First results: The impact of the internet on print

Print service providers and the supplier industry on the one hand and their customers on the other are being compelled to deal with new challenges caused by the internet. But how exactly have technologies like big data, augmented reality or printed electronics shaped and affected all areas of the printing industry?

Note: There is a newer version with the whole executive summary and an infographic.

The first results of the “drupa Global Insights” report on “The Impact of the Internet on Print – The digital flood” are out now. They illustrate how many Internet-enabled tools such as web-to-print, variable data printing, interactive print such as Augmented Reality and QR codes and smart technologies such as printed electronics, will impact on most areas of the printing industry. Print service providers and the supplier industry on the one hand and their customers on the other are being compelled to deal with new challenges and opportunities.

Werner M. Dornscheidt, President and CEO of Messe Düsseldorf, underlines the relevance of the drupa study: “With its detailed analysis of the global markets and the overview of current trends, the “drupa Global Insights“ report is an important contribution to strategic decisions that need to be taken by printers and suppliers alike “. In spring 2014, about 1,100 international key executives from the printing industry took part in the on-line survey and many participants provided very informative examples from their business environment.

The rise and rise of ecommerce

Ecommerce is growing in most global regions at rapid rates and printers are having to play catch-up, for whilst 51% of the survey panel had Web-to-Print services, only 14% reported it transacted more than 25% of their orders. Nevertheless in the catalogue market, publishers understand that print catalogues drive on-line sales and a majority of 60% of catalogue printers reported growth in on-demand digital production.

The shift to mass customisation

Whether it is photo books, calendars, stationery, marketing articles or T-shirts, in small or large volumes – the customized large-scale production of digital print articles is catching on. Already, 72% of all questioned commercial printers worldwide offer variable data printing services; in the US its proportion is even higher (87%).

While the proportion of variable pages remains small, 56% of participants reported moderate or fast growth. Increasing numbers of commercial printers offer a wide range of print products that can be both sold on the web and personalized. These trends are confirmed by the “drupa Global Trends” report published in spring 2014: 38% of commercial printers and 32% of publishing printers expressed their intention to invest in digital electrophotographic colour sheet printers.

Interactive printing on the increase in the publishing and packaging segment

Interactivity is the watchword as print customers are realizing the power of communicating via the Internet and mobile technologies directly with their target audiences on a 1-2-1 basis. Cross-media campaigns, with data acquisition/analysis and the use of several channels (e.g. PURLs, Email, SMS), are increasingly demanded by customers.

The range of applied technologies includes QR codes, other smart-print options, augmented reality and near-field communication. One third of the drupa panel of experts already offers interactive print of one form or another, i.e. interactive response elements in publications, business communications, advertisements, packaging and outdoor advertisements.

As was to be expected, there are major regional differences: in the US 44% of printing companies which took part in the survey offer interactive printing, but only 3% of providers in the Middle East. A substantial proportion of drupa panel members from the packaging sector also use Internet-based tools. 50% use QR codes, 43% use variable content, and 41% of all packaging printers that took part in the survey offer personalized print.

This first drupa Global Insight report is based on a very detailed survey covering a wide range of topics assessing the impact of the Internet on print. The survey dealt with many other issues such as CRM, Digital Asset Management and ‘Big Data’, as well as the automation of workflows, and the need for companies to have better IT skills.

It investigated how the increasing digitization of communications is affecting the demand for conventional print and the demand for different print substrates (paper, board, film, metal or glass)? The “drupa Global Insights” report provides some informative answers. It concludes that printers need to accept the reality of an Internet-driven multi-channel digital future, change their approach and invest accordingly.

The English version will be released in mid-October 2014; the Executive Summary will be available in seven languages (German, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Chinese) at www.drupa.de.