Choosing Your Web to Print Route to Market - The Pro's and Con's

February 13th, 2012 - Posted by Jonathan Silvester, Brand Development

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For most modern print business we know that online is the way forward. It is almost certainly the way more print will be sold and managed in the future. So the challenge is how to get there in as quickly and pain free a way as possible. Having the correct route to market approach is a critical element for success in all businesses. Whilst currently you may be operating in just one particular sector, such as B2B for instance, you now have an opportunity (if you have a multi storefront solution) to assess both existing and new options for getting your products or services into the hands of consumers. As the print industry is highly dynamic, you need to consider whether your current route is still the most appropriate or whether new opportunities exist. Changing the route to market usually necessitates some fairly significant changes in the way you think and the way you will need to sell and market your products. I have therefore provided an overview of your choices to help you evaluate each route to market and consider the pro’s and con’s of each. You may well decide to develop new revenue streams and attack all routes. Many will feel they have insufficient resources to approach the market via all routes or will decide to concentrate in the area they feel most comfortable.  

Business to Business (B2B)

Business to Business online sales is growing incredibly fast, driven by several factors. Print buyers and marketing managers are under pressure to reduce costs and at the same time get their brands out there with relevant, timely and personalised messages. Speed of response is becoming ever more important and to facilitate this buyers want a new level of control. An online solution may allow a buyer to create a whole marketing campaign online in a few minutes, by giving them the control required to choose a template, upload assets, merge data, proof approve and purchase. For the finance directors it also represents an opportunity to make better use of capital by purchasing in smaller quantities. This means less wastage and obsolescence without cash being tied up in stocks. Being online also allows the 24/7 up to date reporting and information in order to judge demand. For larger corporates in particular they will regard online transactions as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. These days it is not just a case of buyers preferring to deal online, many are insisting on it as a prerequisite of any new supplier relationship. To be successful in business we now need to find a solution that allows our clients to purchase from us online.

Advantages

  • Typically higher orders values than B2C 
  • Can achieve significant orders from just one client 
  • Marketing can be easily targeted by sector 
  • For existing businesses it is a tried and tested low risk route to market
  • Potentially lower costs to market your online offering (use existing sales and marketing routes)

Disadvantages

  • Less potential clients than B2C
  • Rewards potentially lower than B2C
  • Often more than one decision maker to persuade to buy
  • Buyers are skilled and knowledgeable about market place and have to demonstrate rational objective reasons for purchase
  • Buyers have more complex needs
  • More transactions and processes involved in delivering a product (raw materials, manufacturing, outsourcing, etc.)

Business to Consumer (B2C)

The two main challenges faced by B2C e-commerce models are building traffic to your website and sustaining customer loyalty. Having a great idea is a good start but this is no guarantee of success. You will need a great online marketing strategy to attract the right consumers to your website and offer them a product they want to buy for the price you are selling it. Without sufficient traffic visiting your website you will have little or no revenue generation. This is typically why B2C market share is often controlled by a small number of large companies who invest massive sums in advertising and marketing to the reach their target consumer. Many smaller firms, particularly those without a niche product or unique offering, have found it difficult to enter a market and remain competitive. In addition, online shoppers can be very price aware and therefore can be more readily lured away, so acquiring and keeping new customers can be difficult. The good news is if you get it right then the rewards can be massive.

The RedTie solution provides you with a great tool to create storefronts quickly and cost effectively and has all the necessary components (such as: catalogues, order baskets, payment processing, content management, etc.) to allow your online store to function effectively. The challenge now is to construct a well conceived business and marketing plan to engage the consumer and draw them to your online store. You will need to commit to a substantial investment in time, money and resources to achieve this. For a new venture operational issues such as inventory and fulfilment will be require careful planning to deal with unexpected peaks in orders.

Advantages

  • Potential customer base of millions that may want your product
  • Can be very rewarding if you have a large market share
  • Word of mouth marketing
  • Potential to reach a global audience
  • The opportunity for expansion is good
  • Being able to receive payment more quickly from online transactions – great for cash flow
  • Improve and refine your offering almost instantly using the data gathered by tracking customer purchases

Disadvantages

  • Many buy in small amounts instead of large bulky orders from businesses
  • Large competition from other businesses offering products to consumers
  • May require a significant marketing budget to reach a mass audience and drive traffic to your site
  • Steep learning curve if no experience - will require help of partner suppliers and consultants to understand route to market and marketing techniques

Business to Business to Consumer (B2B2C)

The solution has provided a great opportunity for companies already successful in the B2B arena to use the online solution to establish new markets linked to the B2C sector, without the requirement for an expensive online marketing campaign. For instance, a print company already selling B2B printing services offers an online solution to a national chain of funeral directors. This shop front allows the funeral directors to offer an added value service to the general public allowing them to design and personalise products such as; Order of Service, Attendance Cards, Thank you cards, Memorial Cards, Bookmarks, etc. The chain of funeral directors has benefited by offering a more comprehensive one stop service for its clients and also receives commission on all printed items purchased. The printer benefits from thousands of consumer print purchases without the investment it would have required to market a separate B2C online offering. Others examples might include; 

ABC Marketing & Promotional Gifts Ltd – offers an online shop front to a Football Club – club supporters order personalised gifts branded with his/her team.

ABC Print Management – creates portal for National Postal Provider – allowing consumers to order, mail merge and post personalised postcards.

ABC Printers – offers an online portal to a National Charity – allowing its members to print off personalised materials for charity fundraising events and merchandise. Members can create new events easily and become inspired to do more. Charity receives additional donation from all items ordered.

By offering the branded shop front to other businesses it is possible to reach new and varied market sectors whilst allowing both companies to focus on their core business. In the example above the Printer still prints and the funeral director still conducts his core business. Both can receive significant revenues through a partnership the Web to Print solution makes possible.

Advantages

  • Can exploit existing B2B relationships and contacts
  • Doesn't require an expensive online marketing campaign
  • If no experience of B2C then this may offer a low risk strategy 

Disadvantages

  • Reliant upon the co-operation and success of partners
  • Have no direct control over marketing to end users