Market: Who are the largest online printers in the D/A/CH region? 

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Modesty, they say, is a virtue. But anyone who sells themselves short in today’s business world is quickly overlooked, declared obsolete and no longer in demand. In view of the digital media and possibilities, the end of the printing industry has been prophesied for years and at regular intervals. Yet large parts of the industry are proving to be vibrant and extremely successful. Particularly in online print. It’s time for more self-confidence!

That’s not to say that I don’t see the numerous challenges and problems that make it difficult for companies in the printing industry today. When it comes to economic success, the industry is of course not a sure-fire success. Quite the opposite, as printing companies are naturally required to constantly reinvent and adapt in the face of declining print runs and rapidly changing consumer habits. That costs money, energy and nerves. I can understand that.

But I also see numerous printing companies that have managed it; that have found their own successful way of dealing with the new circumstances and trends.

The online print industry is particularly resilient to the developments of recent years, although of course it has not been spared. The loyal participants of the Online Print Symposium and the companies in this sector already know this.

But perhaps now – just a few weeks before drupa – is exactly the right time to bring more awareness and self-confidence to the industry. Because in addition to all the challenges, print shops also have many good reasons to be self-confident. The potential is immense.

The potential is immense

Many people may not realize it, but Germany is the third largest print market in the world, with an extremely high export ratio. That is incredible power. The six major online print players in the D/A/CH market alone generated sales of 2.33 billion euros in 2023 – in total, I estimate “online-generated print sales” (OGPU) at just under 8.1 billion euros last year. A gigantic market. Too high, you would think? Not really. Many smaller online print companies, social commerce providers in the print-on-demand and mass customization sector have to be added to this. Moreover, many B2B portals – i.e. direct connections between business customers and print shops – should not be underestimated when considering the market. This means that sales from providers such as Elanders are also included in the OGPU.

Some market participants like to talk about a “saturated” market. I see it differently! The sales potential that can still be tapped in the B2B sector alone (via company-owned print procurement portals), as well as in the sectors of social commerce and print-on-demand, is just under EUR 3.9 to 4.2 billion over the next few years. And that’s just in Germany.

This is because the “split” in the industry is ongoing: on the one hand, there are those who are digital and online and produce in a highly automated way, and on the other hand, there are the specialists, i.e. small and large companies, who cover the area in print that can only be transformed online with great effort. In short, the potential is there.

But we must also be aware that if we don’t meet this demand, companies from other countries will. And if we in Europe cannot meet this demand, Chinese companies will. In plain language, this means that we need to think about how we can leverage this potential as quickly as possible – and I believe that AI will help us to increase the lead we still have. We just have to tackle it.

Who are the biggest online printers in the D/A/CH region?

Let’s get back to the actual topic of my article, the online print industry and the development of the biggest players in the market over the last few years. At every Online Print Symposium I give a brief insight into this – and every time it is precisely this overview that is discussed and requested the most. That’s why I have decided to report on it here on beyond-print.net.

As inconspicuous as the table may seem, it provides a lot of valuable information. Mainly due to the fact that a) there is no separate category for online print in official market statistics and b) not all companies publish their figures officially. So there is an enormous amount of research behind it.

Many years of experience are incorporated into the overview

Anyone who knows me knows that online print has been one of my main topics for many years and that I have been closely observing and following the industry and its players for at least as long. As a result, I can now look back on a period of just under or even well over ten years in my overview of the development of the individual companies.

The sales figures themselves come partly from official company reports, but also partly from zipcon’s own research and estimates. They therefore do not necessarily reflect the exact real results – but from experience I can say that they nevertheless reflect current sales trends fairly well.

Overall, the top 6 online print companies in the D/A/CH region – Cewe, Cimpress (especially Print Brothers), Flyeralarm, Onlineprinters, The Customization Group and Celebrate – generated a total turnover of 2.33 billion euros last year. Apart from The Customization Group, which has not published its figures for 2022 and 2023, I obtained the data for the major providers either directly or from the corresponding public investor reports.

Online print is developing well despite all the economic challenges

The first fundamental thing we can say is that, in principle, all six providers have only been moving in one direction, namely upwards – even if the coronavirus crisis itself caused a slight dip here. However, since 2022 and also last year, sales figures have risen again, and in some cases quite significantly. However, there is one exception, namely Onlineprinters. To be fair, it has to be said that the company has recently adopted a new approach, including a new CI, and has invested heavily. However, although Onlineprinters’ turnover has fallen slightly as a result, earnings have increased due to internal process optimization. You should therefore not always rely on sales figures alone.

Flyeralarm, the industry leader, has seen the strongest growth. With an increase in turnover of 11.4% – which is a truly outstanding figure for a “traditional online printer” in the post-coronavirus era – the Würzburg-based company shows that online print continues to guarantee success with a 360-degree product strategy and the right branding. The jump in revenue from 2022 to 2023 from EUR 404 million to EUR 450 million is absolutely impressive, but also shows that Flyeralarm has done its homework. In addition to a good – almost omnipresent – presence on almost all media channels, the Würzburg-based company also knows how to surprise again and again. The latest highlight: a joint online platform with Gmund. A smart move in times when it is once again worthwhile to offer fine paper and highly refined print products.

Social commerce pays off

However, we also see two players that were not among the top 5 or top 6 a few years ago, but are now indispensable: The Customization Group (formerly known as Picanova), which operates numerous end customer brands, and Celebrate, which is known for its “Kartenmacherei” brand, among others. Both companies are the best example of how social commerce is used agilely and successfully to bring new print offerings to the market. And if you don’t believe me: the figures don’t lie and speak for themselves! Focusing on the end customer business can therefore be very successful. TCG and Celebrate are therefore real “social media heroes” for me.

Online print is a growth driver for the entire printing industry

However, the sales figures of the top online printers in German-speaking countries are not the only way to evaluate developments on the market. At zipcon, we also launched the ZOPI, the zipcon Online Print Price Index, over three years ago. This does not focus on companies’ sales figures, but on the prices they charge for their print products. In 2020, for example, during the corona crisis and the emerging paper and energy price crisis, it became apparent that online print shops were able to keep their prices stable for a few months, but then had to pass on the additional costs to customers at some point. By the way: The next ZOPI analysis for the first quarter of 2024 will be available here on beyond-print.net shortly.

The ZOPI and the annual analysis of the sales figures of the top online print companies create a multi-layered picture of an industry that is really exciting and can rightly be confident in the coming years. After all, online print is a growth driver for the printing industry as a whole.

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Market: Who are the largest online printers in the D/A/CH region?
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Market: Who are the largest online printers in the D/A/CH region?
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Modesty, they say, is a virtue. But anyone who sells themselves short in today's business world is quickly overlooked, declared obsolete and no longer in demand. In view of the digital media and possibilities, the end of the printing industry has been prophesied for years and at regular intervals. Yet large parts of the industry are proving to be vibrant and extremely successful. Particularly in online print. It's time for more self-confidence!
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Beyond-print.net

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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, Owner: (Registered business address: Germany), processes personal data only to the extent strictly necessary for the operation of this website. All details in the privacy policy.