Why Amazon will be the #webtoprint game-changer

Smartlabel boutique on Amazon.fr

For many years – more than a decade – web-to-print industry has been dominated by a mainstream model :

  • a single e-Commerce storefront, embedding all the modern marketing techniques available,
  • a product catalog, featuring a wide range of printing products
  • online customization capabilities or single upload-and-print functionality

Once the storefront has been launched, every online printer had to face two problem :

  • how to acquire audience ?
  • how to differentiate ?
Here also, mainstream models have raised for the past twenty years :
  • Purchase audience through web marketing ads, such as Google Ads, Facebook campaigns… and other bid marketing models. But the weakness of this model is caused by its success : as the market is becoming more and more competitive, with larger and larger players like Vistaprint, Online Printers, Mimeo, Moo, Saxoprint, FlyerAlarm, Pixart Printing…the overall marketing acquisition costs are dramatically increasing, while customers are saturated by appealing offers, which causes them to switch from one player to another, reducing lifetime value and repeat rates
  • Try to differentiate by providing the lowest-possible price… but that strategy is reaching its limits. Customers become familiar with this strategy, and wait for the next promo… causing at long term a huge decrease in margins
Smart players are succeeded in differentiate by focusing on niche markets (such as resellers and graphic art professionals, like Exaprint or Realisaprint did in France), or by specializing on a specific segment of products, like StickerMule or Smartlabel for stickers and labels. Some of them have also tried to provide new type of services, like same-day delivery in large cities…

However, I believe that this mainstream model starts becoming old-fashioned… because the world is changing.

The rise of alternative models driven by smartphones

For a couple of years, smartphones have replaced many of our daily companions, such as the agenda, the PalmPilot or even digital camera. Startups have seen here a huge opportunity for customized goods, exploiting the potential of personal pictures to make printed goods sexy again.
Cheers or Lalalab have created mobile apps for iOS or Android enabling people taking pictures, upload them on a mug or a post card, and order printed goods at their fingertips, right from their smartphones. It's really a new alternative in the way to order printing goods, and it raised aside from conventional web-to-print models.

Marketplaces' empire : a new continent opens up
As the iPhone revolutionized the telecom industry, Amazon and other marketplaces are currently changing the game in the distribution market. Traditional players are becoming lost because they are not capable to answer to customers' current needs, while Amazon or AliExpress anticipate them.
Till today, printing industry stayed protected from this revolution as it only concerned mass-production goods… but today, with Amazon Custom (and believe me, other marketplaces will soon do the same), you can purchase thousand of goods you'll customize online, directly within Amazon's interface.

Thanks to Amazon Custom, it's now possible to edit a product to customize it prior adding it to your basket

You're preparing your marriage and you're looking for customized bottles of champaign ? No problem. Select some templates of stickers on Amazon, upload your picture, type your text and add your customized label to your basket. Four days later, you'll receive your order in your mailbox…

Do you think you're dreaming ? Nope, that's a reality.

For printers, it's a silent revolution that've just started. Think about it : you can now put your products online, in the worlds' biggest marketplace, and add customization capabilities without having to spend thousands of dollars in software licence. In terms of marketing, you're directly reaching a closed community of customers. No Google Adwords needed, just some Amazon ads and a smart attitude to make inside-Amazon SEO.

What about tomorrow : Voice-To-Print ?

You should think it'll stay limited to some products : wait a second. In 5 years, more than 50% of online researches will be made through voice assistants, such as Echo and other smart speakers. Who's developing these solutions ? Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft.
That means that the most important channel for the web will be voice search and mobile apps… That's why I believe conventional web-to-print will decrease, while marketplace-to-print, app-to-print or voice-to-print will increase, as customers' habits are changing…

These facts must be taken into consideration while printers prepare their next years strategies : don't be focused on what competitors are doing, but keep looking on where customers are moving to.

More info : http://amazon.fr/smartlabel