Louella Fernandes, an internationally respected analyst on the evolution of business printing, discusses in a recent Quocirca article the future opportunities for the print industry and what vendors are doing to survive in a changing field.
A Shifting Technological Landscape
Print management in London and throughout the world is changing. It needs to change to improve financial performance in the face of hardware commoditisation, lower margins, an increase in competition, and more demanding customers.
How Print Management Companies Are Adapting
Lexmark and Xerox are expanding their software presence through a series of software aquisitions undertaken since 2010. All vendors are looking to discover the new markets- exploring the IoT (Internet of Things), in which everyday items can send and receive data, big data, mobile and cloud based services.
Printers For Business: Existing Opportunities
Fernandes warns that digital disruption may come from a new type of competition, one that is outside of the print industry. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
Trends in the print population include a drive for services more than for products. Clients are searching for greater flexibility. For example, MPS (Managed Print Services) are expanding. The SMS (Server Message Block) market has the potential to do the same, with demands for more printers offering ways to share access. Cloud delivery, mobility and security all have the potential for deeper innovation that could sway customer interest.
Smart MFPS (Multi Function Printers) are becoming more sophisticated platforms. Workflow capabilities will likely require an innovative and efficient balance of services, software and hardware.
The IoT can be exploited by vendors utilising data from actual customer usage of services and products. Vendors can then begin to offer services and supplies proactively, giving them a head start on design and the innovation needed to corner the market.
Print Services: The Need to Expand Outside of the Industry
Finally, Fernandes suggests that print services expand outside their industry. Print is already taking on new value, despite an expanding digital landscape. Net-a-Porter and Airbnb (among others) have expanded into print recently; independent publishers have experienced a ten-year high. Perhaps this is because people trust paper- they find it reassuring in a sea of online material. Plus, research shows that readers retain more from reading print materials then from reading digital materials.
New products, channels, forms of engagement, partners, and employees should be sought out by the print industry in order to gain an edge. By integrating the paper and digital worlds, vendors can capitalise on a changing industry with unique workflow solutions and services.