The Confident future of Print

It really seems that the future of print is shining more brightly than many – especially the naysayers and those who have predicted the total demise of print – would have had us believe for some years. According to the 5th drupa Global Trends Report 2018, ‘Printers in general are increasingly confident in their future prospects and their suppliers even more so’.

This is gleaned from the results of the annual surveys conducted by drupa since 2013, which result in the drupa Printer Barometer – economic confidence. Whilst printers are general more optimistic in their forecasts than actually ends up being the case, it is refreshing that the forecasts are increasingly optimistic.

The outlook is even more positive in the supplier surveys with an overall increase in the positive vs negative balance 18 per cent in 2014 to 53  per cent in 2017. Much of the optimism, I believe lies in the fact that those things that were perceived to herald the death of print are now more under pressure themselves and are, in fact, leading to a revival or at least creating opportunities for print that were not seen previously. Printers who do not view digital as a threat but have rather found ways to exploit this in a way that ensures that print remains a central part of communication to customers in an increasingly Digital First world of marketing strategies.

We now know that Digital Fatigue is a reality, including among millennials, where in excess of 85 per cent see print on paper as more ‘official’ than digital. More and more consumers ignore or opt out of videos, ads etc. that appear on their phones, tablets and PC’s in unsolicited forms. This makes meaningful print advertising more of an option for companies trying to reach their customers or prospects and therefore, leads to opportunities in Direct Mail and Transpromo fields for those who have the ability, from a hardware, digital, and software, variable data, point of view to offer these.

With the impending implementation of POPI and /or GDPR type legislation these forms of adverting become even more relevant, and for those printers who believe in staying ahead of the curve and have tooled themselves to cope with these opportunities, I believe the rewards will be potentially great. Research by USPS has shown that 87 per cent of millennials like receiving direct mail and 57 per cent have made purchases based on direct  mail offers and more that 50 per cent enjoy looking at mail daily and discovering what offers it brings.

Research has shown that 51 per cent of directly-addressed mail is read on receipt, 19 per cent is followed up on later and 21 per cent results in an action such as purchase, website or physical store visit. In the world of advertising, this remains an impressive statistic. Of course, this means that to continue to deliver these numbers, organisations need to constantly deliver documents and offers relevant to their customers to maintain a healthy and mutually-beneficial relationship.

If you are not currently offering your customers this powerful medium, what plans do you have to do so?

One of the brightest shining stars in the printing stable is without doubt packaging. This reflects within the drupa Trends Report which indicates that packaging shows as one of the highest potential areas for capital investment. Consumers, it seems, are looking for more than simply product acquisition. Rather there is an element of living in the moment appearing in the shopping experience as customers look for unique experiences even when shopping. Customers are wanting products that speak to them and are less inclined to mass appeal. This opens the door for ever increasingly competent digital technology to play a more central role in this expanding and exciting segment of print. Digital technologies also allow the ability to engage customers in multimedia campaigns via social media or Augmented Reality that will add an element of ‘cool’ to their products, and that is always a good place to be!

The one area of print that was seen to be most vulnerable for several years is the Publishing market. Again the threats have been managed and we now see that sales of E-readers – once touted as the death of printed books – have been in decline for the last few years. Whilst E-books are not going away anytime soon, there is now a balancing of the book market with the realisation of the fact that in certain areas, printed books are simply more appropriate than E-books. Interesting too that the Millenials, 22-37 year olds in 2018, not only read more than other age groups, according to research by Print Media centre, but also 92 per cent of this age group prefer reading printed material to digital material. Of this segment 78 per cent indicated, that they enjoy the smell and feel of books and paper. 55 per cent say the same about magazines.

Paper is seen as more trusted, more secure and easier to keep confidential by the age group who have grown up not knowing life before the internet. The down side to this of course is the millennials desire for instant gratification, which extends to printed documents. Time to hone your Print-on-Demand skills then!

Functional print is another area of opportunity in the print market, and although seen by many as outside traditional print, it is evident that many of the processes around the segment are the same as other print segments. The ability of functional print to deliver value to clients, be it speeding up the prototyping process for major motor manufacturers by printing 3D components, or printed electronics, or providing bespoke T-shirts via the new generation of Direct to Garment printers, Functional printing is in its infancy and set to grow in multiple areas at an exponential rate.

What I believe is shown by all the research over the last year that I have seen is that firstly, innovation is key to remain relevant in this challenging time. The good news that goes along with this I believe is either that the tools to innovate and remain at the forefront, or get there, exist currently or are on the horizon. What is needed is an open mind and a desire to always ask the question – Am I adding the most value I can to my customers? And if there are any doubts in your answer this needs to be followed by – What do I need to change or add to ensure that I do add the value before someone else appears who can?

With today’s array of Web2Print, workflow solutions and analytical tools, coupled to the most capable print technologies we have ever seen, it is almost certain that for most businesses the only thing stopping them reaching these new levels is the unwillingness to change or at least investigate the opportunity to change.

It is clear that there is more opportunity in this wonderful market that we have chosen to be part of than ever before. It is up to us as Printers or Suppliers to the print industry to ensure that we are best placed to grasp these opportunities by arming ourselves with the knowledge and with the open mind needed to know what the best move for us is.

Happy innovating!