In addition to fulfilling a protection and information function, print finishing and packaging customization also play an advertising media role, which manufacturers or shippers can use for specific promotional purposes. In April 2015 I reported on how a start-up business has managed to combine packaging print, customization and e-business print in an appealing way.
But what’s the story now, one year on? Packaging print for flexible packaging, labels and folded boxes is regarded as the segment of the print market that’s anticipated to experience continued growth in the future. There are a fair few providers competing in this market segment, offering products ranging from “simple” film packaging through premium-finished folded boxes in a broad spectrum of special colors, which they produce using different technologies.
I have compiled a broad overview of the different web-to-packaging solution providers operating in German-speaking markets for proprietary research purposes. Not all the stores offer an immediate product visualization feature; therefore at some stores print data can only be uploaded after you have configured and priced your product and once the actual ordering process has been completed. A preview is therefore not possible without registering at or signing in to the store.
However I only regard those web-to-packaging providers that offer an open-store editor function and a minimum order quantity of 100 as being of any interest.
The unitedprint Group owns easyprint, which targets small businesses and consumers, and print24, whose target audience tends to be bigger companies. Both use the FreeDesign Online Editor to enable users to design and preview the subsequent print product, which is then offset-printed in-house. At print24 you have, for example, a larger choice of folded box formats, possibly to cater for the more sophisticated or special needs of larger customers. Both stores offer the same pricing at identical product configuration and delivery lead times. Both offer fast delivery (around two weeks) against payment of an upcharge – you have to fork out considerably more to have a delivery date brought forward by three days and you need to reckon with a premium of between a third and a half on the original price. Navigation around both store sites is intuitive, but print24 offers more configuration options. The store boasts a huge product portfolio and a wide range of finishing options, e.g. special color print or UV coatings as are standard on cardboard packaging; embossing is not an available option.
“There are now several web-to-packaging solutions available in German-speaking markets, yet only a few stores provide a direct online design tool for customized packaging.” – Bernd Zipper
The editor tool is well laid out and a help detail enables you to match icons with their functions fast. Various shapes, text fields, RGB combination colors (can be combined on a channel-by-channel basis) can be selected and inserted in the top view of the box template. Uploading your own data and using ready-made designs is also feasible. What I really like is that in addition to the actual product view, other parameters such as delivery leadtime, grammage, finishing and print run can be displayed and amended if necessary. The price of the complete product is also simultaneously updated in the same window.
An editor with the same functions, in this case called Customizing Box, but with a different layout is provided by boxshop24. This tool shrewdly displays the template bleed too, in order to provide an immediate impression of the necessary trapping details on the edges of the box, if needed. This store also provides another self-design option: a punch-contour download, with the aid of which the print design can be self-created (or created with the help of an agency) and uploaded later as a ready-to-print file. Overall you can find a decently broad product range, if customized folded boxes are what you’re looking for.
The most exciting editor is provided by printmate.de. Although the open store offers fewer choices as far as product range is concerned, but immediate 3D visualization of your self-designed shipping carton compensates for that lack of choice, if you are looking for customizable shipping cartons. And I am certain that manufacturers and shippers will be able to make receiving and unpacking a package a significantly more intensive customer experience by using CI-conform cardboard packaging.
Customized packaging, irrespective of which format, serves as an important means of communication and flags up what has been purchased or ordered. The German-speaking market already provides a number of such solutions, although aspiration levels and product finishing options vary from store to store. At any rate if you are looking to action a creative project, the web-to-packaging solutions detailed above will give you what you are looking for, provided you are not necessarily after Iriodin or drip-off coatings and multi-embossed folded boxes.
My Take: I wonder what packaging solutions the online print industry will add to its box of tricks in the near future. And there is likely to be plenty on the cards, because delivery lead times of 14 days and more – job configuration with no preview feature or even free choice of format – can certainly be improved upon to lay the foundations for a more extensive business. There are rumors in the industry about a number of providers heading in this direction and I have already been able to get a sneak preview of the one or other solution, in strict confidence, mind. Let’s see what happens, because I believe that 2016 will be the year in which the packaging industry will be confronted for the first time with a new competitor that it needs to take seriously – online packaging print – very much in line with mass customization.