Market: Digital showcase for personalized print products


Whether we like it or not, anyone who runs an online store, no matter what products it focuses on, will be compared to Amazon. That’s because the number 1 online marketplace sets the benchmark when it comes to checkout. Online print shops likewise have to contend with the expectations this creates on the customer side. But with Amazon Custom, the Group also offers a service from which print service providers could benefit. Or is this not the case?

In Germany alone, Amazon has over 270 million listings. In the entire German-speaking region, the online marketplace has a share in digital commerce of over 50 percent, relegating players like Zalando, Otto and Co. to the back seats. But even more exciting, as Karim-Patrick Bannour from the Amazon and marketing agency Marktplatz 1 explained at the Online Print Symposium 2022: “Amazon is the most important point of contact for end customers. 94 percent of German online shoppers are also Amazon customers. 60 percent of all online product searches start on Amazon. This makes the marketplace the No. 1 product search engine.”

Print products in the Amazon range?

What does all this have to do with the printing industry? For one thing, it means that customers expect the benefits that come with easy ordering and uncomplicated returns handling with Amazon from all other online stores as well. And for another: With Amazon Custom, the marketplace offers a store within its own “universe” through which products can be sold with text or image personalization or with an individual configuration. And when it comes your personalization, the ears of every print service provider – or at least those with digital printing – should be “ringing”.

The question of whether Amazon Custom is therefore suitable as a sales platform for personalized print products is therefore an obvious one. But before there is a run on the Amazon service, the opportunities and risks should be well weighed, as Karim-Patrick Bannour explained.

In principle, Amazon Custom is available to every provider. There are (at least currently) no additional costs to the classic merchant fee, and in the search result pages, custom projects are displayed in neither a preferred nor unfavourable way relative to all other products, according to Bannour. In addition, custom products can be offered via in-house shipping. Thus, they are not subject to Prime policies with 24-hour delivery. However, it is advisable to communicate in-house terms and conditions transparently so that – as an example – one cannot be obligated to take back products, for example, as is customary with the marketplace.

Amazon makes the rules

In general – and according to the expert, that is part of the truth: Anyone who sells via Amazon must also play by Amazon’s rules and accept the technical restrictions. After all, the configuration of the custom products sometimes takes some getting used to and the backend is not what one might expect in 2022. You should also be careful if you advertise your own online store outside of Amazon too aggressively on the product pages or brand stores. Amazon penalizes customers who are actively poached in this way with poorer visibility or even the blocking of an account. Both are also threatened if a provider receives too many negative reviews from customers. And if there is ever friction between customer and provider, Amazon is usually on the side of the customer. One should be aware of this.

Digital shop window

However, anyone who is not put off by the limited technical options, the not-so-attractive visualization and the guidelines, can certainly derive some advantages from an offer on Amazon Custom: “All in all, we have a huge potential in terms of customers. And even despite the limitations, it’s relatively quick and easy to set up. We recommend to most of our customers: Use Amazon as a shop window, as a showcase for the brand, the company, the products! Because many users often seek further information about the provider. In addition, Amazon is quite important in terms of search engine optimization, because the products of the platform are often displayed among the top results,” summarized Karim-Patrick Bannour. But it is also important to note that Amazon Custom is less suitable for use in the B2B environment, in his opinion. And as always, in order to find out whether the service really makes sense for a company, it is often necessary to take a close look at the market and soberly weigh up the costs and benefits.

Swarm intelligence for a better user experience

While Bannour’s presentation was about the opportunities and risks of Amazon Custom, Georg Hansbauer, from Testbirds GmbH, was primarily concerned with improving the user experience. “Actually, it’s a saying, the customer is king. But if you listen closely to what the customer actually wants, you learn some interesting things. How does he deal with the digital application, what challenges does he have with it?” says Hansbauer. This makes it all the more important to design things in a user-centric way, which however, is no longer as “simple” as it once was. In the past, it was enough to meet customer expectations in one of several dimensions to make customers happy. Today it’s different: providers have to perform strongly in several dimensions simultaneously in order to satisfy users. But what is it that customers expect from a product, its application, and the processes around the purchase process?

Learning from the experience of customers

This is what Testbirds GmbH has made its mission to find out. The Munich-based company, which originally came from digital product development but has since grown into the “offline world,” follows a simple approach, as Georg Hansbauer explained at OPS 2022: “To build a good customer experience, ask the best customer experience expert you can: your own customer.”

This is all implemented via various qualitative and quantitative crowd testing methods. “What does crowd testing do? We have a global community of over 600,000 people who represent all kinds of profiles and are registered with us on one platform,” Hansbauer said. Depending on the product, process or software, precise profiling is used to form test groups of people who are intended to represent the company’s target group. “The trials and tests are handled online – and are not limited to individual markets or regions but can take place globally.”

Crowd testing provides valuable insights

From the results of crowd testing, developers and vendors can draw valuable information: On the one hand, it is about the functionality, for example of a web application, which simply has to work well and coherently in different countries, in different languages and on all devices and browsers. Here, the focus is on the technical aspect, among other things. ” However, one thing I can do much better with crowd testing,” the expert explained, “is to use the method to work in a more customer-centric way and to involve users as early as possible in the development of all kinds of products.”

Many building blocks make for a good customer experience

And processes also play an important role: For example, it may be a question of how users find their way around in a particular store environment. “The whole payment issue is also very important. There are now so many different payment systems, including regional providers, and so much can go wrong,” says Hansbauer, “as well as in the overall returns and complaints management.” Above all, he says, comprehensible and consistent communication and appropriate notifications play a major role.

“If I’m a medium-sized e-commerce person, crowd testing is a good way to find out where the problems are. Because simply providing a phone number in the online store is not yet a real problem solution. After all, for the exasperated customer, the next store is just a click away.”

My Take: Get out of the bubble! Online print shops operate in the same markets and have to deal with the same customer expectations as all providers in digital commerce. Instead of struggling with the superiority of Amazon and Co. and falling into a state of shock, you should think about how you can use the positive effects of the marketplace for yourself and at the same time create a high level of customer satisfaction in your own store. There are numerous starting points for this.
Market: Digital showcase for personalized print products
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Market: Digital showcase for personalized print products
Whether we like it or not, anyone who runs an online store, no matter what products it focuses on, will be compared to Amazon. That's because the number 1 online marketplace sets the benchmark when it comes to checkout. Online print shops likewise have to contend with the expectations this creates on the customer side. But with Amazon Custom, the Group also offers a service from which print service providers could benefit. Or is this not the case?
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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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