The twin developments of online ordering and online photo sharing technologies have supported for a rapidly growing market for web-to-print. There are more and more community accepts online print and this business become more attractive. As the result, it’s getting very competitive in this market. Now, online print providers are increasingly focusing on customer loyalty and larger single purchase orders to handle otherwise patchy business relationships with small customers, who like to move to the provider offering a lower price for their next print order. One of the measures that many print providers are now offering to deal with this problem is higher-spending customers a premium service.
The newest member of the “online print providers offering a premium service” club is Onlineprinters with its German store, diedruckerei.de. The company put a premium program in place a month ago and it targets corporate customers and resellers at the same time. Qualification for the program has been clearly defined: you are awarded premium customer status if you spend 10,000 Euros or more per annum. In return you are allocated a personal contact person (in modern CRM-speak: Key Account Manager), and provided with a sales-related discounts scale, sample boxes/books of paper samples plus specific handling and shipping agreements.
There has something similar been offered by unitedprint (print24.de) since 2009: a personal contact person, a sales-related discounts scale and payment by invoice. But payment by invoice is anyhow the most popular method of payment amongst customers (and the most unpopular amongst providers…) even for non-premium customers. The comparatively small online print store sedruck, for example, offers purchasing on account even to new customers.
Another example: the online print provider, Saxoprint, which is part of the Cewe corporation, offers better terms and conditions to certain groups of customers and calls its offering a reseller program instead of a premium one. Here too you get a personal contact person, benefits and more flexible shipping logistics. Terms & conditions? Those are a matter for negotiation. The above-mentioned customers are primarily resellers, like agencies, print brokers and (unnamed) printing companies (they just happen to be classified as resellers). Incidentally its sister company, Viaprinto, has been running a target-audience-specific agency program for some considerable time now.
There several other examples of such offerings. Market leader, Flyeralarm, for instance – its premium customer segment is currently being repositioned after the Hamburg-based print broker upgrade! was acquired and renamed Flyeralarm Printmanagement. What the company is targeting here are large purchase orders from corporate customers. This program is not aimed at resellers and agencies. Premium status is also not publicized on Flyeralarm’s store website, although something like that has previously been awarded if sales reached a certain level. Now I wonder whether Flyeralarm, playing the role of “print provider to colleagues” is also going to set up a program for printing companies acting as resellers; there has already been enough irritation in the industry caused by Flyeralarm‘s key account ambitions. Given the high percentage of business customers, which the company itself quantifies at 95%, Flyeralarm actually needs to be really careful not to alienate even more customers, because those customers that, for example, “only” place orders worth 20,000 Euros per annum now enjoy ‘2nd Class Premium’ status.
So what does premium really mean?
Bernd Zipper, founder and CEO of Zipcon Consulting GmbH, said: “Quite a few online print providers should take a closer look at whether their “premium” offerings are really adding value from a customer’s perspective.”
There are a few premium offerings are in fact matter-of-course benefits that should be provided to normal business customers:
Purchasing on account:
Purchasing on account is now an option at an increasing number of online stores. Those businesses offering it as a payment method that want to insure against payment default have a range of options. As an online store payment method you can insure against default using Paypal Plus or Klarna for instance.
It’s no secret that many printing companies outsource standard orders to online print providers and prefer to earn their margins elsewhere. Shipping to the former’s end customers should of course be direct from the printing facility, without naming the actual producer. Shipping initially to the commissioning party means longer delivery lead times and extra shipping costs, which also is not helpful as far as cutting emissions is concerned. That applies to the many agencies that outsource their printing as well.
Multiple delivery addresses:
Online print providers need to be geared up from the word go to handle multiple delivery addresses if they want to deliver to corporate customers. A not inconsiderable number of companies have more than one location.
Minimum sales volumes and discounts:
As a customer you don’t need to sign up straightaway for the premium customer loyalty program. If I as a customer have an interesting volume of business to place, it’s always worth making direct contact, irrespective of which online print provider it is. And then you have a contact person and their phone extension too.
Premium could be understood as other services/benefits, which don’t necessarily have to be associated with price markdowns. For instance, on-demand follow-up orders ex-warehouse or reprints, managing individual orders that can’t be processed by an online store system or VDP (German Pulp and Paper Association) personalization services. Or advance production and proof services. Or print product finishing services. Or marketing product packages. Or a cloud service in conjunction with printed electronics, like NFC, etc.
All still up in the air: delivery of online print products by aerial drone as a premium service.
It is not a wise move for online print providers if they just focusing only on gang-run printing business, because there is practically always a competitor that can operate to a greater degree of automation and standardization, is bigger and can utilize their economies of scale. At the end of the day, any company that wants to secure customer loyalty by setting up premium programs needs to come up with something a bit more creative than offering services that corporate customer expect to receive anyhow and which are offered elsewhere online as standard services. Another differentiation option – getting away from standard online print products -, but which the industry is talking about comparatively little, is the customer-specific closed shop. Incidentally this model works better starting at a lower sales volume per individual customer than many online print providers might imagine.