[Guest Article] The Missing Link in Print & Packaging

In his guest article, Horst Huber, CEO priint Group / WERK II, shares his thoughts on questions such as “Can the printing industry keep pace with the digital transformation?” or “What is needed to establish it as a true link between brands and consumers?”

“Can the printing industry keep pace with the digital transformation? Or is it falling behind the fast, digital communication? What is needed to establish it as a true link between brands and consumers?”

Insights from Horst Huber, CEO priint Group / WERK II.

Let’s First Take a Look at the World of Print as a Marketing Tool

It was the good old days when print was the main pillar of customer communication and other print shops were the only competitors. When print itself was not under scrutiny. That has changed radically. Digital thinking has become the rival of print shops. I recently heard from a marketing manager:

“We want to increase the SEO budget by halving the print run.”

Another printer told me that he was denied access to one of his former clients because print was not an issue at the moment.

Marketing Presentation – With or Without Print?

Commercial printing clients include wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers. The companies’ marketers from the companies can serve as connectors. But if you look at the entire relation between the print industry and its clients, the print industry must face the provocative thesis that it has basically lost touch with them. A major factor, which I believe is largely ignored by at least some print shops, is that the relevant contact persons on customer side have changed and there is no connection to new relevant target groups. These new contact persons in companies are digital players, thinking digitally and acting agilely. The term “digital printer” takes on a new meaning here: “Digital printers” have to think digitally and have their customers understand the added value of print as part of digital communication. To put it in another way: it’s not the printing process or the run length etc. that is decisive but the conversion rate, personalized content and emotional appeal of the respective communication measure.

We know that end-consumers can encounter around 150 touchpoints on their customer journey of which around 15% are print-related touchpoints – whether in PDF or print form.

Future of print in multichannel communication

“Only that few?” an offliner might react. “Still so many?” an onliner is likely to reply. Regardless of which perspective you take, it is undeniable that digital communication is on the rise, more and more digital natives are entering marketing departments, and end consumers are dictating the rules of modern communication. Nevertheless, we know from our daily work that print can achieve conversion rates in the higher double digits and that the haptic medium can trigger emotional moments and promote sales like hardly any other medium. We also know about sustainability and its importance as a “door opener” to digital business. But it’s a fact that print must adapt to the laws of digital communication if it wants to be and remain successful in the medium term.

What Laws Does Digital Communication Follow?

Law No. 1: On Demand

Digital communication is available on demand. Of course, this cannot be achieved exactly for print communication. But if we look at the entire timescale – from data capture to print production – we see that 90 to 95 % of the time is spent on customer side and not in printing. This means that processes on the customer side must be linked with the printing industry to gain an enormous potential of time savings.

Law No. 2: Personalization

With every email or click, software solutions get to know the end customer better in order to provide them with even more individualized and personalized offers. For the production of print products, this requires integrating information from CRM systems into the printing process in addition to product information.

Law No. 3: Trial & Error

Online campaigns are split, tested, played off against each other, etc., in order to learn from the results and incorporate them into the next campaigns. This can’t be transferred to print communication in precisely the same way. Nevertheless, the results of printed campaigns should also benefit the digital marketing systems. Because this way, the success of a printed campaign quickly becomes obvious and measurable.

Do These Laws Also Apply to Packaging?

Packaging diagram

Packaging printing is the growth market of the printing industry but this should not hide the fact that the technological gaps already mentioned above must also be closed in packaging printing in order to stay competitive in the long run. More agility in supply chains with increasingly shorter product life cycles is equally necessary. For this purpose, sophisticated and powerful workflow systems, printing and finishing equipment are available in the packaging industry. But their integration into the systems of industrial companies and brand owners is still at an early stage. It must be possible to make data from ERP, MDM, PIM, DAM, CRM and CMS systems directly usable for the packaging industry in order to be able to react more quickly and agilely to the market and thus meet its demands. In addition to technical and legal requirements, implementation challenges increasingly include variants relating to countries, languages and people.

Data connectivity for print & packaging


Are clients behind the printing and packaging industry in reality? The highly dynamic nature of the market, such as constantly changing consumer behavior, competitive pressure from brand owners, and the laws of the digital economy, are turning a lot of things upside down. In my experience, printers and converters are often better positioned digitally than their customers in terms of technology. But what is the benefit of the fastest machine if data and integrated processes are missing? A digitally minded service provider, however, starts working agilely and shows its clients how the digital rules, according to which the customer works, can be implemented in the process chain quickly. In addition to technologies that connect the process chain from the brand to the service provider, digitization and automation as well as digital printing are also of great importance, for example, in order to comply with the trial-and-error principle. In the end, the goal is to establish a complete digital supply chain covering consumers, brand owners, retailers, printing and distribution.

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