Dominic Fahy believes that agility is key for the future of printing

Consumer needs and expectations are continually shifting and, with greater levels of insight into those requirements than ever before, brands need to respond quickly if they want to stay competitive.

The necessity of adapting to consumer needs has had a knock-on effect on the print industry, with brands changing the way they work with Print Service Providers (PSPs), to ensure their offer remains as current and in-themoment as possible. Agility has become a key requirement across all sectors, with printing being no exception.

It’s getting personal
Personalisation and customisation are key trends with today’s consumers, who crave individuality and a relevant, unique experience. Whether they’re ordering high-end printed products with bespoke imagery, choosing packaging tailored to their personal tastes, or viewing marketing materials customised to their purchase history, personalisation makes consumers feel involved and engaged, and is a highly effective tactic to drive brand loyalty.

Consumers expect brands to respond quickly to their evolving demands, with a recent Salesforce survey revealing over three-quarters of consumers think companies should understand their needs and expectations. Consumers have no trouble switching from brands that can’t keep up; with 57 per cent reporting they stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.

Brands respond to consumer needs
The need to keep pace with changing consumer requirements is having a dramatic impact on printing practice. Historically, decisions around the design and content of printed products, packaging, and marketing materials would be made well in advance and reviewed quarterly at most, potentially even annually, with long print runs designed to keep costs low.

Now printing decisions are made in near real time, driven by customer actions. Printed materials quickly become obsolete so brands opt for shorter print runs, allowing them to make regular changes with minimal waste. Short print runs enable brands to make use of versioning, regionalisation, and special editions, and negate the need to store large volumes of printed products.

The trend for personalisation is also driving brands towards digital print-on-demand services, which allow mass customisation on an international scale. As well as offering personalisation for individuals, brands can use print-on-demand to tailor printed products to particular demographics based on interests and activities, or to particular regions, ethnic groups, family sizes, genders, or languages, so products are more targeted to the end user, and produced when required.

PSPs need the tech to keep up
To facilitate their clients’ changing processes, PSPs need to find ways to provide a faster service, while still maintaining exceptional print quality and value. There are many factors that can contribute to varying print speeds, including system configuration, software quality, and ease of use, so PSPs need to review their existing technology to ensure it can meet brand expectations.

PSPs need to view print technology as an opportunity to consolidate, with newer printers taking up less space than older models, as well as being able to handle short run production for a wide range of products, often able to replace two or three existing machines. While capital and courage is inevitably required to upgrade printing equipment, newer technologies have lower operating costs and require fewer resources, generating cost savings in the long term.

Agility is key to the future of the print industry. With evolving consumer needs causing brands to embrace real-time print strategies, short print runs, and digital print-on-demand services, PSPs must ensure their technology is up to the task, delivering the necessary speed, quality, and value to satisfy their brand customers and provide a competitive service.

Dominic Fahy
Dominic Fahy is Head of Architecture, Engineering, Construction & Manufacturing, at Canon UK. Canon (UK) Ltd is the UK & Ireland marketing and sales operation for Canon Inc., employing around 2000 people. Founded in 1937 with the specific goal of making the best quality camera available to customers, Canon’s tireless passion for the Power of Image has since extended its technology into many other markets and has established it as a world leader in both consumer and business imaging solutions.