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Love or loath it, W2P is a great way to get more work, and its absence a great way to lose it, so should you learn more about it?

Web-to-print it here to stay, so are you using it? No - well, you're not alone. With the debate over Web-to-print in full swing, its detractors argue that it commoditises print, isn't really suited to wide-format print providers doing anything other than template-based posters, is costly and time consuming to implement and diverts attention away from the work at hand. But the point is, W2P is how a lot of your customers - or should that be prospective customers - want to work. Today's 'print buyer', who is often much younger than the 'print seller', lives in a technical world and expects you to. So if you don't offer W2P aren't you cutting out potential business?

Whatever you think of W2P as a sales and/or production tool it's a valuable marketing aid. It's not all about taking pre-paid orders online - though that's not to be sniffed at. It's about opening another communications line, making connections you might not otherwise make. Think of it as an additional business tool, not as a replacement for anything. Exponents of W2P will say it has helped them gain new work, not just through the system itself, but because it automates a lot of simpler jobs freeing them up to spend their time more imaginatively.

Fear of the unknown is probably what prevents many print producers from implementing W2P, or even from taking a serious look at it. Conquer the fear by getting to know more about it. Natalie Pritchard from a company called RedTie, which has been developing and selling W2P solutions for years, says there are many misconceptions about W2P that need to be cleared up.

"Many print professionals have, incorrectly, come to the conclusion that W2P solutions are expensive, technically complicated, difficult to implement and irrelevant. The reality is the complete opposite. Used and implemented correctly, W2P is actually very cost effective, simple to use and requires no more than access to the Internet and a good piece of W2P software."

To provide some idea of W2P costs, RedTie will charge ?6,750 up front for initial set-up of its RTT (RedTie Template) solution plus ?150 per month for hosting, upgrades and technical support. On top of that there's a file delivery charge for work coming over the system. This is five percent of the value of item but is capped at ?1 per order.

"In RedTie's experience, once clients are set up and running with the RTT solution, both customer and printer find that they cut down considerably on the amount of 'housekeeping' calls needed during the average print process. Value-wise this frees up time and enthusiasm to spend nurturing the customer/supplier relationship and discussing future projects," argues Pritchard.

What about the argument that most frequently levelled against W2P, that it is not relevant to more specialist sectors? " This, again, is misleading, as it is a very valuable asset to any printer's portfolio of services, irrespective of their area of expertise. W2P does not eradicate the creative process, moving online simply makes the implementation phase more efficient, cost effective and streamlined. The process can be designed to suit any format, style, shape, size or material and is compatible with any type of press. There are times when W2P is not suitable, for example, for a one-off, design heavy project, however the idea is not to completely replace existing methods with Web-to-print, rather to complement them, in order to work more efficiently as an overall strategic operation," stresses Pritchard.

"Over the past ten years, we as a society have all migrated online to order flight tickets, books, DVDs, clothes, even food. The next ten years will see many business-to-business processes heading the same way. Whether it be taking part in online conferences and seminars in order to reduce the carbon footprint, or online ordering of print, marketing and promotional material in a bid to save time, money and reduce waste... embracing the 24/7 on-demand requirements of a modern business culture will be an integral part of our lives. Once a company is ready to broaden its vision and integrate an online solution into its business portfolio, W2P is a very easy concept to embrace."





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