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Are You Meeting Customer Expectations with Your Web to Print System?

  • Howie Fenton
  • |
  • February 06, 2024

Recent publications have shed light on the escalating significance of tailor-made Web to Print portals in trimming manufacturing timelines and costs, amplifying the perceived value linked with intuitive online ordering systems, and enhancing the overall customer experience (or the 'Amazon Effect).' Our latest blog entry delves into studies about the Amazon Effect's influence on the customer experience and provides insight on reports from the Harvard Business School and NAPCO on pricing, personalized online Web to Print interfaces, and expanded digital printing services that are driving growth for print service providers. Last but not least, we offer a list of 13 new features and functionalities for consideration, to better meet your customer's expectations.

The Amazon Effect describes the profound influence of the standard bearer offering e-commerce or Web to Print ordering. We first heard about this over two decades ago while working with a pizza franchise whose customers refused to use the online portal because it was not as easy as ordering on Amazon. More significantly, we witnessed the dissatisfaction of a University faculty with their Web to Print software, which prompted the administration to nearly close the in-plant. Fortunately, simply recommending a better system helped keep their doors open and better meet their customer's expectations.

Research from Harvard Business School by Alberto Cavallo has identified new changes in businesses, which include more transparent, more consistent and more competitive pricing strategies to better meet the customer expectations. This is consistent with our research focused on in-plant customer satisfaction, where unhappy customers complain about a lack of published, inconsistent and uncompetitive pricing.

NAPCO Research on The Benefits of Customized Web Portals 

The importance of the Amazon Effect on printing industry is not new. In a 2019 RSA whitepaper entitled How Web to Print Ordering Impacts Customers’ Satisfaction and the Customer Experience, we discussed the impact of a bad customer experience (CX), Avoidable CX Mistakes, How Web to Print Impacts Customer Experience, and How to Justify the Investment. More recent reports discuss the increasing impact of the Amazon Effect on the printing industry.

A study by NAPCO Research in 2021, Enhancing the Print Customer Connection, revealed that a vast majority (85%) of print customers have a preference for vendors providing online ordering facilities, and 73% choose their providers with online submission tools in mind. Another study in 2023 by NAPCO Research, Web Portals, New Path to Print Profitability, indicated that printing services anticipate a revenue boost averaging 12% from their custom web portals within the next couple of years. The study participants, all commercial printers, noted that their clients utilize these portals to purchase a variety of items, from marketing materials and direct mail to promotional goods and digital marketing services.

In the most recent NAPCO report, Production Digital Printing 2024 Pathways to Success in the Year Ahead discusses the top benefits illustrated in the figure below. 

13 Features to Consider when Upgrading Your Web to Print System 

Earlier we discussed a case history of a University in-plant that almost closed its doors because of unhappy customers who hated or refused to use the e-commerce portal. When we administered a survey which was scored using the Net Promoter index, an indication of customer satisfaction or the customer experience, this in-plant scored poorly. These poor scores drove the perception of low value and resulted in complaints to the administration. Unfortunately, this is not unusual. There are many in-plants using either home-grown solutions, first generation, or budget-based Web to Print systems which are not easy to use and disliked. If you are hearing complaints from customers, don’t wait to escalate this problem – immediately consider upgrading your web to print system.

Here are some features and functionality to consider when updating you Web to Print software: 

  1. Personalization: Upon logging in, the software greets users by name, e.g., “Hello Howard”, creating an immediate connection. The system remembers the user's Prime Status, stored credit card, and shipping information, setting the stage for a quick and hassle-free ordering process. 

  2. Easy Reordering Options: The dashboard prominently features options like “Buy Again”, “Browsing History”, and a personalized section such as “Howard’s Favorites”, which not only suggests items for reordering, but also highlights special deals on previously purchased or viewed products. 

  3. Intuitive Search Bar: The search function is prominently placed and easy to access, eliminating the need to hunt for a tiny magnifying glass icon. It's designed for quick entry of search terms to find products effortlessly. 

  4. Visual Product Display: Products are displayed with high-quality thumbnail images that can be expanded with a click, allowing users to confirm at a glance if they've found the correct item. 

  5. Fast and Responsive Navigation: The platform ensures swift loading times, even on image-heavy pages. A breadcrumb trail is visible, allowing users to easily track and navigate their journey through the site. 

  6. Flexible Ordering Options: Users can add items to their cart, save products for future consideration, and view various shipping methods with corresponding costs, allowing for informed and flexible purchasing decisions.
  7. Detailed Tracking: After placing an order, customers receive timely updates via email at each milestone—order confirmation, dispatch, and delivery. This is another common complaint from customers; they never hear anything from the in-plant about their order status and have to call the day it is due to confirm it has been shipped. Sometimes, they are disappointed because of delays. 

  8. Transparent Pricing: One of the most frequent complaints we hear from customers involves pricing. They complain of surprises when receiving invoices and don't know how prices are calculated. Customers want to see in real-time how pricing is changing, ensuring full transparency before any purchase decision. 

  9. Quantity Discounts: A tiered pricing structure is often applied to encourage larger orders. This is the oldest trick in the book for printers. As the quantity of an order increases, the unit price typically decreases. This is automated, allowing customers to see how much they save as they increase their order quantity. Such bulk pricing strategies incentivize longer run-length purchases and benefit both the customer and the service provider through economies of scale. In fact, you could consider offering a fulfillment service in which you store the longer run lengths for a fulfillment price. 

  10. Customizable Features: Customization options, such as special finishes, unique sizes, or advanced materials, are configured with associated costs. When a customer selects these options, the base price is dynamically adjusted to reflect the added features. This allows for a tailored shopping experience where customers can see how their choices directly impact costs. 

  11. Dynamic Shipping Calculations: Customers like to see how pricing changes as shipping costs change. Therefore, it's essential to provide various shipping options with transparent pricing. New platforms calculate shipping costs in real-time, considering delivery speed, package weight, and destination factors. Customers can compare shipping options and choose based on cost or delivery time, which is displayed alongside the product price.
  12. Mobile Optimization: As discussed in the recent blog, new generations are interested and motivated to use e-commerce sites on their cell phones and tablets. That requires mobile optimization, easy navigation, fast loading times, and innovative features. You need mobile to overcomes issues of younger generation adoption. 

  13. Accessible Help Resources: The platform offers readily available support, with options to contact customer service through email or phone prominently displayed, ensuring help is just a click or call away. 

As the digital landscape evolves, so do customer expectations, demanding more intuitive, efficient, and personalized online ordering experiences. Investing in your web to print platform is not just about technology—it's about committing to your customers' success and future-proofing your business in a rapidly changing market. 

Are You Meeting Customer Expectations with Your Web to Print System?

Explore the "Amazon Effect" impact on customer expectations and learn how personalized interfaces and digital printing services are essential for growth. Plus, uncover 13 must-have features for your Web to Print system to enhance in-plant customer satisfaction.

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About the Author

Howie Fenton

Howie Fenton is an independent consultant and trusted advisor to in-plant printers. He recommends equipment, best practices and workflow automation tools to streamline operations. To learn more about measuring performance, benchmarking to leaders, and improving your value e-mail Howie@howiefentonconsulting.com

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