mobile corporate websites or on dedicated apps – irrespective of location. “93% of online shoppers take a look at other customer opinions before they buy”, says Caroline Langer, International Marketing Manager at advize SAS. “Yet customers expect more. For example, chats outside of business hours or at weekends that are not responded to are missed opportunities to get in contact with customers.” And these missed opportunities involve thoroughly relevant questions about payment, shipping or returns, about technical problems with online stores, post-sale problems with products, questions about product features, product usage tips or customers seeking inspiration, suggestions and gift ideas.

Caroline Langer, International Marketing Manager iAdvize (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

During the course of her presentation Caroline Langer explained the various opportunities for increasing conversion rates on mobile end devices by employing smart sales approaches. And that will in future not happen solely in the form of a personal conversation, but with the aid of messenger services or chat bots, i.e. computer programs, which complete repetitive tasks to a large extent automatically without being reliant on interaction with human users. “40% of mobile conversations will be responded to by chat bots by the year 2020”, said Caroline Langer.

Dynamic pricing in the print industry

Yet that is evidently only one aspect of full automation that is increasingly gaining ground. Jan Lippert, Director Sales & Authorized Officer of prudsys AG, explained in his presentation how all transaction data can be processed across channels. That’s because artificial intelligence and machine learning are applied as soon as a customer accesses a store, and have been for a considerable while now. A profile is produced based on the customer’s in-store click behavior and this profile becomes increasingly more accurate until the stage is reached when the customer can be provided with product recommendations.

Jan Lippert, Director Sales & Authorized Officer prudsys AG (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

That can be done on a website, in the form of parcel inserts or even personalized catalogs. “Machine learning already impacts on eCommerce”, said Lippert. “The major mail order retailers use it for print personalization purposes.” If the data is already available, then personalized product recommendations can be linked with price enhancements all the way through to dynamic pricing.

Shipping logistics from the cloud

If such intelligent links are feasible in the shopping process, it would be a joke if they could not be applied to shipping logistics. After all online print stores are web-based cloud systems. When print products have to be shipped, people often have to switch over to an “offline” environment. Automating the shipping process or automatically selecting the cheapest type of shipping was previously very difficult. This problem can now be solved using shipcloud’s cloud-based shipping system.

Claus Fahlbusch, CEO shipcloud GmbH (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Claus Fahlbusch, co-founder and CEO of shipcloud GmbH, summarized the opportunities open to online print providers as follows: “We are working on solutions to make shipping even more convenient. Simple integration of our SaaS solution into online print systems is feasible, delivers a high degree of automation to the shipping process and therefore considerable cost savings.” Shipping services to neighboring countries are currently in the process of being set up.

Pitfalls of internationalization

Bernd Zipper had already noted in his presentation that “Printed in Germany” provides good sales opportunities and that online print is increasingly gaining acceptance in other European countries. Online print providers are increasingly targeting customers abroad and delivering products beyond the borders of Germany.

Dr. Martin Schirmbacher, Specialist Attorney for IT law HÄRTING Rechtsanwälte Berlin (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

But internationalization, which doubtless promises growth, has its pitfalls and harbors risks, of which some folk are not aware. “Complaints cannot always be remedied simply by providing a voucher or credit note”, Dr. Martin Schirmbacher, specialist attorney in IT law at Härting Rechtsanwälte, noted. “Foreign law is applied all too quickly and companies are threatened with being sued abroad.” So if you are establishing a store in a particular country you need to familiarize yourself with that country’s laws. And things are going to get even more complicated next year when new data privacy guidelines enter into force.

Competitive factors in online print

“Till now we have not even spoken about printing”, Dr. Michael Fries, CEO of Onlineprinters GmbH, stated in his keynote on Day 2 of the Symposium. His presentation could definitely be regarded as a set of closing remarks brought forward. That’s because he encapsulated the topic of online print. “Of course in the eBusiness print segment a lot of business is transacted by platforms that buy in print products. But ultimately somebody has to do the actual printing, and in fact in a way that enables them to earn a living”, said Dr. Fries and summarized the key criteria that characterise online print, like gang printing, standardization, automation and shortened set-up times, materials and equipment purchasing benefits as well as integrated production  lines. These generate cost curves and pricing options, which however cannot be shifted downwards at will. “Up until five or six years ago prices plummeted. But my current perception is that prices are not decreasing any further”, Dr. Fries stated. “We always have these KPIs in mind, since we at Onlineprinters produce over 95 percent of products ourselves.”

Dr. Michael Fries, CEO Onlineprinters GmbH (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

However there has been substantial movement in terms of delivery lead times. These are becoming an increasingly important positioning criterion. Yet the speed of delivery and the product range have to match, which is as important as keeping a close eye on costs and prices. Very short delivery lead times, for instance on the same day, are a strength that local stores in particular have, although they can only action these lead times with a limited selection of products. That is also the reason why Onlineprinters bought the UK-based online print provider, Solopress. That’s because the UK is a market that is really spoiled when it comes to delivery lead times. “Solopress, for example, delivers 85 percent of its products within 24 hours”, Dr. Fries explained.

Yet beyond the traditional challenges faced by online print providers, the issues that dominate their lives include enhanced customer focus, relevant product ranges and the increasingly important “interplay of data and technology in nearly all areas – and this can, no indeed must be applied to the benefit of customers.”

Tortoise and hare

Perhaps this statement by Dr. Michael Fries is the key insight provided by the 5th Online Print Symposium, which once again offered a great deal that is difficult to summarize in just one sentence. Yet one message that the delegates certainly took with them is the fact that technology in the form of machinery is far less important than focusing on higher-level strategies relating to mass customization or further automation, for example. Previous Symposia already established the link between online print and Print 4.0. But this topic has not yet been checked off the list. That’s because increasing automation aided by big data methods, the Internet of Things etc. will certainly continue to be a topic of debate in the future. And while online print providers must feel like eternal start-ups, it is a matter of considerable debate whether and when specific techniques and methods can be applied.

So what could be more apt than Bernd Zipper’s Albert Einstein quote, which is vaguely reminiscent of the tale of the tortoise and the hare. ”Nowadays progress happens so fast with the result that while somebody is declaring something to be totally unfeasible, they are interrupted by someone that has just put it into practice.”

There was plenty of opportunity for the delegates to network during the event. (Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Words of introduction from outside at the partner booths: In order to introduce the Symposium‘s partners, the event’s organizers came up with a new format. Symposium partners Sappi, CloudLab AG, Obility GmbH, rissc solutions GmbH, MY MATZ (a Kollin Mediengesellschaft mbH brand), edataprocessing GmbH, digital print GmbH, Tweak Ltd., GmbH, 123rf GmbH and Highcon did not introduce themselves as on previous occasions by giving short presentations and were not interviewed by MCs, Andreas Kraushaar from Fogra, Bernd Zipper from zipcon consulting and Jens Meyer from bvdm, but featured in a live hook-up with Andreas Weber instead.

Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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