Zippers Insights of the 6th OPS: Online at last – what now? Part 2


A symposium lasting two days, more than a dozen first-class presentations, discussions, a partner exhibition and loads of networking – it’s tough packing all that in to one blog post and impossible to sum it all up in one sentence. The topics were too varied and the strategies presented too diverse to enable you to do that. Therefore now the 2nd part of my review…

Print mailshots rediscovered

Not another start-up that does old school and retro? Not quite. Print marketing campaigns continue to deliver the highest response rates. Mailshots are profitable and achieve average conversion rates of 3.7%. That is actually a well-known fact but is communicated far too little. Instead many companies focus on e-mail marketing that includes segmentation, personalization as well as comprehensive analysis tools. But the question that needs to be asked is why can’t print do that? Of course it works. Digitalization can be used to draw attention to print again.

Optilyz has created a platform for this purpose to enable eCommerce businesses and brick-and-mortar stores to achieve higher conversion rates. For this purpose the Berlin-based start-up established in 2014 by Martin Twellmeyer and Robert Rebholz utilizes the benefits of personalized and rapidly generated customer approaches in print based on addressed mailshots, letters, postcards or self-addressed mailers. The company’s portfolio also includes brochures, catalogs and flyers that successfully reactivate customers by using personally tailored marketing messages. The entire process is rounded off by an appropriate form of performance measurement to enable the success of print campaigns to be analyzed and optimized.

Martin Twellmeyer, CEO optilyz GmbH. Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

“We offer clients the opportunity to book mailshots in just a few clicks”, Optilyz CEO Martin Twellmeyer explains. “We then handle data cleansing, take care of printing together with our partners and throughout the entire process provide clients with the same level support and advice that they are used to from online print providers by sending them regular, automated updates via the platform. This valuable physical print touchpoint can thus be included as part of more major campaigns.”

Printed mailshots have learned something from e-mail marketing, as it were. Customer relationship systems are used just as much as automated databases. Marketing clouds enable the customer journey to be automated and targeted segmentation of data for cross-channel marketing purposes. This allows print mailshots to be included as a profitable point of contact in customer journeys meaning they are once again gaining in value.

Never caught in the middle

But both the above-mentioned innovations are typical examples of “classic business studies teachings only having limited relevance to online print and other new business models”, stated Dr. Christian Maaß, responsible in his role as VP eCommerce for Marketing and IT at Cimpress’ European business. One of his pieces of advice was that print providers need to opt for either differentiation or cost leadership but must not get caught in the middle between these two issues. But there is no panacea. The evolutionary steps that the industry needs to take are simply too fast for that.

Dr. Christian Maaß, Vice President E-Commerce Cimpress France S.A.R.L. Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

“Digital transformation is a race that you can’t win. But you have to stick with it”, was therefore the conclusion reached by the podium discussion that wrapped up the first day. And there was once again a warning that print providers should focus on customers not technology.

The panel discussion focused on “Mass customization, sustainability, product diversity – where is the future of online printing?” Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

T-shirts and mass customization

“We don’t actually sell T-shirts, but rather the individuality that people want to express”, said Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt since 2011, in his keynote on the morning of the second day. “Our customers don’t want print products per se, they are looking for an opportunity to express themselves” – and even if that means “just” wearing a self-designed T-shirt.

Spreadshirt has been a major player in the print-on-demand business for 16 years now. Starting off with T-shirts, its portfolio has had other customizable products added. The success enjoyed by the Leipzig firm is based on its three business models: marketplace, shops and design-it-yourself. In the marketplace model creative minds, artists and designers can offer their ideas for sale; the shop model involves a white-label solution for owned stores, while the design-it-yourself model enables consumers to design their own personal products, either using designs provided or their own motifs. On balance these three business models generated sales of some 100 million € in 2017.

Philip Rooke, CEO Spreadshirt. Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

And it managed that in a market in which hundreds of companies are vying for the attention of consumers. Nevertheless the proportion of those that fail is relatively high. As a global player Spreadshirt is however pursuing an ambitious growth strategy. Philip Rooke has ambitions of extending its market leadership in Europe yet further and expanding its international business in the US market. “We are reaching out to a seven-billion-dollar market that is growing at an annual rate of 10%”, he said self-assuredly, and by that he means the market for personalized products. Given that one third of consumers want personalized products and that 75% are also prepared to pay more for these products, his gambit may just pay off. “Our business is all about people’s ideas and we have the platform to help them action those ideas”, says Rooke.

But he also knows that shirt printing is not rocket science and that a functioning supply chain is the key feature of the business. For that reason he gave the Symposium delegates a key message to take with them: “Success is fleeting. Being successful today does not mean you will necessarily compete in the future. Quality too is transient. What might be premium today is standard tomorrow.”

Counterfeit-proof Track & Trace solution

We’re not talking quality if two-thirds of branded product manufacturers just in Germany alone are confronted by product piracy. The market for counterfeit products is growing at up to 22% per annum. Given these developments, it is becoming more and more important for brand owners to protect themselves efficiently and effectively against product piracy.

Cüneyt Göktekin, CEO of Snaptrust GmbH, revealed to delegates how they can comply with labeling obligations and at the same time combat the grey market and product piracy. Snaptrust specializes in the creation, authentication and marketing of anti-counterfeiting features and marks, which serve product identity checking purposes and therefore protect companies’ intellectual property. The patented Snaptrust Print ID system adds an invisible mark to branded products and it does not require additional printing technology, special inks or modification to production lines.

Cüneyt Göktekin, CEO Snaptrust GmbH. Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

The essential applications of the system are protection against product piracy as well as the management of logistics processes. A mark that is not visible to the human eye is added by the Snaptrust software to PDF print data and applied to the packaging of products to be protected using all common printing methods. The product can then be clearly identified and its authenticity checked at any time using a smartphone or desktop system.

In an online print environment this solution also provides an added bonus in terms of logistics. Information such as an order or job number can be included in the invisible security feature. The embedded code could therefore also help with the identification of print products.

It is never too late

Gary Peeling, CEO of Precision Printing (, countered the widely held view that the online print market already has sufficient players and that the online print cake has already been divided up. “It is never too late to enter a growing market. The only question is how this growth can be sustained and scaled?”

Gary Peeling, CEO Precision Printing Co Ltd. Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

Based on his 30 years of commercial experience, Peeling highlighted how more flexible workflow solutions can generate online print success and how that whole process can be fast, inexpensive and meet international aspirations. In the last ten years he has gone on a journey together with his London-based business, Precision Printing, exiting the world of offline print to becoming a leading provider of mass customized products. Today the company operates in the photo, personalized publishing, social stationery and upload-&-print segments via owned subsidiaries.

Peeling regards customer-focused thinking as the key to success. “I don’t need a drill, I need a hole in the wall”, he said in order to illustrate that technology is only a means to an end.

At the heart of the drove

A symposium lasting two days, more than a dozen first-class presentations, discussions, a partner exhibition and loads of networking – it’s tough packing all that in to one blog post and impossible to sum it all up in one sentence. The topics were too varied and the strategies presented too diverse to enable you to do that. Features such as mass, niche, size or specialties can be combined at will with products, customer requirements, services, platforms or internationalization.

Maria Seywald, Social Media Manager Krones AG. Source: © Photo by Nadja von Prümmer /

After all the event in Munich also provided insights into the Indian market, mass customization and 3D print models and the realization that you can gain fans for filling plants and likes for mechanical engineering. “Yes, social media and B2B make a good fit if you avoid boring content and select the right channels to communicate“, Maria Seywald, social media manager at the mechanical engineering company Krones, related about her experiences of modern corporate communications.

My Take: Now you might criticize the fact that some topics do not really fit with online print, were too general or not new. Yet it is amazing what and how much has changed in the space of twelve months. Print happens to be an industry that keeps on reinventing itself.

That‘s because as far as digital transformation and the transformation of business models that have already undergone transformation are concerned, a number of issues need to be redefined. If print products can be dynamically produced, then mass customization, individualization and cross-media strategies need to be rethought. And if customers’ print product requirements (beyond paper and cardboard too) grow to the same extent as print opportunities keep on expanding, then you can’t rate the importance of such an industry event highly enough.

Therefore the 6th Online Print Symposium was not merely the continuation of a successful event. It was more and is more than that. At the Online Print Symposium you feel like you are in the midst of a growing drove of avowedly innovative print providers. That’s fun and engenders a sense of community. Munich should therefore be one of the places that you pencil for a few days into your 2019 diary – at least two for the 7th Online Print Symposium. That takes place on April 4 and 5, 2019.

Zippers Insights of the 6th OPS: Online at last – what now? Part 2
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Zippers Insights of the 6th OPS: Online at last – what now? Part 2
A symposium lasting two days, more than a dozen first-class presentations, discussions, a partner exhibition and loads of networking – it’s tough packing all that in to one blog post and impossible to sum it all up in one sentence. The topics were too varied and the strategies presented too diverse to enable you to do that. Therefore now the 2nd part of my review…
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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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