Web-to-print technology is a term that has been around for quite a while, but it is gaining in popularity due to the growing need for businesses to cut costs and to increase efficiency. While there are a lot of definitions out there that attempt to explain web-to-print technology—also known as print-on-demand—the most basic description is the joining of online content and commercial or digital print production. To facilitate online print ordering, customers have access to a convenient web portal (sometimes referred to as an online storefront). Online storefronts allow users to create, edit and order print materials as well as manage inventory and distribution for previously printed products and promotional items.
Web-to-print technology is available to all types of organizations—from large corporations to small family-owned businesses—and each online storefront can be fully customized to meet specific business requirements. For example, some companies choose to make their storefront available to the public to browse products available for ordering. However, in most cases, storefronts are set up by marketing teams to allow other employees, departments, or locations to request and customize materials using pre-designed templates. The kinds of products usually seen in web-to-print transactions include business cards, brochures, signs, forms, posters, and stationery. However, as the technology continues to integrate with various CRM and marketing automation platforms, more unique products and custom applications are being developed. These include multi-touch direct mail programs, sales and lead nurturing programs, membership or payment card distribution, subscription boxes, and more.
Here are just a few of the advantages of web-to-print technology and how it can benefit your business:
Convenience for Marketing Teams
Web-to-print technology makes it easy for businesses and marketing teams to add or remove available products. Most edits to the online storefront can be made very quickly, which means there are no discrepancies between available products and ordering.
Print-on-demand templates are updated within a few days, depending on the complexity of the design change and any variable data processing rules. This enables clients to change the content or design of their pieces and ensure that everyone has access to the most up-to-date version.
Not only is this process more convenient for the client, but it also creates a more streamlined and efficient print production process. With web-to-print, clients can customize materials, add items to their shopping cart, and checkout through a simple online shopping interface which often reduces the need for customer service. Clients can quickly go to the website to place orders, and the printers can begin the work right away. Depending on the type of products ordered, information can be sent directly to a digital press, an inventory management or distribution system, or to another part of a printer’s workflow.
Reduces Need for Inventory
Without an online storefront, it can be hard to keep track of a company’s marketing inventory and other printed materials. In the past, this information was managed in spreadsheets and through physical counts of brochures stored in multiple offices and franchises. This old inventory management process is a drain on staff time and often results in over or under ordering, wasting more of your marketing budget.
With an online storefront, you also have access to robust inventory management software alongside web-to-print technology. Marketing teams and other groups who may be operating out of different locations can all see accurate inventory levels in real-time 24/7 rather than tracking down outdated reports and spreadsheets. With a few clicks, everyone can see what products are out of stock as well as where they have shipped.
The need for inventory is also significantly reduced. Marketers no longer have to print large volumes of every product. Instead, they can allow users to digitally print what they need when they need it—ideal for keeping materials current and saving money on wasted storage costs.
Web-to-print technology and online storefronts help marketers connect the dots and break down the silos often present in the print production process. With storefronts, there is no need to send files back to a designer for minor customizations or to deal with invoices from multiple print, mail, and shipping vendors. Leveraging one convenient web portal, clients can create a hub for all of their marketing programs—from digital assets and customizable sales collateral to variable kits, signage, trade show materials and more. Once the storefront has been set up, end-users have direct access to what they need when they need it without having to track down multiple vendors or bog down the marketing team.
And because most online storefronts are built using flexible software they can be connected to other pieces of the marketing tech stack such as CRM or marketing automation platforms. For example, sales reps can order brochures to be sent to a client directly from a CRM platform like Salesforce and the order can then be automatically printed and shipped without any additional steps. This creates a huge opportunity to better align sales and marketing efforts across both print and digital channels.
If you’re thinking about integrating web-to-print technology, consider all of the advantages and how they will help your business become more efficient.