When “big players” meet start-ups and innovative ideas meet open ears, and developers and users discuss solutions to problems together, it’s OPS time. On the second day of the event, the Online Print Symposium once again highlighted exciting trends and dared to think outside the box. Alongside industrial inkjet, swarm intelligence for a better user experience and the question of the future of the “computer colleague,” there were plenty of other topics and ideas that were discussed on and off the stage.
While 15 years ago it was still scorned as an “inkblot process,” inkjet printing has now become a real all-rounder in the printing industry. Not only is a high level of quality achieved in inkjet printing today – it is also possible to do it at speeds that can sometimes rival offset printing. Not to mention the variety of possible substrates. To cut a long story short. Inkjet printing, and first and foremost industrial inkjet printing, is the current trend. So it was only logical that Carles Farre, CEO of HP Pagewide Industrial, was a genuine insider to speak on current developments in this field. According to him, the number of pages printed on high-speed inkjet has increased eightfold between 2011 and 2021 – from 50 billion pages to 440 billion pages. – and is expected to double again in the next five years. Amidst the challenges in supply chains and increased demands on the customer side, the value of digital production printing is growing tremendously.
Not only that, but the printing process also offers numerous other advantages, including the possibility of end-to-end inline production, significantly reduced “time to market” automation – and the option to create added value through the clever combination of inkjet technology and data analysis. In other words, mass customization.
According to Farre, the innovative leaps that inkjet printing has made recently – and will probably continue to make in the future – are primarily in the areas of quality, high-gloss papers, productivity and automation. But even today, productivity is already enormous – 7.5 hours instead of seven days is no longer something unrealistic, as the expert showed with a real customer example, but has long been possible.
How does long-term success work?
Yet in addition to the right production machines, it is the right business model that determines the success of an online print company. However, a strategy is not something that is cast in stone – and instead must be regularly scrutinized and adapted to the new circumstances of the market and customers. At least this was the belief of Andreas Otto, CCO of the albelli-Photobox-Group, which came into being three months ago, and which he highlighted in his presentation.
With seven brands, the group is represented in a large number of European countries – and is therefore quick to recognize new trends and developments in the market. Thus, he also confirmed the trend towards mobile first, more sustainability or increased customer expectations – which are mainly shaped by tech giants like Google, Amazon and Co. For the albelli-Photobox Group, this means positioning itself strategically – against the backdrop of competitors – around the themes of inspiration, ease of use (easy to use) and sustainable quality. But, and this is and remains elementary: These “anchor points” must be regularly checked for their topicality and relevance in order to bring sustainable success. But how do you do this in a meaningful and structured way? The albelli-Photobox-Group at least has a clear focus on three basic growth areas.
Amazon Custom: The Internet Marketplace as a Storefront for Personalized Products
Everyone knows Amazon, Amazon Prime too, as well as Amazon Video or Amazon Music. But Amazon Custom? Admittedly, the comparison is a bit misleading, because while one is classically designed for end consumers, the possibilities of Amazon Custom are primarily aimed at business operators who want to expand their services. An overview of the opportunities and risks inherent in Amazon Custom was provided by Karim-Patrick Bannour, who founded the Amazon agency Markplatz1 in 2016. When asked whether Amazon’s offerings are also relevant for online print shops, he said the answer can be summed up in a few figures: 94% of German online shoppers are also Amazon customers. 60 percent of all online searches start on Amazon, much to the chagrin of Google. That means Amazon is the number one product search engine, and it’s the convenience factor that makes the difference, he said, because it’s convenient for the customer. Therefore, as Bannour explained, it is only logical for companies that sell their products online to also look at Amazon Custom’s capabilities.
Amazon is extremely diverse; there’s virtually nothing that doesn’t exist. Amazon Showroom, an affiliate program, influencer collections, Amazon Aware, Amazon Discover, Amazon Live – and yes, even Amazon Services, which could even be used to schedule an appointment to change a tire. AND there’s even Amazon Custom for products that can be personalized. Officially since 2017 and for all sellers. Bannour clearly explained what Amazon Custom is all about, what restrictions sellers should be aware of, what opportunities it offers or to what extent it could also become a risk for companies. More detailed information on this will be available later in a separate article on beyond-print.de.
Print against war – showing solidarity
One special moment that was not in the program booklet also took place shortly before the break – a moment that appealed to solidarity in the printing industry in Europe. Because while print shops in Germany and the western countries are struggling with supply bottlenecks and paper price increases, for the printing companies and their employees in Ukraine it is a matter of existential importance. Lorenzo Villa, a publisher and trade journalist from Milan, Italy, founded the “Print against War” movement shortly after the war began – and has already been able to win over numerous influential figures from the global printing and packaging industry. The aim of the non-profit organization is to support partner companies in Ukraine – whether financially or materially. After all, that’s what the Online Print Symposium is all about: not seeing each other as lone warriors, but serving the market together – or fighting for survival together. “Print against War” – an initiative that is absolutely worth supporting.
What would the Online Print Symposium be without a spontaneously convened panel discussion? After Martin Ludovic, who wanted to give an overview of the online print industry in France, unfortunately dropped out due to illness, Bernd Zipper and Jens Meyer asked Ulrich Stetter, of Druckhaus Mainfranken and President of Intergraf, and Ulrich Schätzl, Director of Mass Customization at Elanders Print & Packaging Division and Boardmember of the HP user group Dscoop Germany, to come on stage for a discussion. Topic: It was not a canon of complaints about the current challenges, but an outlook on how the current situation can actually create opportunities for new or ideally even additional business, and what is important in this context. Keywords here include: Cooperation instead of competition, together instead of side by side, value instead of mass, mass customization instead of interchangeability, segmentation instead of the “watering can” principle.
Crowd testing for the “currency of the future
Online stores thrive on the right mix of attractive products. That’s true, but it’s also only part of the truth. Because a good user experience (UX) is just as important, explained Georg Hansbauer, CEO and co-founder of Testbirds. After all, in a world where each target group has not only different but also increasingly demanding expectations, it is especially important to guide users through digital offerings in the right way. And yes, despite the fact that it will soon be hard to hear: This is where the tech giants like Amazon, Meta and Co. set the benchmarks against which all other online service providers are also measured. It is therefore no longer enough to meet customer expectations in just one aspect – today, companies ideally have to convince in several criteria at once in order to turn users into customers. That’s why Hansbauer doesn’t just talk about user experience, but about the “currency of the future.
And this currency is to be improved with the help of Testbirds, as his company is called. The principle behind this is called crowd testing and makes it possible to have one’s own offerings evaluated through the eyes of the customer, as well as to receive valuable tips for improvements. Swarm intelligence, so to speak, from 600,000 testers from over 193 countries and with all possible device combinations. But we’ll be revealing exactly how the process works at Testbirds over the next few weeks at beyond-print.de.
Software as a slave driver?
Digitization is often celebrated as a savior and at the same time feared as a job killer. As is so often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. In his presentation at the Online Print Symposium, Christian Weyer, Managing Director Technology at Zaikio, analyzed the relationship between man and machine and asked why, even 30 years after the widespread advent of computers, the joint potential is still not being exploited. Is there more opportunity or more danger in this?
First of all, says Weyer, computers are tools. And they need the right tools for different tasks. And these tools must move with the times and, above all, do one thing: provide support, especially for analytical tasks. After all, this is precisely where computers and software are in their element – and should free up people’s capacities for creative work and finding solutions. Because no matter how powerful computers may be, they are not creative. However, according to Weyer, this means that software must be rethought for the future, because currently the opposite is true, namely that software prepares people for analytical tasks instead of taking them away from them. How can we get away from “slave-owning software” in his opinion? We’ll reveal that in a separate article later here on beyond-print.de.
From Amazon to the lion’s den, from industrial inkjet to misconceptions and clever start-ups in the insight pitches to crowd testing: the Online Print Symposium delivered in its usual manner again this year and provided numerous stimuli for the further development of companies and the industry as a whole. If you weren’t there, it’s your own fault. But the good news is: After the OPS is before the next OPS. And that’s why everyone should make a note of this date in their calendars: The next Online Print Symposium will take place on March 22 and 23, 2023, at the Science Congress Center Munich. And then there will be a big celebration: Because that is when the OPS will celebrate its tenth birthday.
…the article covering the first day of the OPS can be found here.