There are plenty of simple print store solutions for lateral and new entrants to the print market. Most of them either feature a whole load of rather inflexible templates, while others focus exclusively on special solutions or developing editor environments. So that’s reason enough for me to take another look at a further web-to-print solution.
Obility, a member of the IOP by trade, offers a system that supports a wide range of eBusiness formats, focusing on print industry software.
Since the merger of the “old” Obility GmbH and M/S VisuCom GmbH to form the “new” Obility GmbH, the Koblenz-based company has made significant strides in the direction of efficiency and topicality, which are intended to meet the aspirations of its D/A/CH-based clients in future.
Previously clients could select from Obility’s range of different functions that matched their needs. They could choose which level of support dovetailed best with their concept and needs, from setting up a ready-made store through modular adaptation and integration of the desired sets of functions via API; the whole shebang either as SaaS or as a software installation on a proprietary web server. For example, individual functions, such as the online editor, could be integrated into a client’s existing system upon request. The software experts’ offering therefore already exhibited a high degree of flexibility and an open structure, which if needed enables clients to partially adapt the functionality and structure of their own websites – even without in-depth programming knowledge.
But what is new? As part of Release 5.0 of their master concept, the software specialists have dedicated themselves in particular to providing their clients with even more flexibility and efficiency. For the purposes of clarity vis-à-vis this multifaceted offering, this was embedded in a four-mainstay concept and linked with the relevant innovations. This is where the Print Shops, Print Management, Print Automation and Print Integration business categories are to be found. I will now address what is behind each mainstay.
In terms of the first mainstay – Print Shops – Obility is sticking with the proven and upgrading functions by including, for example, customizable store user interfaces, responsive web design and landing pages, which are intended to further improve their clients’ rankings in an age where mobile is key. The software developers have also given thought to increasing involvement with consumers. Thus the above-mentioned SEO and landing-page modules not only generate a broader-based presence, a product range module can also be integrated starting with the Pro version, which facilitates cross- and upselling. Obility’s expertise is revealed when you consider the spectrum of possible store focuses: clients can choose between open and closed stores, depending on their needs and have them configured as they require or set up ‘ready to rock and roll’. For each type of web-to-print store from the portfolio, clients can select between the Basic, Pro and Enterprise versions – the range of features, like the prices, increase as you go along the aforementioned sequence. Thus, for example, the Enterprise version of the Designer Print Shop, which features an editor environment along with a pricing function as standard, also enables you to use multi-language templates in the editor environment, to add further web-to-print functions to websites and features the largest number of interfaces with external and internal systems. But the new features are almost solely restricted to both the more extensive versions; anybody who wants the full flexibility of the multi-interface open system does not opt for the Basic version. What’s also a must is that stores and related websites are made mobile-compatible in the future, whatever version is chosen. That’s because well over 50% of client sites that Obility has stated as references have not been enhanced for mobile devices, according to Google Test – in the case of several clients, Obility still has work to do.
Print Management pools all the tools that are intended to ensure increased productivity based on analyses of operational processes. ERP functionality therefore covers not only materials and warehouse management but also production planning and CRM documentation and, if appropriate, shipment tracking. This functionality and the integrated business intelligence software, for example, give the client a comprehensive overview of their business-relevant management ratios. What I find very interesting is the fact that these analyses can be tracked on a mobile device independent of time and workplace, thanks to being cloud-based and of responsive design.
What is also very important is process automation. In terms of process automation, Obility has pooled all those activities that imply the automatic completion of tasks by the system under the Print Automation banner. Here the software specialist develops, for example, customized solutions for separate menu pages for specified activities and/or departments, for order data transmission by mail, FTP or digital transfer to suppliers, for incoming goods and inventory audit documentation as well as for central management of all job and print data using interface links to internal and external systems.
“Obility has taken a leap forward with its new master concept. Mobile-optimized and featuring a high degree of cooperation potential and plenty of interfaces, this tool belongs on nearly every project evaluation list.” – Bernd Zipper
This brings us to the fourth and last mainstay, Obility Print Integration. I previously talked about the flexibility of the overall system and its modular components – the client can thus choose whether they would prefer to use the comprehensive Chili Publisher as their editing environment rather than the existing editor, in order to optimize their workflows or if they anticipate improved usability. The linkage to existing pre-press workflows, coupling with payment and shipping systems or integration of the Perfect Pattern process optimization systems all show that the Obility system is receptive to other software applications, by means of extensive interface integration.
My take: the restructuring of the Obility offering has provided greater clarity in respect of the sizeable range of functions. The website is also well-structured and is not sparing with information about specific (pre-configured) online print stores and modules. It’s just a pity that Obility doesn’t show everything, because its references are more than likely to include several niche providers. Altogether a well-thought-out master concept with versatile interfaces and modules that make sense and that meet the current needs of most online print providers. But the real innovations could do with being highlighted more on the website.