Why Would Anyone Want to go to a Print Shop?


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Why Would Anyone Want to go to a Print Shop?

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

The owner of the company for which I had just written several pages of brochure copy was fine with my words but the layout his team had done made him cringe. So it was no surprise when he asked me to work with his designer to refine the layout. The company did not use an advertising or marketing agency and their high-end digital presses would do the heavy lifting. I’m no designer but knew how to make it work. But suppose they had other options? Hold that thought.

Then and Now
The first time I got a good look at what is now called a digital storefront was in the demo center of some software vendor. For an hour or so of a spring afternoon I listened to another legend of how spectacular the world was going to be, you know, in about six months when every printer had a digital storefront and all the barriers of distance and access were erased. Then they talked about workflow, which was really the story du jour. Fortunately, this was right before cocktails and the very cold and dry martini went down smoothly.

Fast forward to today, when many print providers still think a digital storefront as a menu of a customer’s commonly ordered items, some automated pricing, and the job magically winds up on a press. In today’s print marketplace a capable digital storefront can be every bit as important as a solid workflow and both are critical to success. Any printer who fails to grasp this probably won’t be with us much longer, and those that somehow survive will have only a nodding acquaintance with profitability. The ability to help customers create, proof and order all manner of printed items online is becoming expected. I think of this because my go-to printer tends to subcontract certain types of jobs. The work always comes back okay, but I wonder how much he is giving up by not having more control over the work coming in his front door. I need to talk with him some more.

Built to do more
Suppose a customer needs coffee mugs, tote bags, note pads, signage, and printed materials for a conference. In today’s “I need it yesterday” world there may not be enough turnaround time to burn a few hours attempting to get all the pieces working correctly. You need to know the print files will be ready to use the moment they are received.

This is where Design N Buy comes in. The 10-year-old India-based company has a host of customers in the U.S. and Canada, Australia, India, Asia, and Europe. What seems to set it apart is broad functionality scaled to address the needs of print shop owners, designers, customers, and more.

“We began offering a plug-in for design software,” relates Nidhi Agarwal, CEO & Founder. “We wanted to do more and now offer a complete design solution along with e-commerce, for printers and their customers.”

About half of Design N Buy customers are in North America, using the company’s flagship product, All-in-One Designer, as their digital storefront. What makes it compelling is scalability. It can be used by commercial printers, in-plants, print brokers, distributors, digital and wide format printers as well as specialty printers. It offers the standard must-have features like customizable branding, as well as a reasonably full choice of design options for brochures, direct mail, posters, garments, coffee mugs, and more to serve the needs of different buyer
What’s important, notes Agarwal, is that web-to-print is a tool for both printers and their customers. “All-in-One Designer simplifies the ordering process for consumers buying print and customized merchandise online.” And easy-peasy gets a company a lot of points these days. Witness, for instance, the rise of “one-click” ordering at most e-commerce sites.

Tied to simplicity, many designers, both freelance and regular employees, increasingly prefer to put their own take on existing designs rather devote the juice to creating several design options for a piece that may have a half-life of three months. So a little automation and the ability to put their own style on an existing template is not necessarily a bad idea.

Why would anyone want to go to a print shop?
It used to be that showing up with a thumb drive of your files was enough. Today, not so much. Customers expect an online catalog, templates to populate with their own copy and images, and the ability to choose paper types, run lengths and more, all online. Your designer can still work with those customers who bring in the copy and art on a thumb drive, or get to work and churn out some samples based on templates faster and more easily than if creating new designs from scratch. Like it or not, templates are the entry point.

Working with Design N Buy any print provider can easily configure the appearance of their storefront, scaling it up or down and customize it to fit needs and budgets. All-in-One Designer leverages Magento 2, open-source e-commerce software that powers more than 10,000 e-commerce stores and accounts for nearly a third of all e-commerce sales. Using open-source rather than proprietary software enables endless integration possibilities with third-party MIS, ERP and workflow systems. This means that even if you decide to change your workflow or MIS you don’t have to rework your entire e-commerce system and can keep business flowing in.

I spent about an hour on the phone with India getting a handle on All-in-One Designer, but the best information is on the company’s website with its numerous animated videos. There’s way more to this produce suite than I can even begin to delve into here. I’ve seen a lot of these and this one is worth a look.
Oddly enough, our Top 10 customers who make up about 70% of our sales are all adamant about sending files via email. Years ago we set up a custom storefront for them to order through on our website. They all said they preferred emailing and bringing the files in. The reason for that is speed. They want to give us the art without knowing any details and have us make all the decisions. They don't want to remember the papers or deal with the details. It is faster and easier for them to just send the file with a brief explanation of what they want and rely on us to handle the rest.


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