The Third Epoch of Web to Print Solution Buyers

April 23rd, 2018 - Posted by Jamie Thomson, Managing Director

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First Epoch – The Pioneers

When we first started selling our Web to Print solution we had already been using it internally for a long time so we knew the benefits it could have for printers. A few early adopters saw the benefits too, otherwise we would never have made the decision to start selling the software, RedTie would never have been spun off into an independent software development house.

The early sales meetings turned into more of an education session than actual sales. Printers over 15 years ago where not thinking about selling print online. To be fair, most industries were not thinking about it either. So not only were we talking about the features of our software but also the potential of selling online and the different strategies that would be needed rather than those used in the traditional selling of print.

That took a long time, there are a lot of printers to get around. Some jumped on board and some didn’t, some succeeded and some didn’t (in fact some of our biggest customers are our original customer back from even before Red Tie was a company).

Second Epoch – The Trend Followers

After a while the press started to write about Web to Print, about success stories and about the software. On the software side of things the feature set was ever growing and the amount of use cases for it was increasing. Of course everything was starting to be sold online and the value of online sales was (and still is) growing at an incredible rate.

The trend followers were not risk takers like the pioneers were. They could see it working, they knew they had to sell online or be left behind. They benefited from much better software and, perhaps more importantly, a wealth of built up knowledge on how to get their customers to buy print online.

This section of the print industry is much bigger than the pioneers but the print industry is conservative and moves slowly. Web to Print penetration in printers plateaued but there was still a huge number of printers that had never had a solution to sell online, or had one and had failed to make any headway.

Third Epoch – The Fashionably Late (Current)

I was going to call this group of printers “The Oh Shoots”. As in “Oh Shoot, our customers want to order online and we don’t have a clue where to start” or the “Oh Shoot, we should have done something about this sooner”. I went for a friendlier name.

So if every printer who wants Web to Print has Web to Print that means the growth is over right? Well not exactly. You see that the funny thing is that what we have said all along about the average print buyer changing, getting younger, being less bothered with the technical side of print and most importantly buying everything online, well that is more true today that it has ever been. OK they can’t get younger forever, but their online purchasing habits are getting stronger and stronger.

Something else is happening though. The users who have used Web to Print are moving between companies, in fact with average tenure of around 5 years in the UK for office workers then some of them will be on their third or fourth company since RedTie started selling their software to printers. They introduce it to new companies and users who in turn move on to other companies and I am sure you can see how quickly knowledge of being able to order print online expands.

So demand for Web to Print software is coming from a new source, the end user. Some of that is coming direct to us, but mostly these companies still want the benefits of a printer being the expert and running the solution for them. This is great for our customers when we pass those new customers on.

More and more though we have printers contacting us and saying their customer is demanding an online print ordering solution and they have no idea what to do. We never say “We told you this would happen!” We are just happy they are finally coming to the party.

One final thing before I sign off for this blog. Between these types of printers, the 3 epochs, sales in the software have plateaued but growth in orders never has. It has and continues to be on a strong growth path. I think that says a lot about the demand from the end users.