Web To Everything

March 11th, 2015 - Posted by Jamie Thomson, Managing Director

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 Many of us have seen the statistics forecast for Web to Print, the ones that state that some large percentage (often above 50%!) of all print will be bought online within the next three years. I first saw that kind of prediction more than 3 years ago and I have seen it repeated every year since, so have any of these predictions come true? It is actually hard to say, it depends on how broad a definition of online ordering you take e.g. is an email with a pdf attached an online order or not? Furthermore obtaining empirical data for online ordering is not easy.

It is always useful to take a step back and sense check any predictions you read. First we can look at online retail figures and historical trends in general. Again it is often hard to get definitive numbers but for 2015 the estimates range from £50 billion - £100 billion for the UK. This means that up to 25% of UK spending is currently done online and it is growing, fast.

Straight away it looks like the really high (50 %+) predictions for Web to Print are optimistic at best. I can’t think of any reason why the print percentage should be vastly bigger than the UK average for other online sales. If we take the £100bn figure above and continue the growth rate of 15%, that has been seen over the last few years, for the next 3 years then, assuming the total retail figures remain fairly constant i.e. online sales growth has an equal and opposite ‘brick and mortar’ sales decrease, then we can deduce that circa 40% of retail spending will be done online in 2018. This is not a prediction, I have taken an amount that no one can agree on and increased it by a historical rate that is very likely to wrong so don’t quote me on it!

The second and more subjective sense check is to take a look at your own online purchasing habits. Personally the quantity of goods I buy in shops is much less than I buy online, but in terms of value I am somewhere around the 25% figure from the highest of the 2015 estimates. If you look at a previous blog of mine on the change in your customers, then I would be in the group classed as a “web immigrants”. So do I think that will grow to 40% or more over the next three years? Probably, I can see that my online shopping habits are changing as the market changes. Next day delivery is becoming more common and same day delivery is sure to follow. It removes the need to plan in advance and it means there is little difference between going to a real store and getting something delivered. Once convenience, and often price, are taken into account the small time differences are mostly irrelevant.

But does it matter if online sales stagnate at 25% (no one is predicting they will) and the prediction of huge growth doesn’t happen? I don’t think so because 25% of the UK print market is worth more than £2 billion. That certainly makes Web to Print a market worth going after. Indeed from our own internal figures we can see that the volume of orders is growing above the 15% growth rate that online retail has apparently generally seen. I am sure that there are many possible reasons for this but one of them could be that the print industry is playing catch up with the UK average and if that is the case then there are still plenty of opportunities to get your Web to Print strategy up and running. Of course, if you need any assistance at all in growing your online business, then contact us.

Apologies for being very UK focused for the figures used in this blog, we are a global company after all. I have had a quick look at other countries online retail figures and they are all moving in the same direction. In fact many countries are growing much faster than the UK which is already near or at the top of the average online spend per head of population in the world.