Beyond #ops2019: Perspectives in Online Printing
By Andreas Weber, Head of Value
#Think!Paper — Edition 2, Vol. 5. | Original German Version (Translation via Google Translator)
These days in March 2019 caused confusion in the so-called online printing community. The pioneer CIMPRESS — progressive, successful, growth-oriented — demystified itself. Growth slowed, market capitalization halved, investors are turning their backs. Ouch! The fears: When the market leader coughs, the smaller ones get a flu. And: The gold rush mood, which was also experienced at the Online Print Symposium for many years, seems to be gone.
Do not worry: Online Printing is not going downhill. On the contrary. Online printing, like digital printing, is not a genre or even an industry, but a more or less useful auxiliary term for characterizing digital process paths in the production of printed matter. It started with web-to-print, leading to automated, standardized and scalable processes with the World Wide Web as a showcase. So one could win on the one hand customers who could order to date no printed matter; on the other hand, price advantages were used, as the optimized procedures allowed more favorable costs.
As a result, huge print volumes shifted from the classic commercial market to the ‘online printers’. So money has been redistributed. The actual new business areas remained marginal. Growth was thus achieved by repression, with a naturally not limitless effect.
Robert Keane recognized this early on. He used Vistaprint as a cash cow to acquire dozens of other companies. From this he formed a global corporation with a holding structure under the umbrella brand CIMPRESS. CIMPRESS itself does not have any customers other than shareholders; customers for print products of all kinds, including mass customization, belong to the sub-brands.
This has advantages and disadvantages. This was initially centralized to save costs and grow quickly. Now that growth has lost momentum, it has decentralized. Two things matter in this back and forth:
- First, the cost of brand care is enormously high and inefficient, as it has little impact on CIMPRESS customers, investors.
- Second, the consistent corporate culture is left behind. Many small kingdoms are most fond of themselves.
On to new shores
And thirdly, CIMPRESS is not dealing with homogeneous competitive structures, but romps in many areas and skirmishes with many “opponents”. Ultimately, such opponents are all those who have built digital literacy as part of the reform of their core business, from commercial printing to packaging, large format, etc. And thus able to offer technically savvy, highly efficient, cost-optimized and highly specialized. And with the support of their suppliers, which drive digital transformation in all directions. Heidelberg’s 1st Digital Print Forum on March 21, 2019 impressively demonstrates this.
To use a picture: CIMPRESS as an aircraft carrier or giant cruiser can not call every port and is not as agile as the tens of thousands of frigates, submarines and speedboats who want to win the battle in guerrilla style.
Conclusion: Real benefits or unique selling point of CIMPRESS can not be recognized. And those announcements of gigantic orders at drupa 2016 at Landa are completely fizzy. Like other more! In short: a lot of pampering — nothing except expenses. That will have become clear to the investors.
The problems of CIMPRESS are therefore largely home-made and by no means typical for those who see themselves as online printers. — Robert Keane is confident that he has recognized and counteracted.
Deceptive calm before the storm
Still, it will be difficult for everyone. The more digital the business, the more demanding it is to design customer relationships and promote customer loyalty. There is no loyalty in the e-commerce driven online print business. It is always about the best price and the highest ‘convenience’. To provide differentiation features becomes Herculean task.
From my point of view, the following central questions arise:
- Beyond Online Printing — How to make your own corporate culture so human that it attracts attention in the market and excites both internally and externally?
- Beyond Technocracy — How to reduce the overly focussed technology focus to better market insights through customer orientation to adapt to changing needs extremely quickly and effectively?
- Beyond Silo-Mentality — How to develop a new openness in mind and agility in doing, to identify differentiation traits and to develop a distinctive entrepreneurial personality?
As I will not be attending the #ops2019 in Munich this year, I am curious how seriously and openly the attendees will talk about the neuralgic points. And when the closed-conspired online print community repositions itself and finally opens to customers and prospects. Then there would certainly be other participants who could benefit from the online printing expertise as an orderer.
By the way: Many of my thousands of readers and network partners took my April Fool’s Day story seriously. Tenor: Bertelsmann regent Liz Mohn fancies getting in touch with CIMPRESS and above all the founder and CEO Robert Keane, in order to bring their Bertelsmann Printing Group, with 1.6 billion annual sales much smaller than CIMPRESS, back on track. — Maybe the idea of me is not so bad. If not already done, please read.
About the author
Andreas Weber has been a print expert and internationally renowned business communication analyst, coach, influencer, and networker for over 25 years.
His activities focus on transformation for the digital age and include lectures, management briefings, workshops, analyses, reports, and strategic advice. – His blog www.valuetrendradar.com inspires readers from over 150 countries worldwide.