Trends for 2018 that will shape the future of the print industry
Posted on 08 Mar 2018
Trends for 2018 that will shape  the future of the print industry
Analogue print is set to grow from $659 billion in 2012 to $677 billion in 2022 on the back of packaging growth and increasing demand across Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Yet, all digital formats took nearly $90 billion in revenues in 2012, expected to rise to nearly $170 billion by 2022 (5,9 per cent CAGR), while analogue formats rise just 0,6 per cent in the same time.

The volumes offer more broad brushstrokes indicators. Analogue volumes are expected to dip 0,2 per cent in the same period while digital formats will rise 8 per cent. But the actual volumes are comparatively enormous for analogue at nearly 47 trillion A4 impressions by 2022 and a measly 2 trillion for inkjet by the same year. Which means that inkjet is comparatively far more profitable.

Those numbers from a Smithers Pira report begin to paint the picture of our industry in flux but they don’t reveal the high definition detail that inspires action by individual companies as they seek clarity on their business strategies.

How our industry is changing is crucial to determining what equipment commercial and graphic arts printers will buy, what products they will offer, and what services they will use to add value as they seek to both remain relevant and grow revenues.

Packaging is the growth engine for global print volumes. One of the rapidly growing trends is personalisation of online packaging. In fact, e-commerce is reportedly worth R30 billion annually from more than 15 million shoppers. Even Black Friday is now a popular event in South Africa and BankservAfrica cleared more than 260 000 online transactions for Black Friday alone – out of 4,7 million transactions in total. Online shopping puts many more packages in the public eye today than ever before. It’s a huge opportunity to personalise the packaging for customers or to make reusable packaging that’s good for the environment and sustainability, for example. It’s a trend that dominated elsewhere in the world but has yet to really catch on here in South Africa. And it will, because it is an effective means to have customers recognise your brand and even involve them in the brand story. Personalisation also helps brands to engage with customers one-on-one to develop bonds and loyalty. This is particularly important for certain market segments, such as millennials.

Specialised printing, such as foiling, specialised colours on foil and other medias, is ideal for bespoke packaging and real stand-out marketing material. Brands can definitely do more than a brown box with sticky tape logos. In fact, many of the online retailers use the same courier companies; how about they collaborate to recycle the packaging back through the courier system?

As digital devices become more capable they offer brands new opportunities to personalise packaging of goods bought online.

Feeding this trend that gives customers a wealth of options is the fact that the lines between discrete printing areas are more blurred today than ever before based on the growing capabilities of the digital devices.

Printers today realise that there’s no reason why a guy who normally did printed books can’t get into wide format, garments, and more. The devices are much more similar today than ever before and there are no longer major reasons to segment the industry based on a technology used, such as screen and offset printing. The barriers have either been reduced or dropped away completely by innovative technologies. In many ways the trend of the past was to put everyone into niches in the general commercial sphere whereas the modern trend is to emancipate them. It powers the move toward customer retention based on a broader set of services. The more you can offer customers the more you can retain them because you hold more of their data, which not only makes it difficult for them to move, but provides them a single point of interaction that maximises the skills you develop around their brand and needs.

However, it requires that printers evolve. People no longer buy the way they used to. In the old days you could deploy your 30-second pitch to hook prospects followed by more sedate methods to reel them in. That no longer holds true. Today you have 10 seconds to engage and be meaningful. In reality it means that when you get an opportunity you can’t think you’ll follow it up tomorrow – by tomorrow it’s gone. Everyone is buying at the last minute these days and in smaller quantities. They need their products more immediately than ever before as well. They needs proofs quickly, need the job done, and delivery right away.

That approach by customers has fed numerous changes that become more relevant as time passes. One of the major changes is Web-to-print and another, associated change, is workflow software and the automation efficiency it offers. These offer the quickest, most cost-effective ways to improve your print operation. It makes you quicker, leaner, more efficient, and gives you the opportunity to offer your customers new services, as well as a way to reach new customers.

It leads you more on the route to just-in-time printing, leaner printing, more rapidly meeting smaller orders, giving customers direct views into the supply chain process, gathering the customer’s data to make it easier for them to do business with you and keep them coming back for more, maximising your employee efficiencies, maximising the device busy times and many more benefits.

And the software also provides an opportunity to harness the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) – in two distinct ways. The first is to get more benefits from your vendor. Providing anonymous data about how the machine is used, where it shines and where it doesn’t, can lead to the vendor helping to train operators, set up machines differently to improve your use of them, and develop necessary changes. The second is directly for your operations so that you can remotely access devices to keep an eye on them. They can immediately report any problems. Or you can check workflows, schedules, even ink and toner levels if you want to, no matter where you are.

The equipment’s more capable, the customers more demanding – but you can’t stay ahead of the trends if you don’t train your operators to get the most out of the equipment. It’s a two-way street so suppliers and customers must work together, to achieve proper skills transfer (to ensure maximum benefit from installed devices to drive market growth and customer satisfaction), and owners who invest more in more capable equipment must grasp that they must also invest in the operators to maximise returns.

The industry has been in a heightened state of flux for quite a few years. The rate of change is now beginning to mature, though, so we have a clearer view of where the industry is headed and how we can play our own roles in staying relevant to our customers and where the potential new business opportunities lie that will undoubtedly turn today’s pioneers into tomorrow’s giants.

Article by Vaughan Patterson, product marketing operations manager for Commercial and Industrial Print at Ricoh SA