Online print sector in Italy is “ready for business” – abridged report


Online print got beyond the stage of being an alien concept in Italy long ago and an agile market has developed on the other side of the language barrier. At the end of April I was afforded the opportunity to give the keynote at the first Online Printing Conference held in Italy. The event organized by the 4IT Group and Zeta really wowed the 120 delegates.r.

It’s normally rather rude to talk about yourself first, but in this case I was the first speaker and gave the delegates an outline perspective on the online print market – doing the “warm up” act, so to speak. At this point regular Beyond Print readers can figure out for themselves what I spoke about – what I found to be more important was how the online print community in Italy presented itself. The 4IT Group, Zeta and InfoTrends conducted a joint survey on the Italian “web-to-print” market and presented the findings for the first time. Ralf Schlözer from InfoTrends, arguably one of the world’s leading on-demand printing and publishing experts, and his partners surveyed 82 companies about this topic. He analyzed the market in detail in his “Insights into the Italian Web-to-Print Market” study.

120 delegates followed the presentations at the Printing Conference in Milan with avid interest

As in the online print markets north of the Alps, print businesses in Italy are increasingly concentrating on better sales and marketing processes (63.2%), raising production efficiency (56.1%), developing new print applications (54.4%) as well as developing new vertical markets (52.6%). The market leaders in Italy have focused particularly on the latter. Another interesting issue is what products are ordered in Italy. While photo books play a key role in Germany/Austria/Switzerland, this product segment only accounts for 9.1% in Italy. In contrast, the products that play a major role here are brochures (54.5%), catalogs/magazines (42.4%) and books (38.4%). However packaging at 15.2% and decorative print products at 12.1% are also popular with buyers.

In my opinion, one somewhat unexpected finding was that Italian entrepreneurs were developing a greater interest in e-business than the European average. This is also upping the pressure on nearly all print companies in Italy. The market is generally smaller than the D/A/CH market, as are the companies operating within it, which is giving rise to a different, more agile form of market development. If your competitors are offering e-business solutions, this increases the pressure on you to put your own solution in place. However this is not being actioned in Italy using proprietary IT and store solutions, as is the case for example in Germany; instead 71.4% of providers are using SaaS models. However management solutions (ERP/MIS) are apparently not good enough in the opinion of many entrepreneurs – nearly 30% of those surveyed are planning to develop their own solutions that meet their requirements.


“Digital transformation is having an impact on business models and distribution channels in all sectors of the economy. Every sector has to learn lessons, and print is no exception.” – Bernd Zipper

Together with Michael Fries, CEO of Onlineprinters and Vincenzo Cirimele, CEO of PressUp, I then got the opportunity to join in the panel discussion on stage. The focus of interest was on the “creation of an optimum online print offering”. We quickly agreed that just purchasing an online store solution is not the panacea, but where the hard work starts. Furthermore analyzing online store usage is important and is one of an online print provider’s basic tools. Vincenzo Cirimele and Michael Fries verified this by providing illustrations from their daily store operations. Only those providers that consciously get to grips with e-business issues and enhance their portals primarily to benefit users are going to be successful. This has to be based on a wide range of on-site analyses that shed light on users’ everyday behavior.

The panel discussion between Michael Fries from Onlineprinters, Vincenzo Cirimele from PressUp and myself also focused on online print

The issues of online store optimization and user analytics in particular were discussed during various afternoon sessions. According to Michael Fries, the user-friendliness of an online store is one of the key elements that highlight the importance of usability as well as of web store effectiveness. His company makes use of a wide range of options to gather and analyze customer behavior and customer feedback information, including click behavior and eye tracking. This is all aimed at optimizing store user-friendliness. According to Vincenzo Cirimele, data also plays an important role – first of all knowing your customers and their behavior enables you to target offerings and so increase effectiveness.

Andrea Boaretto’s contribution to the discussion focused on the issue of data-driven marketing. What he believes is key is that gathering data and analyzing it in realtime transforms an “anonymous user” into a “known user”. Users can therefore be actively classified and stores can react better to user requirements, e.g. special offers or the proactive provision of functions. The culmination of this event was the presentation given by Silvia Armiento, Chief Marketing Officer at Bolzano/Bozen-based Longo AG, on the subject of mymuesli and customization at the POS. Longo’s German subsidiary partnered with mymuesli to create its e-business platform and data processing capability. Silvia’s presentation essentially dealt with the topic of mass customization and the opportunities that modern e-business architectures provide here.

My take: I believe this “excursion” to Italy was very revealing. On the one hand, the Italians are much further down the track than I initially assumed, and on the other, the Italians focus on genuine dialog and I almost experienced a little of that “OPS feeling”. A big thank you to 4IT and Zeta – you have created a superb event.

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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