Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012: Print is here to stay

We’re well into a new calendar year, an appropriate time to step back and assess where our industry has traveled the previous 12 months – and share observations for what to anticipate in 2012. From conversations with the Consolidated Graphics executive team, major industry influencers, and our customers, who represent marketers and print procurement professionals from Fortune 500 companies across the nation, here is what we’ve gathered:

The print industry remains a highly fragmented, $50 billion industry. The commercial printing industry in the U.S. includes around 35,000 companies in total. As a ”Top 10” commercial printer in terms of revenues, Consolidated Graphics is unique in its ability to offer a full suite of print and technology capabilities and a national presence. The majority of printers operate one production plant, employ fewer than 20 people, and have annual revenue under $5 million.

Technology is becoming more integrated in print. From data management to web2print, computer power and digital media are playing a much larger role within the print industry. Leading print companies must invest significant capital in cutting-edge technology, and also commit to educating customers on how to maximize their marketing efforts through new capabilities.

Digital is merging with physical. It’s no longer a question of “which is better: digital or print?” Now, digital and print communications experts are working together to create integrated marketing materials. At Consolidated Graphics, we’re utilizing technology like the Sony eBridge Arc, personalized URLs, QR codes and much, much more to link print to the online world. The secret to engaging customers across platforms changes every day, and we have partnered with some of the greatest minds in technology to ensure that we’re providing customers with the solutions they need.

Security has been heightened. With so much data to deal with, and so much more industry regulation occurring, printers have to learn how to properly manage their customers’ data. Everyday, we deal with sensitive information that requires maximum protection and sophisticated systems of checks and balances. As a result, we’re making investments in human resources, like the addition of a Chief Information Security Officer, technology and our multi-million dollar data center, all of which are intended to protect our customers’ most valuable assets.

Print has transformed from manufacturing to service. We learned this lesson some time ago, but it’s becoming more and more important to customers. As with most industries, we’re in an age of doing more with less, and customers are relying on their print suppliers to provide streamlined solutions to their business challenges. The companies that bring the best solutions to their customers are the ones that are succeeding over the long haul.

Clearly the evolution of print will continue in the year ahead, morphing from a standard form of communication to a premium marketing application that fully engages consumers, given its tactile nature. We’re keeping our eye on what the end customer ultimately demands and how that impacts the marketing efforts of companies around the globe, because at the end of the day, if consumers are responding, the industry succeeds.