How to ensure your next attempt at web-to-print is not a failure as first one?

Print service providers have been trying to setup their business online with web to print application, many have even purchased the solution but failed to implement it or get it live and finally dropped the idea. Now many of them want to start all over again as they know online is future of printing like other industries. So, then how do you ensure that you don’t end-up being a web-to-print guinea pig again and do it right this time?

In last 10 years, I have been working closely with hundreds of printing businesses and from my experience I have taken out some takeaways which printing businesses can adopt to avoid failures and implement web-to-print successfully for their business:

Prepare Yourself

  • It’s okay to fail, try again if that’s the demand of time. No two experiences in life can be same if you avoid mistakes done in first attempt.
  • Last failure may not be fully attributed to your technology vendor. No software or vendor can implement your online business until you get involved. Realize if you have given your 100% to get it live? If not, then be prepared this time with basic learning.
  • Prepare yourself to adopt a web to print solution. Identify a person within your team (can be yourself) who can take charge for its implementation and can give his time and dedication to understand the solution and then implement it within all functional areas of your business.
  • Allocate budget and timeline for acquiring or developing the solution. Remember, it should include cost and timeline of buying or developing the solution, hosting or server fee, acquiring your domain, preparing the content/copy for your website, populating your storefront, testing and verifying end to end buying process, setting up a merchant account with payment gateway of your choice etc. Many of the attempts fail when decision makers oversee some of these cost factors in their initial business plan and are not prepared financially.

Define Your Business Plan

  • Identify and note down why you want to setup your printing business online. It’s not always to get more customers or generating more revenue. There can be other reasons too like
    • To setup a self-service portal where your customers can upload their artwork, choose product and quantity and pay online. Thus reducing your sales cycle.
    • To automate pre-press process like quotations and approvals, artwork proofing, job scheduling etc.
    • For internal cost reduction by efficient printer utilization and avoiding re-printing jobs.
    • For efficient order processing and managing deliveries.
    • All of the above.
  • Choose what products and services you want to offer to your customers online in first place. Prepare a step by step plan and do not try to do everything at once. It’s better to bucket your priorities in different phases of implementation, and start doing it one by one. For example, you can first start with a basic website listing all your product and services, and just let people to send you request for quote. This way you can understand the interest and adoption by your customers to buy from you online. Later you can add feature to let them upload their artwork and place orders with instant payments. Finally, you can choose to let them customize your product templates or create one with help of easy to use design studio within your website that can produce print-ready files on order generation.
  • Keep your marketing plans ready to attract and educate your customers to order online. Identify your target customers, choose those whom you are sure will give it a try and prepare e-mail campaigns, tele-marketing as well as social media marketing plans to reach them.
  • Prepare your sales team for the new initiative as until and unless they are not convinced why your customers should buy online, they can’t convince your customers to do so.

Choose the Right Strategy to Build Your Website

There are two main options you can choose from to create your website.

  • You can either hire a web developer who can help build a tailored website designed around your needs. If you choose to go this way, consider all aspects of web development like monitoring and managing the development phase, handling delays and skill issues and testing the implementation at every stage etc. I recommend this option if you have previous experience in web development or have in-house IT team to help you get the software developed within timeline and budget.
  • Use a software provider who is expert in setting up eCommerce store for printers. Selling print online requires knowledge of how to generate/accept artwork and deliver print assets for production. Remember, a generic e-commerce firm don’t understand the nuances of a printing business which can cause printers to spend their time and money educating them about what makes print e-commerce unique. Evaluate vendors and choose a team that offers a customisable solution which you can personalise with respect to your business needs. Buy from a professionally managed and confident team who is ready to scale their services and solution as per your business plan and not only focused on selling everything at once. Look for a team that can hand hold in initial go-live phase as well as give you consistent support afterwards. Check their credentials with clients who are already using their services. It’s important that you discuss your business plan clearly with them before signing up so that they know what kind of business you are and what your priorities are going to be for implementation.

Prepare Go-Live Plan

Remember that the job of your technology vendor is to offer you the solution that confirms to your needs. But now getting it ready to operate your business online is your job (until and unless outsourced to them or someone else).

  • Look for a reliable and recommended hosting provider or setup a dedicated in-house server to ensure maximum p-time for your website. Checking application server requirements and compatibility is a must to avoid application performance issues.
  • Prepare a website setup plan. Once you get your application installed, you need to create relevant content to engage your customers. Some important areas that you should focus are:
    • When creating content online you should keep it simple and engaging.
    • Include an about us page. Tell people about your organisation, people, history or mission. This establishes basic trust needed for your customers to pay for your products and service online.
    • Display your products or services with great photos and clear descriptions and prices.
    • Encourage customers to get in touch by providing contact details such as your phone number, email, address details and links to your social media profiles.
    • Clearly mention your refund and return policies.
    • Include some customer feedbacks as a testimony of quality of your products and services.
  • Setup your payment gateways to accept payment online. If you want, setup your shipping gateway for automated shipping management.
  • Setup your e-mail accounts in application back-end for important notifications like receiving order, customer registration etc.
  • Test the whole website from browsing products to ordering and payments.

Get Ready for ROI

Once the application is setup and live, you need to ensure a wonderful buying experience for your customers. Be ready to handle initial objections or issues with website interface. Every software application gets through an initial acceptance phase where real customers try different ways to browse your website on using different devices and browsers (which may not have been tested or thought of during your testing cycle) and your website may not render as expected. Take help from your software vendor to deal with it at earliest. If possible, setup a customer support that can talk to customers, offer them required assistance and update them when their issues are resolved. This initial support will win you lifelong repeat customers if taken care of with care and concern.

Grow Your Website as You Grow Your Website

When your initial phase of implementation is over and your website is stable, always be open to explore ways to improve user experience with advancement of technology. Consider setting up new channels of revenue by introducing new products and services. Setup a near-term and long-term growth and investment plan.

Finally, remember that you can’t just buy the right print software product that would make you successful. Your software vendor can just deliver you the application and provide the support needed to run it successfully. You need to involve and create your business proposition with unique product offerings, competitive pricing and best-in-class customer support.

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