On an incredibly hot day, the ” Best of BEYONDPRINT ” and the ” Best of BE.BEYOND ” met up. This meeting was exciting, but not because of the alliteration. What was exciting was the current topic of “Success before, during and after times of crisis”, which Bernd Zipper addressed with André Hausmann. Most people know BE.BEYOND under the name of LEAD-PRINT. One could almost say, it’ s a kind of “hidden hero” – but this company is not that “hidden”. From the side of BEYONDPRINT we have said that we need to become more familiar with BE.BEYOND and what could be better than a conversation about it. Bernd Zipper spoke to André Hausmann, owner and managing partner of BE.BEYOND GmbH & Co KG in Willich. The result is essential knowledge to improve the current situation for web shop operators in general and in particular for printing companies.
Bernd Zipper: As you know, you are already an established player in the industry.
André Hausmann: That’s true. We recently celebrated our 20th anniversary. Strictly speaking, we didn’t do classic web-to-print for the first one or two years, but for 18 years we’ve been involved in online print data creation.
Bernd Zipper: LEAD-PRINT, to make it clear, is the product and BE.BEYOND is the company behind it.
André Hausmann: Very few people know BE.BEYOND, but rather the brand LEAD-PRINT. However, I do not want to rename the company, my heart is very attached to the old name. It means “be more” and that is our credo.
Bernd Zipper: The product is a shop solution. You are a sort of “hidden” hero, you don’t make as much noise as other people who are out there. The fact is that you have been well anchored in numerous systems for years.
André Hausmann: That’s true and we are very happy about it. After all these years, we are still proud of every installation. I think this is one of our secrets. Especially in the closed shop area we are very strong and there the operators usually do not want a press release. 1600 portals in companies in Germany alone. That is a number that is quite impressive. Included are many open shops in the print shop sector.
Bernd Zipper: I think Discountdruck24 is underway with you.
André Hausmann: Yes, in the Closed Shop. We actually stay in the background. Usually we remain silent. We support the print shop to do business, to multiply and finally to retain their customers.
Bernd Zipper: Your product line consists of the Online Print Shop – certainly, the Online Shop. Online Creator – the classic Web-to-Print – I receive a template and fill it in. To manage the whole thing, I need the Print Lounge. Have I summarized this correctly?
André Hausmann: Correct. Of course, you have to give the children names. We separate it according to customer groups. Our closed shop is B2B and has everything I need to retain corporate customers. The classic Open Shop, the Online Creator, is a virtual product. It is formed from both other products and is for the end customer market. Our core competence is clearly the Closed Shop for the print shop.
Bernd Zipper: But with the print data check and everything else that goes with it, to ensure a clean process?
André Hausmann: Yes, up to and including orders and integration with other systems, the process is system-supported and clean. In the end, they say, the money is earned by the savings made by the printing company. It’s always a question of how the job is passed through the printshop or through the company.
Bernd Zipper: Conversely, this means that you can integrate other editors.
André Hausmann: We have an open rest API. This means that basically any editor can be connected if the editor allows it. For B2B our editor is perfect, we usually don’t need another one. For B2C there are other requirements when it comes to “fancy”.
Bernd Zipper: Have you noticed that the requirements for an editor for B2B and B2C are increasingly converging?
André Hausmann: Yes, the inquiries are becoming more complex, which presents us with challenges. We use the PDF library and margin on PDF basis. In the classic sense, what you see is one hundred percent what you get. With complex products, brochures or spreadsheets, that’s not so easy. The complexity has increased in all areas.
Bernd Zipper: Years ago, you once told me: ” For the time being, we have the shop like this, and if users use it, we charge a fee per job. This has led to a lot of license models emerging in the market. How do things look today? Do I buy the software from you? Do I have Pay per Click? Do I have a mix?
André Hausmann: Most of our customers start with the classic SaaS solution. A small license fee and a minimum fee, so you pay for each order and fixed fees. From about 800 to 900 order items per month a purchase version is worthwhile. Nobody wants to spend thousands of Euros for a web-to-print connection without knowing if it pays off.
Bernd Zipper: Let’s calculate for a medium-sized printer, with about 1,000 jobs per month. He wants your backend with the editor and wants a complete package. What does that cost approximately?
André Hausmann: Initially, with the corresponding “ready to run” training courses, around 8,000€. Add to that about 600 € per month for about 1,000 jobs per month.
When you buy it, it depends on whether it is a closed shop or an open shop. We separate that consistently. The processes in B2B and B2C are too different. In the Closed Shop, the realistic price is just under 20,000€ plus maintenance. Most of our customers stay on our servers because we more than comply with the DSGVO and are ISO certified. For hosting, the price is 249 €. This is more than an in-house server costs, but we offer the service for it.
Bernd Zipper: What I have enjoyed over the years is your development. In the beginning you had a small shop. I said myself, we’ll see what happens with it. You have developed brilliantly and now there are interfaces to Magento, xt:Commerce, Shopware and Cosmoshop. Cosmoshop is something I do not know at all.
André Hausmann: Cosmoshop is very successful, they have their own shopware line. A shop that is used by large corporate customers such as Unitymedia or Avia. They map complete processes. You have to think of it like this: all the shops are already measured, and the advertising spaces are integrated there. They had the wish to generate print data. It’s all about the editor and partly about the output. We support “dropshipping”. (Editor’s note: dropshipping is a drop shipment business where a retailer buys goods from suppliers and resells them to customers without having physical contact with the goods). The task is to connect other online printers, for this you have to have the output and order management under control. Silvan Dolezalek from Cosmoshop has already several good references in the closed shop sector – but without print data generation.
Bernd Zipper: Sounds very interesting. What about Shopify? Why don’t you do anything there?
André Hausmann: Well because Shopify are classic stock tickers. Our customers usually have an internal ordering system. There we can integrate our editor into the processes. It’s about approvals and SAP interfaces, such as access to external product catalogs (Open Catalog Interface = OCI Punchout). We receive many requests for Magento and shopware, for the Open Shop area. This was not our intention at all. We want customers who have a B2B closed shop and now need a decent print data creation with all the trimmings.
Bernd Zipper: Shopify is an issue for many. They are now reaching their limits, such as a maximum of 100 positions or variants and the like. In this context, thanks to Lasse Harder, who is taking a closer look at Shopify. He has already discovered quite a lot. On the other hand, Shopify has the advantage of an unbeatable GUI and is immediately available for mobile use. I am curious about that.
André Hausmann: Me too. JTL is a German manufacturer that was told it would go through the roof. They certainly have enough installations. We rarely have anything to do with that ourselves. You always have to see where the requests come from.
Bernd Zipper: But the kicker is: Did you know that Shopify has a 10 times higher enterprise value, as of June 2020, than BMW?
André Hausmann: No, I learned something new again.
Bernd Zipper: A different topic. Now we have several shops, come into a printing house and they have a MIS system from the 60s with punch cards and with bags that are printed and carried around. The requirements: “We only want an online shop; the MIS and IT should stay as it is.”
André Hausmann: I get this request very often. We then ask: “Why? What do you want? Do you want to write the invoice with it?” Here we distinguish again between Open Shop and Closed Shop. With Open Shop, I have the proprietary payment in the shop and the subsequent DATEV export. The MIS can be bypassed. You don’t need to have every customer who orders a sticker in MIS. If it is necessary, we use our XML output points. Mostly you do this once a month for the closing. In the closed shop area, we have different requirements, I have to write collective invoices, I might want to have the orders always collected in my MIS, so we have to take a close look at that. There is a basic rule: If the other system somehow allows something in, we get it in there. Over the years, we have gained experience with almost 250 printing companies. We have the classic interfaces to MIS systems. We have Printplus, PaginaNet and most recently Keyline.
Bernd Zipper: Yes, but is that now import/export or is that bi-directional communication?
André Hausmann: Not bidirectional. We don’t have an interface for the Open or Closed Shop area with which we take price calculations out of the MIS system. We have yet to see the benefits.
Bernd Zipper: Well, you have your own calculation in your own system and if I was a customer I would have to maintain both.
André Hausmann: I don’t actually have to maintain the MIS, as I transfer the prices that I have maintained online into the MIS.
Bernd Zipper: The administrator who works with the MIS sees things differently.
André Hausmann: You have to differentiate. If you put the prices calculated in the MIS system in an Open Shop, you don’t get an order, so you can leave that alone. In the Open Shop we usually don’t have linear scales. Calculations are made with one eye on the competitor. I think that’s where MIS is out of the picture. In the closed shop area the problem does not exist either. There are usually few prices, often only 2 to 3 scales per product. Basically, a full integration would be nice, but often fails because the applications are closed.
Bernd Zipper: They often have to be closed for the system to work – an old dilemma. We are still looking for that transporter in the middle that translates in both directions. The goal must be to remain flexible, but to do justice to the old and new world is not so easy.
André Hausmann: I believe that we have no problem taking the prices out of a standardized environment and displaying them.
Bernd Zipper: Companies often claim to have a system that is used by everyone. But I have never heard of it. Are you familiar with this?
André Hausmann: That’ s what I like about storage systems. There are a lot of printing companies that store advertising material. A closed shop offers more than just printing. We have a great many companies with warehouse systems, all of them self-programmed, some of them still on an AS 400.
Bernd Zipper: You have a mailing connection with the post office or rather dialogue post. What’s behind that?
André Hausmann: It was simply a matter of the closed and open shop areas of the print shop allowing customers not only to see the printed product but also to say: “I’ll see to it that your advertising reaches the customer. That’s the whole thing! The more advertising reaches the customer, the more people print, the happier our customers, namely the printers, are. With Postaktuell, Swiss Post offers customers the opportunity to choose their distribution area directly based on the street or postal code. The Postaktuell interface counts the possible letterboxes and then I have the potential. For example, when I advertise for my shop in downtown Essen, I find 23,000 households there. I get a price and can then book advertising for a certain period of time. The print shop prints and delivers it to the post office. The post office then distributes the advertising in the area for three days plus or minus. The online printer takes care of the distribution for the customer. This is perfect for us as a software producer. We always try to ensure that our customers generate sales and have unique selling points with regard to their end customers. They now have classic full personalization in the Print Lounge, and Postaktuell is a perfect match.
Bernd Zipper: A very interesting concept. I was at sourc-e this past week. They told me that they are working together with you. What exactly are you supposed to tell me?
André Hausmann: With sourc-e we’ve been around for three quarters of the year now. They’ve simplified an innovative software for print calculations of complex, bound products. I don’t want to reveal too much, but we will integrate the sourc-e calculator into our software. This will enable the printing company to offer complex products. The problem with the MIS calculation I mentioned earlier will be solved.
Bernd Zipper: Will this be available at drupa21?
André Hausmann: At the moment we are in the beta phase. The market launch is planned for August/September. We will first present it to our users to obtain feedback. We are not a printing company, which means that we are attempting to take our customers with us and judge from their point of view.
Bernd Zipper: When you look at E-Commerce Print, did you ever think it would change like this?
André Hausmann: I think that certain points have to be final. It has to either stop, stay the same or change completely. I really didn’t think that it would move in this direction and that Germany would be such a driving force in print e-commerce.
Bernd Zipper: We used to talk about business cards or flyers. Today it’s about how we calculate the round spine of a book depending on the volume of paper. We’re talking about index cutting and packaging and what do I know – did you ever think that we would enter this kind of dimension?
André Hausmann: What you have now sketched is actually only a fraction of the requirements. If I take into account the possibilities of the different printing techniques, I have to say: No, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. It is difficult to develop software in advance. Sometimes you overtake yourself or sometimes you develop completely outside the market. We have to react as fast as we can.
“In the beginning, business cards or flyers were offered in web shops. Today it’s all about calculating the round spine of a book depending on the volume of paper and mass customization. Online systems must be able to do this in the future. The redundant maintenance of calculation bases could be avoided and with powerful tools, profitable markets such as advertising media can be developed. Now is the time to prepare for the restart of print.” – Bernd Zipper
Bernd Zipper: If you take a look at your competitors: Where would you position yourself there? Are you someone who works with everyone? Where do you see yourself in the market environment?
André Hausmann: I think in the last 5 years we have measured ourselves against our competitors a lot and tried to fit in somewhere. We stopped that, because everybody has their own strengths. In classic B2C, Cloudlab, with its editor, is a really nice thing. We refer customers to it when we notice that the customer is not happy with us. There are providers with really good automation, whereas we don’t have any. We always tell the customer that we are in the mid-range. In other words, in the bread and butter business, which is 80% of what happens at the printing company in corporate customer service. We are perfect for the closed shop segment. I am convinced that we could map every Open Shop that exists outside with our software. In concrete terms, we see ourselves as being positioned at the top in the Open Shop sector. In the closed shop area I would not rank us, but I would say we can do the bulk of the business. We are the right partner for those who want to retain corporate customers and who do not have too complex requirements. For example, we don’t put together brochures or do translations in X languages.
Bernd Zipper: Mass customization, i.e. the merging of different parts, is a major topic. Like Funke with Smartpaper and so on. What about mass customization in your company?
André Hausmann: With web-to-print, you have to consider the requirements. We started with the business card portals 15 years ago. With our dropshipping, which can combine several service providers, we are well on the way to mass customization.
Bernd Zipper: You have founded a so-called think tank with Custom Gateway. What is the idea behind it?
André Hausmann: They produce a lot of editors, but they are a bit different from us. Custom Gateway doesn’t sell software in that sense, but they go out and have many, many producers. One can register as a producer in the advertising material sector. As a printing company you can use this database or you can connect to it yourself. And that is something we don’t have. We don’t have producers in the sense that we have printers, but we don’t work in production ourselves. That’s a view of things that is interesting for us. We want to give our customers the opportunity to use these editors for special products, such as embroideries. Custom Gateway is active in the advertising industry and I still see a good margin there.
Bernd Zipper: I actually see a really big market there. A market that is transforming very slowly. There are still many small dealers.
André Hausmann: The print shop has the contact, but it doesn’t take the business with it. You don’t have to produce everything yourself, nor will you ever produce a ballpoint pen by yourself, but you can make the contact and be the head office. Printers very often forget this. The printing house can be the central office for all advertising material and that is a considerable amount outside of printing.
Bernd Zipper: Well, it has to do with the fact that a printer doesn’t see himself as a dealer. Let’s consider a printing company with a turnover of € 10 million. In that case, we have a value of about € 2 million for paper and other items in our warehouse. However, if you’re not doing so well, I can understand why they don’t put goods in stock for €200,000.
André Hausmann: It’s all about connecting with other advertising material manufacturers. However, if I don’t want to have it in my warehouse, that wouldn’t be clever these days. There are simply far too many possibilities. I simply offer the customer the opportunity to integrate their existing partners into my web-to-print ordering portal. I get a fee per order or on a monthly basis. It’s all about reputation and being the one to call if anyone needs anything. Practical as a hub.The software must be ready for this – we call this service provider capability. If you can manage this, you can’t be dumped as a general contractor as easily as you can as a printing company. Just buying advertising material and then reselling and sending it out makes no sense.
Bernd Zipper: Now you’re involved with many big players. They always want to have everything exclusive. How do you deal with that?
André Hausmann: Difficult. Nobody wants to share a working system. But I see that this attitude is changing. No good system will exclusively attach itself to an online printer, especially not in B2B. How is that going to work economically? In my opinion, it doesn’t make any sense to develop it yourself, the print shop lacks the experience. I believe that the “big online printers” are rethinking the use of other systems and not looking for a strengths in the system. Good software alone is of no use. The secret is to combine your own performance and your own USPs with good software and turn it into something really cool, something other printers can’t do. I believe that the big suppliers have understood this.
Bernd Zipper: Let’s take a look at the current situation with COVID-19. How are you affected by this?
André Hausmann: Print shops in the online print sector have suffered a 70 – 80% drop in sales in some cases because companies and their end customers have held back. We once talked to some managing directors, they were dejected, but not despondent. Most of the people said that it’s just the way it is. We started a COVID-19 initiative and offered free training. In addition, we offered to look at the portals and optimize them if necessary. Not all of them used it, but a lot of them did. We have the advantage that we are also being approached outside the printing industry. In the Closed Shop area, eight out of ten inquiries currently come not from printers but rather from other companies, who say their printers are too slow. The companies have simply used the time and switched to home office. We were able to compensate for our losses.
“Eight out of ten enquiries for the closed shop sector come from companies from a wide range of industries who say their printers are too slow. This should actually motivate the printers to proactively offer a shop.” – André Hausmann
Some printers have requested whether we can simply halve or cancel their fees over the next six months. We have tried to support every printing company as much as possible. But I would be lying if I said we made it through unscathed. We planned to hire one or two people, but now we are just happy to keep all the staff. We had 20% short-time work for a month. We could not achieve any growth.
Bernd Zipper: What is your assessment of the web-to-print market? Some say B2B will recover once again. On the other hand, B2C, which was relatively busy during the first 10 weeks of the crisis, will slow down again until shortly before Christmas. How do you see it?
André Hausmann: For us there is still a gap between B2B and B2C. B2C is a real end customer market. Flyeralarm, wir-machen-druck, saxoprint and the like are not classic B2C for me. B2B is real corporate customer service. The corporate customer service will resume normally. People are already back in business, as we can see. It is rather the case that the requirements of automation and bringing processes online have become stronger due to the Corona crisis. People have noticed in their home office that more electronic processes are simply necessary. According to the incoming requests, we expect an increase in B2B. I can’t say much about the real B2C market, for example photo books. We have perhaps 10 to 20 shops, not the largest ones, which I cannot take as a reference for the market.
Bernd Zipper: But do you think that the market will recover again?
André Hausmann: I think the demand for printed materials will come back to the same extent when the gastronomy and events are back, but that will take time. Honestly, it has to be said that everyone has been selling masks and switching over to Corona products at an admirable rate, but they have not brought in the turnover they had hoped for.
Bernd Zipper: Because it still took too long, and others were already on the market.
André Hausmann: There were two or three who were quick, they could make money. Then there were two weeks where everyone had it and the sales figures were relatively meagre. Even such an exciting topic as Postaktuell is somewhat shaken by the Corona period. Though you think: everyone is at home right now, which is actually the right time. But the willingness to invest in advertising is currently rather low.
Bernd Zipper: So, what’s your idea on how to relaunch print? For example, for a medium-sized company that has 50/50 customers and where things are not going so well. Do you have an idea what a restart of print could look like?
André Hausmann: Well, I always say when we talk to our medium-sized companies, you have to inform your customers. Even if it sounds so simple and ridiculous, the customers don’t know that the print shop has this kind of order possibility. So the motto is: Proactively inform the customers. I’m sure that in the B2B market, retaining customers in the long term is the right way to go. If you want to earn money continuously, you need contracts, and that’s only possible with B2B. And the only way to do that is by informing my customers. If the printing companies were more active, eight out of ten inquiries would not come from non-printing companies. The companies often don’t even know that the printing company is providing this. Being more active is a sticking point in this whole thing.
Bernd Zipper: If the printers ask how we should do it, I say: send your sales representatives to a training session, give them a tablet in their hands, shop responsibly on it and take it out to the customer.
André Hausmann: You have to make a demo for every customer and show them “this could be your shop”. There are sometimes very simple methods. The print shops that understand it get the really big customers with contracts. Simply because they say what they have – which is quite normal.
Bernd Zipper: There is one thing about the Corona crisis that still worries me. Do you believe that soon we’ll only have big printing companies and all the small ones will be gone?
André Hausmann: I would prefer not to imagine that, and I wouldn’t say it quite so harshly. There will be smaller and smaller specialized printing houses, but the number will decrease. But I believe that if the smaller printers work more openly with the big producers, accept more of them and use more of them, they can make it. As the head of Cimpress, Robert Keane, put it so beautifully “coopetition” and said, the duality of competition and cooperation is possible in our market. I think there is some truth in that. The big suppliers are destroying the prices of the smaller companies. But every printing company has strengths where it can still earn enough money and score points with additional services outside the printed word. The question is whether the printing companies will get that momentum. You can use these large printing plants to your advantage.
Bernd Zipper: I think that has to be evaluated individually, but it’s an approach you can think about. My final question to you: What’s the nicest thing that happened to you last week?
André Hausmann: That was a private matter. I met with my 18-year-old son and we talked, had a beer and played a little bit of Playstation.
Bernd Zipper: Adult children are something beautiful! Thank you for the enlightening conversation. I hope the printing companies get going and that I will hear from you soon.