The Online Print Symposium is without a doubt one of the most successful trend events in the printing industry. This is hardly a surprise, as the OPS tackles cutting-edge topics every year and thus reinforces its reputation as the “think tank” of online printing – even internationally. This year’s 250 or so participants at the symposium in Munich from March 3 – 4 experienced this first-hand.
Trends such as customized e-commerce for print, digitization, transformation, industry 4.0, the use of artificial intelligence, blockchain, customer communication and mobile commerce were the top topics that the 16 speakers dealt with over the course of the two-day event.
A bit much at once. Therefore, we will be dividing the report on the symposium into several contributions: This section mainly focuses on the market of online printing and transformation projects. In further articles we will look at the implementation of selected techniques in the context of changing markets.
Some of the trends mentioned above are already shaping the business of print shops today, while others are currently still perceived rather skeptically. For example, the smartphone has become the number one decision maker in e-commerce for almost every e-commerce purchase: from sneakers to travel, to cars to printing. “Anyone who is not on the move will at some point no longer be able to reach their customers,” warned Bernd Zipper, co-organizer of the symposium and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH. In addition, smartphones are real “enablers” for mass customization … and have long since ceased to be used just for “little pictures”. The printing industry must prepare itself for this – and much more.
That’s why the organizers, zipcon consulting and the Bundesverband Druck und Medien (German Federal Association for Print and Media), were absolutely right in choosing the event motto “Transforming the DNA of Print!”. The motto was aimed at all printers, because sooner or later every printing company will mutate, at least to some extent, into an online printer – whether it likes it or not.
Of course, there are still successful printers with no online presence – they may not enjoy reading such statements. But the printing industry must be present where its customers are. And if they’re on the Internet, the printing companies have to be there as well. This is not about everyone having to become the next Flyeralarm, but if the printing industry leaves online-triggered automation processes to others, then soon nobody will talk about this industry anymore.
Online is no longer an option
The excitement of the last Online Print Symposium, in which it was said that online print was not growing as fast as expected, has long since subsided and was no longer an issue this year. Indeed, the supposedly bad forecasts were wrong. Online print has developed well and continues to grow.
“Print is one of the most powerful channels in the communication canon of the digital world. Online print is one of the most successful business models in the printing industry,” remarked Bernd Zipper. “And the Internet is the largest global infrastructure that mankind has ever created – whereby the “web” is ultimately the ubiquitous platform for communication and business. So online is no longer an option; online is the interface to the customer. Today – and tomorrow it is irreplaceable,” continued Zipper in his already established lecture “Developments and Trends in Online Printing”, in which he summed up the year 2019, gave an overview of trends and thus set the homework that the industry has to do in the near future. And they all have it in them.
Online print is not a private event for just a few. “Every online printer needs partners,” Zipper noted, characterizing once again the different business models in online print to provide a better understanding when interpreting the figures and the statistics.
- He referred to those companies – such as Flyeralarm, Onlineprinters or Saxoprint – as homogeneous online printers, which operate open shops for everyone, rely on their own production and also call in external production partners.
- Heterogeneous online printers are more likely to be those that use an external production (for example, their own headquarters as a print shop), that work for the shop and at the same time are on the road as individual printers. This also includes printers who operate closed shops for their customers on the Internet. And those are not just a few.
- There are also print brokers on the market who work exclusively with external printers and have only a marginal share of in-house production (e.g. Wir-machen-Druck.de). Incidentally, United Print is currently switching from a homogeneous online printer to the print broker business.
A healthy climate for online printing in Europe
In 2019, these print shops will generate total online sales of € 8.10 billion. This is about one third of the total turnover of the printing industry in the D/A/CH region. In 2018 the figure amounted to € 7.85 billion. And for 2020 the Market Research department of zipcon consulting has calculated revenues of € 8.74 billion. This corresponds to an average growth rate of 7.5%. Zipper’s forecast for market development in D/A/CH: B2C will grow by 7.1%, B2B by 8.5%.
The top 5 online printers Cewe, Cimpress (with the respective national shareholding), Flyeralarm, Onlineprinters and United Print generated total sales of € 1.7 billion in 2019 with an average growth of 9.5%. Of course, this also includes the sales generated in the different country shops in Europe. The big players are growing through new offers (LFP, advertising media, niche products) and at the same time the price war continues to put pressure on suppliers of standard products. Commodities are, after all, printed products with which the lowest earnings can be made.
According to Bernd Zipper’s figures, the climate for online printing in Europe is generally positive, with the markets in France, Spain, Italy and the Baltic States developing particularly well. Brexit is boosting print sales in the UK, while metropolitan areas are already successful, with network infrastructure and 4G/5G coverage being key success factors. At the same time, a new type of printed product is emerging: social media print. This means that content from Instagram, WhatsApp or Facebook histories and other social media are now also being printed.
What trends are to be observed?
In addition to the trends mentioned at the beginning, the megatrend mass customization stands out in particular. “Yes, of course mass production sales will continue to exist,” admitted Zipper. “But there is a paradigm shift now that small print runs have become affordable through high-speed inkjet and web-to-print. In addition, a generation is growing up with a high sensitivity for mass customization solutions”. Digitally triggered print products for one-to-one marketing in small print runs, including intelligent logistics concepts, are also part of the megatrend of individualization. This could even open up a new service for the industry.
But online print must also understand that in the course of individualization, every customer must be reached in his or her own channel in e-commerce, so that new sales can be developed during the upcoming paradigm shift, Zipper warned: “Because today we are dealing with multi-optional customers. “The” customer no longer exists.” In addition, the simplification of complex processes could lead to the development of lean online shops. Many processes would migrate to the cloud and the costs would be more justifiable than the purchase via click rate, rent or other contract models.
And according to Bernd Zipper, this is the new DNA for print: “Lean. Agile. Virtual. Cooperative. Platforms connect providers, intermediaries and end customers. Print becomes agile, print becomes individual, print becomes modern. Not least through the achievements of online print.”