Who says print is dead? In this digital world, the industry is evolving and innovating, meeting the challenges of a changing world
The way in which people communicate with customers, suppliers and staff has changed dramatically in recent years. Much has been written about the demise of print in this new world and it is true that new technology and online communication has seen both print volumes and the number of firms in the industry shrink. The emergence of foreign competition and the global recession have reinforced this trend. The untold story of print, however, has been its dramatic evolution in recent years to meet major structural challenges. Many would now agree that print is evolving rather than simply disappearing – finding a place as one of a multitude of channels through which organisations can reach their target markets. In the process, the printing industry has had to change the way it works with its customer simply to keep itself relevant. The sector has had to reinvent itself as a customer-focused provider of many services – and not just print.
In the run up to Drupa, the largest printing equipment exhibition in the world, to be held in Dusseldorf next month, it is clear that it is the relentless march of technology that will drive new business opportunities for printing to build upon this intensified focus on the customer. Innovation is driving the print industry to greater personalisation and higher quality as routes to profitability, because this is clearly what the customer wants from printing as a means of communication.
Some technology has of course affected far more than the world of printing. Online innovations have turned many a business model, including the modus operandi for printing and distribution, on its head. More industry-specific innovations, such as QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones and variable data techniques that allow, for example, individual customer names to be printed on standard letters.
Print is evolving… finding a place as one of a multitude of channels through which organisations can reach their target markets
It’s easy sometimes to get carried away with technology. Some innovations have moved too far ahead of the comprehension of many printers, let alone their customers. The pace of innovation is impressive but ultimately has to be relevant to a print industry craving profit and productivity, and to customers needing to show a clear return on their investment.
The challenge now for the technological innovators is to make new ways of doing things understandable. And the challenge for any printer, particularly the smaller ones, is to invest in the IT skills that its workforce needs to keep pace with what technology can do.
The print industry may not be quite what it was and is unlikely to return to any so-called heyday. As part of a more customer-oriented offering, however, rumours of the demise of print have been greatly exaggerated. There may be fewer occasions where print is the only answer, but perhaps more where it is at least part of the solution on offer. For this reason alone, the medium of print remains a good choice for many customers.