Five industry experts scope out the year ahead.
Williams: I wouldn’t necessarily agree. Some companies, such as cosmetics companies, are looking for high-quality signage. In every market, there are companies that are looking for high-quality products and some that look for the lowest price. And in the wide-format, print-for-pay market, there are companies that focus on both of these types of customers. Print-for-pay shops looking to get out of the commodity segments continue to redefine themselves to serve the high-quality segment, and they have done this since the market began in the mid 1990s. There we saw print shops specializing in dye sublimation to fabric as a way to differentiate themselves. Today, shops continue to do this both with the printers they have in their shops as well as the level of service/consulting they offer customers.
Dundas: Tough economic conditions tend mainly to reward organizational efficiency and excellent customer service. Competitive pricing can often be a byproduct of improved efficiency but, by itself, price-cutting is not a reliable strategy for success. In the long term, successful firms are those that effectively communicate the importance of factors transcending price.
Greene: Price is a critical issue. In one of our recent studies with 300 professional wide-format print buyers, they identified price as their number-one purchase decision criteria but not the only decision criteria. The ability to service these accounts—produce acceptable quality jobs in the time they need them—is also important.
Marx: While most of our industry is serving just a handful of major markets, there are hundreds of applications and end products currently being served or produced with digital printing technology. For companies competing solely on price, a look beyond the obvious may be in store. For those companies that can successfully differentiate themselves from the pack, there is a whole different mode of operation—a different mindset—where companies focus on unique applications and non-commoditized markets that can offer exclusive opportunities and non-commodity-based revenue opportunities. Companies should look carefully at their core competencies, explore niche markets, understand demand in the region served, identify a business target, and go, go, go.
What actions are shops not taking that they should be to ensure a more prosperous bottom line?
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