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Dove Direct Print & Marketing Blog - The Scope of Commercial Printing in 2018

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Welcome to the Dove Direct Print and Marketing Blog. Today’s post, “The Scope of Commercial Printing in 2018” examines the state of the commercial printing industry, projected growth, reliance on print revenue, the communication model, including the effects of the economic winds, the workforce and of course, technological improvements.

Far from print’s paultry 1% gain in 2017, Idealliance is forecasting commercial printing industry sales (all sources) to expand upward to anywhere between 1.5% to 3.0% in 2018. Many data reports, surveys and samples of the print industry are mostly based on the itemization of things and technologies that reside within the commercial printing industry’s auspice, however; an important economic factor is often left out of those forecasting efforts, namely, how the economy overall affects the commercial printing industry.


The Economic Stimulus Packages

Idealliance also suggests that where the commercial printing industry finishes at the end of 2018 is heavily reliant on the American economy. In addition and more importantly, how much or how little Washington’s stimulus package contains will have a direct consequence of that forecasted growth.

A strong stimulus package could actually provide the animus to revise forecasts upward, and conversely, a small, weak package will send commercial printing sales results to a race towards the bottom, if not losses for many. Currently, print begins the 2018 year with approximately $84 billion in sales, which clocks in at 9.1% above the lows of 2011, but much lower than 2017’s pre-Great Recession level of 14.6% below the current 2018 levels.

Print Diversification

It’s no secret that all industries undergo changes throughout their existence, from product types to pricing models, incorporating the latest technologies, and so on. The commercial printing industry is no different. In fact, the Idealliance report speaks to the changes taking place in sales strategies in their “State of the Industry, 15th Edition" report that identifies some of these changes. The report sheds light on what the average commercial printing organization is looking to bolster sales with, such as other printing solutions, focusing on mailing, fulfillment, database management, marketing services, Web services, etc..

Further, these ‘other’ printing solutions are meant to address that 25 to 30% of revenue that falls outside of the strict printing model. To that point, most of the successful companies within this research stated that 75% of their revenue is derived from print itself. The forecast goes on to state that these participating respondents expect to garner up to an additional 31.6% of non-print revenue for 2018, which would be a humongous jump from the 13.3% generated in 2012.

In an effort to better understand this scenario, it simply means that commercial printers will be searching for side opportunities. And of course, whenever a company has decided to pursue tangential opportunities, it also means that a stronger and longer engagement cycle is required with new engagement strategies to be implemented. For commercial printers, this is all based on disciplines such as starting and remaining in a client’s work cycle at the earliest outset, or being able to solve problems across a broader swath of communication requirements, and that’s just for starters.

Commercial Printing Remains Competitive

The report also highlighted the birth and death rates of commercial printers on an annual basis. For example, between 2000 and 2013, the death rate of commercial printers leaving the market was 9.1%, and by comparison, the birth rate averaged 5.6% per annum. Normally, these numbers would bode well for established commercial printers with the notion that a shrinking market could provide a default competitive advantage. Not exactly! In this case, less competition does not translate into more revenue gained.

In today’s world, the new commercial printers are agile, quick and fail to be bogged down by age old equipment, including a fresh, strategic mindset unencumbered by old thinking. In order to keep pace with newer commercial printing establishments, and not fall behind the curve, well established commercial printers must take into consideration, that in order to remain competitive, they must continually invest and reinvest, which takes us to the issue of capital investments.

Capital Investments

Every industry and company serving a particular sector has to continually reinvest to stay competitive. And oddly enough, this practice ranges from small, individual run companies to enterprise sized and beyond. In short, companies that wish to rise in brand stature requires smart, well thought out capital investment. And to that end, Idealliance has also conducted the “Capital Investment Report, Fall 2017.”

This report focuses on the print industry in particular, and was designed to uncover various investment practices. This includes history, and new plans including the overall objectives of commercial printing organizations. Listed below are a few of the most notable results:

  • Upwards of 38% of the respondents plan to up their capital investment rate over the course of the next three years, as opposed to a mere 6.7% who are said to reduce their CAPEX rate.
  • The past 3 years experienced the top investments going to digital infrastructure, such as workstations, servers, networks, etc., toner-based, cut-sheet digital presses and workflow software.
  • The next 3 years is pointing to investments aimed at creating more efficient workflows, reduction of labor costs, along with increased automation, reduced steps and finally better touches and turn times.
  • In addition, the top priorities on the investment list include workflow software, bindery/finishing systems and digital infrastructure.

Print as a Communication Tool

A good number of the respondents that took part in the Idealliance surveys also stated that for one, the evolving makeup of communication is a defining moment for the future of commercial printing in that the personalization aspect, which can be integrated across various channels, offers unique value.

In fact, one respondent stated, “We’ve moved from the equipment model to more of a communications model. No matter what method the client wants to communicate, we will look for solutions that fit that, even if it means not buying equipment, but investing in talent.”

Idealliance continues the communication directive with two points. “To begin with, the future is about complementing, not abandoning print, because communication is mutually reinforcing, and not mutually exclusive - i.e., we communicate this way and that way, not this way or that way. And secondly, the increased movement toward personalized, integrated communication does not mean mass, undifferentiated printing is going away. It does, however, mean despite the ongoing shakeout of the inefficient, those markets will get increasingly competitive.”

And above all else, considering all things relevant to the commercial printing industry, ranging from clients to competition to the labor force and technological advances, the greatest game changer is the digital revolution.

Commercial printers are not going away anytime soon, and as commercial printing organizations continue in their quest to rise to the highest competitive levels, the information contained in the Idealliance “State of the Industry Report, 15th Edition, sponsored by Canon is well worth the read in its entirety. Open the PDF here.

The Net-Net

The state and scope of commercial printing remains robust and growing. Applying the strategies and elements outlined in the Idealliance report results should be top of mind for any commercial printing organization. The question is, how well will your commercial printing business fare in 2018 and beyond? Happy Commercial Printing Development Strategies!

Let’s have a conversation about printing, print software, transactional documents, variable digital printing, brand equity and unified marketing collateral during our next Open House. We invite you to join us on Thursday, March 29th, 2018, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Let us show you how to improve your document processes to optimize your workflow, reduce your costs, and maximize your organization’s printing, letter shop and mailing capabilities. Dove Direct does have an official USPS certified bureau located within our offices that will save you time and money. And, if you bring us your files, we will create a demo file for you. For more information call Carla Eubanks at 404-629-0122 or email Carla at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Dove Direct, your Atlanta based print and mail solutions provider offers organizations end-to-end data, printing and mailing solutions: Data Management, Variable Digital Printing, LetterShop and Fulfillment, Fully Automated MLOCR Presort Bureau, Marketing and Production Management Support and Secure Data Life Cycle Management.

If you don't want to wait for the Open House, you can reach Dove Direct today by calling 404-629-0122 or use the contact form for Dove Direct.

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Leland Hicks is the CTO of MatterMax Media, a digital marketing agency that provides business strategy, web design, social media management and training.  He can be reached at lahicks@mattermaxmedia.com