I met with Norbert Hettrich (CEO Druckhaus Weppert) to interview him about this topic and he answered my questions about eBusiness print trends and the future direction that Druckhaus Weppert and the online platform, flinq.de, are taking.
Bernd Zipper: Norbert, in the guise of Druckhaus Weppert you acquired the flinq.de online platform around 2 ½ years ago from Essen-based Funke Digital. You saw this decision as a part of your master eBusiness print development strategy. Can you explain this briefly?
Norbert Hettrich: we regard flinq.de as an important addition to our portfolio. It enables us to reach out to a completely different target audience compared to the ones we reach out to with our other platforms, products and distribution channels. We can thus cover all bases really effectively. Of course we have to bear in mind that flinq.de’s target audience exhibits different usage behavior patterns, we are talking a platform for DIY-marketers from mid-sized businesses and that requires very different specifications compared to what we are familiar with from users of our other platforms.
Bernd Zipper: prior to the acquisition, Funke and before it WAZ had already attempted to position the “flinq” brand by applying different strategies. However these endeavors were never really a complete success. Have you considered dropping the brand and just continuing with the concept?
Norbert Hettrich: No, we haven’t. Both the concept and the brand are sound! At the time of the acquisition, the market was hardly being served at all. There was no provider of the kind of service that we offer at flinq.de. That of course has changed a little bit over the last few years; however comparatively speaking there is still a major lack of competition.
Generally speaking, we believe that the market is not quite ready for the full service that flinq.de provides. DIY design of simple products, like business cards – yes! Complex products like folders, flyers/leaflets or brochures – I would say no. The market will still need some time to acquire the confidence to DIY (design-it-yourself) such products.
Bernd Zipper: In the last few years you undertook a number of store-optimization projects, until you decided on a complete relaunch about 1 month ago. How did you arrive at that decision and what has your experience been?
Norbert Hettrich: On the one hand, the website was already two years old. In the fast-moving online world that is a very long time. On the other hand, our experience with our other platforms enabled us to identify several features that flinq.de lacked and we had to make several technical adjustments. These include, for example, improving visibility on Google and enhancing the website to make it mobile-compatible. Furthermore, the design urgently needed a makeover to give it a new, contemporary feel.
Overall we have gotten the impression that these new features and adjustments have been very well-received by users. Our customers not only benefit from the bolder and more straightforward interface that enables them to get their bearings in the store faster, the ordering process has also been optimized with the aid of new information and functionalities. And you can bet your bottom dollar on one thing – despite the premium, expensive-looking website, prices are just as good value as before.
We are of course delighted that we can report an actual increase in visits to flinq.de of 10% at the current time and this is the reward for the long and sometimes rocky road we traveled to relaunch the website. Of course we will still need to make adjustments or enhancements in future, both online and offline.
“Creativity and Do-it-yourself are very popular right now, not only due to Dawanda and Co., but Onlineprint is lacking a platform where everybody can just design their own flyers or folders and so on. For me, this is a business segment with a lot of potential!” – Bernd Zipper
Bernd Zipper: What did you regard as particularly important during the relaunch? What have been initial customer reactions?
Norbert Hettrich: For the relaunch we drew on the experience we gained in connection with our xposeprint.de print platform, and used this experience to generate maximum usability for flinq.de. What’s good for xposeprint is also good for flinq.de!
Our guiding principle for the relaunch was that we want to think like our customers and not the other way around. A brief example: at flinq.de a hairdresser should be able to find precisely the print products they need for their hairdressing salon – of course with the appropriate design templates and images included. And somebody, who is just looking for a flyer, should also be able to find this product as easily and quickly as possible. In short, there is on the one hand industry-specific product access and on the other product-specific access.
Bernd Zipper: To finish up, let’s take an overall look at Druckhaus Weppert: You own various online print brands – xposeprint, VIPprint and flinq and have steadily boosted your capacities by having several locations and companies like Sano Solutions GmbH at your disposal. Would you care to give us a brief insight as to what the near future holds for Druckhaus Weppert?
Norbert Hettrich: We intend to continue positioning ourselves so as to cover the full range of distribution channels, both online and offline. There is demand for both. Our online priorities include product range diversity, 24/7 store accessibility as well as ordering process speed and standardization. We have seen frequent demand for new business models, like, for example, our latest collaborative venture with Presse-Druck und –Verlags GmbH Augsburg in the spring. In future publishing house products will also be available to everyone at our xposeprint.de online store, and newspapers in broadsheet and tabloid format will also be available alongside the existing product range. Of course specific enquiries can also be accommodated and sample packages provided. This is a combination of two worlds – the publishing business that’s well-known for speed and particular formats and the online business and custom online design, coupled with small print runs.
In contrast to online, the offline business has become even more idiosyncratic. UV-printing is more or less standard these days; other online providers can do it just as well. Priorities in the offline business are primarily specific types of finishing, the choice of substrates like premium papers or personal advice provided locally. However ultimately both business models belong together, although from a customer perspective they could not be more different. Nevertheless in terms of approach and handling they are very similar and complement each other really well. Basically we are also thinking about different cross-channel strategies and want to be the provider of solutions to our customers in future as well. Ultimately it does not matter via what channel customers come to us; we have a solution for their needs.