Personalisation – taking on the big guns!

Personalisation has become a kind of ‘holy grail’ in the print industry in recent years. As business owners and managers have grappled with how to keep customers interested in physical print or diversified their businesses into wider online and marketing provision, the idea of creating an individual piece of print for each customer has become more and more appealing. In the wide-format market in particular, personalisation is a rapidly growing area, with Photobox reporting recently that they still see a 70% year-on-year increase in sales of personalised canvas prints, for example. The growth of the ‘selfie’, the exponential increase in the quality of mobile phone cameras and the general lowering of the entry cost for really decent quality digital cameras all play their part, too.

It’s a tricky thing to get into, though. Traditionally printers have invested in equipment that allows the production of a lot of the same thing quickly and efficiently – 20,000 brochures, 10,000 compliment slips, 5,000 posters and so on. The growth of smaller digital presses – HP Indigo, Xerox, Canon and Ricoh machines – has made it much easier to print a handful of something, or even just a single item, and wide format presses are naturally well suited to jobs of one or two, but normally the ‘finishing’ – the folding, trimming and binding into a finished product – has to be done by hand. The issue then is scaling up – if you want to make a LOT of individual books you need the benefits of big-machine automation but you can’t have ‘make-ready’ copies or spoilage because every job is unique. That’s where investment has to be made if you want your sales to be in the millions, and that is how just three companies have got a firm grip on the personalisation market.

Web-to-Print (or “W2P”) personalisation is dominated in the UK by Photobox, Harrier (better known nationally as Truprint) and Vistaprint. These three have the lion’s share of a big market, and their domination has deterred smaller players from entering that market. In a recent briefing article by Printweek journalist Richard Stuart-Turner, though, he argues that this needn’t be the case. He argues that

one successful way to offer personalised print as a service is to tap into a niche

and we think he’s spot on. Almost anything can be personalised with, for example, transfer printing. Acrylic, glass, candles or even soap can be personalised, and things like printing onto wood, or toolboxes, can turn an cheap basic product into an emotional purchase, another holy grail for marketeers everywhere. One thing that printers in particular fail to realise is that the equipment to do this can be acquired relatively cheaply. We do a lot of “R&D” on what can be personalised easily, and to do this we buy a lot of our stuff from The Magic Touch; a quick browse through their catalogue shows that you can get started with something like dye-sublimation printing for only a couple of thousand pounds. OK, not pocket change, but compared with the cost of a new press (or even a really good server) it’s not a big investment for even the smallest business!

Of course, our interest in this is that we can supply the means to get the artwork from the customer to the press. As agents for PrintBox software we can provide everything you need to get your personalised print website up and running at getting on for a tenth of the cost of the current industry leading packages – also not as big an investment as you perhaps thought. If you’re really unsure we can even set it up, host and run it for you for the first year!

In short, it can cost a lot less than you think to get involved in a highly lucrative and still growing area of print. As the web-savvy generations start to rediscover the joys of having something beautiful and tangible to preserve images and memories, now is definitely the time to get involved! Give us a shout and we can start the conversation. Don’t let the big guns keep all the market to themselves…


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