If you’ve never used a web to print storefront before, you may be a little uncertain about what the term really means. You can tell that it’s some way of arranging a print job – that much you can figure out from the word ‘print’ but where does the ‘web’ come in?


Basically, if your business website has a fully eCommerce enabled web to print storefront, then your customers can create the design they want to print, choose the item or items they want to print it on, select a quantity and place an order with you from whatever digital device they wish to use, at any time of day or night and wherever they happen to be. A group of friends on holiday could design a commemorative t-shirt whilst sitting in a beach bar on the other side of the world, confirm the order and collect it from you on their way back from the airport.


Web to print capability removes many of the barriers that used to exist between print shop and customer. Convenience is the key point, here. The customer doesn’t have to contact you within your store opening hours, either by phone or in person. They don’t have to have everything ready to explain their design idea to you and let you have the artwork. They don’t have to wait for you to formalize the design, proof it and check it with them. The whole process can go from the first idea forming in the customer’s mind, through to design, automated proofing and order placement within minutes without you knowing anything about it. You can open up the print shop in the morning, check for new orders and away you go. It’s even possible, depending on how you want your system to be set up, to speed up the process even further by automating other stages, such as workflow.


Not only that, once the customer has created their design, it can be stored away for future use. This is particularly important for those groups, teams and businesses who will want to place repeat orders of uniforms, posters, branded goods and so on. Because the online storefront provides secure file storage for customer designs, corporate customers do not have anything to fear, when it comes to the security and integrity of their brand. Larger businesses, with multiple branches, can share their designs between employees at their various locations. For example, a bank can create a template for business cards or other stationery, save the templates to their password protected online storage folder and then share the log in details amongst the bank’s branches. When someone at any of these branches needs business cards, rather than having to phone the head office and put in a stationery request, taking up the time of several other people in the bank and, ultimately, at the print shop, the branch employee can simply log in to the bank’s web to print account, add their personal details to the business card template and place the order. If the bank needs a new item that they haven’t previously ordered – for example a grand opening banner for a new branch, then they can log in to their design area, select the new item to print onto and use their saved logo and other brand elements to create a banner that perfectly matches the style of all their other printed goods.


It hardly needs to be said that, when a customer has experienced the process of creating and saving their designs and easily ordering the products that they need, they will probably return to the same print shop whenever they need printed goods in the future. Not only have they found that placing orders online is quick, easy and produces good results, they have saved their templates and so can return to them again and again without the need to upload further artwork, unless they want to. Customer loyalty is naturally strengthened by this arrangement.


Providing your customers with the tools to create and save their own designs is certainly good for them but it’s also good for you. The time that would once have been spent rearranging the customer’s ideas into something workable and going over their options with them has been taken care of by the software. You don’t need to worry that you will arrive at the shop one morning and find that an order has been placed for some entirely impractical design – the software only lets the customer make adjustments within feasible limits. They can’t demand print elements that are outside the parameters of what’s possible because the web to print software is created by people who understand the print industry and know what is and isn’t possible. Of course, you still might open up the store in the morning and find yourself printing designs that you think look awful but that’s the customer’s problem and you’re still going to get paid for the order! In any case, the increased efficiency that naturally comes with moving to a web to print system means that you can get the job done and out to the customer faster than ever before, so you won’t have to look at that design for very long. If there are any queries about the order, then any member of your staff with log in authority can quickly go on to the system to check every aspect of it.


There are two main business models for web to print companies. Some print shops prefer to specialize in the B2B market – offering predominantly bulk print runs to corporate customers who are likely to be placing repeat orders on a regular basis. Others take the B2C route, offering custom print jobs either directly to the consumer or through customized storefronts created for third parties such as bands, artists or clubs. These, customized, web to print storefronts for third parties are usually designed to hide any mention of the print shop that is actually providing the service. A band can design their own branded merchandise and sell it to their fans, making a commission on the sales of the goods but leaving the job of printing and supplying those goods to the print shop, who will have set a base price for each item. The B2C market is potentially larger, of course but the individual jobs will be significantly smaller, with the loss of economies of scale leading to higher per-item costs associated with shipping and other variables.


Print shop owners who are interested making use of web to print storefront software have a few options, when it comes to acquiring the software that is right for them. It is possible to buy small and simple software packages which may be of some use to very small print shops. Typically, these will give limited design choices and leave the printer with the task of dealing with any technical problems, which obviously involves the risk of delays and loss of customer data.


For the very largest print businesses who want their design software to include their own, unique features, then hiring software designers to build a custom made software package from scratch may be an option. A package of this nature would probably cost over $100k and would, of course, require dedicated hosting and maintenance.


For most small to medium sized print shops (and larger ones who don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spare) the best option is what is known as a ‘SAAS’ – a ‘software as a service’ option. With a SAAS agreement, the software provider supplies all of the services connected with the use of the package, including creation and hosting, the addition of new features and security upgrades and technical support. The user – in this case the print shop – will usually pay a set up charge to start with, followed by a monthly fee for the lifetime of the agreement. The software developer can off-set the high cost of designing the software by licensing it to multiple users and the charges that the users pay, individually, will add up to a fraction of the cost of designing a custom built package.


For a breakdown of the costs and benefits, and to find out more about how web to print stores work, have a look at web2ink.com, where you can also learn about how to promote your future web to print storefront, by making use of the latest digital marketing techniques.


If you’re still not sure whether a web to print storefront is really the best next step for your print shop, then there are a number of questions to consider. Firstly, have a look at your competitors’ websites. Are they making use of this technology yet? If they’re not, this is your chance to get ahead of the game and start building your online customer base before your rivals do. It’s also worth noting that, incorporating a web to print eCommerce solution into a brand new website, designed for you by Web2ink, will give your online presence a modern, high tech look which can only be good for your business in today’s online age.


When considering web to print storefront software, you should also think about the sort of orders that your business usually handles. If you deal with a lot of repeat orders, wouldn’t it be useful if your regular customers had a secure, online account with you, through which they could view their orders and place new ones without hassle. Since your customers will be able to see the complete list of printable products, you may find that you get additional orders for items your customers had never thought of before. An artisan baker, who’s bought nothing but a handful of printed aprons and hats from you for years might notice cotton tote bags in your product list and realize the marketing potential in having them printed up with their store name and address and handing them out for their customers to use. Suddenly, you’ve converted a low-level occasional customer into a good, frequent customer, without any additional marketing effort on your part, simply by providing an easy way to view and select from your entire range.


If you get a lot of small order requests but you find it difficult to offer a good price because of the work involved in setting them up, a web to print system will pass that workload to the customer, who will probably enjoy it anyway. You will be able to reduce the price for small orders and win more of this market without compromising on your margins. Since the eCommerce software that makes up the ‘back office’ side of the web to print software will help with planning your work schedule as well as the invoicing and other admin tasks, your whole work flow should run much more smoothly. This has got to be good for business!


To sum up the advantages of using web to print software, you get a new, high tech website with a flexible, user-friendly design tool that your customers can access at any time of the day or night and will actually enjoy using. Not only will they enjoy the experience of placing their orders, they’ll love the faster service that you can provide as a result. Your business will benefit from cutting out the time consuming process of preparing and agreeing the designs with the customer and the ability to automate proofing, work scheduling and admin will speed things up even more. Your regular and corporate customers will appreciate the speed of reordering and the ability to save their designs securely for future use, as well as sharing them with colleagues and you may well find that, as a result of their ability to easily view your entire product range, they place orders for additional goods that they had never thought of before. Not only that but the increased input from your customers and the fact that you are holding all their designs for them in one, safe and easy to access place will naturally increase customer loyalty. Best of all, you can access this technology fromWeb2ink for a reasonable monthly rate, following the initial set up costs, and you will have the peace of mind that comes from excellent customer support, with updates to the software’s design features and security.

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