Ecommerce: the advantage of total workflow optimisation

While an ecommerce portal can be a powerful front-end for online sales and marketing, making it profitable and effective requires a fastidious and holistic approach as achieving success centres heavily on how it fits into a print service provider’s (PSP) business model and production workflow.

Often, web-to-print solutions are purchased as more of an acknowledgement of the ecommerce trend and a ‘nice to have’ add-on, as opposed to a conscious strategic investment to drive business forward. And, for many PSPs, it is this very notion that ultimately affects the performance of the solution and impedes the return on investment.

There are essentially two elements to any web-to-print solution: the front-end that wins the work, and the back-end that ensures the work is produced efficiently and on time. So while it’s important to have a well-designed front-end to attract business, it’s just as vital that everything in the back-end is primed to process the order as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Considering the whole workflow

A web-to-print function used simply as an online shop window without consideration of how this filters through to order processing and production, while being a great way to attract business, can be counterintuitive.

Neglecting to consider the whole workflow can significantly increase the chances of bottlenecks occurring (such as late response to orders or even missing them completely), overheads rising (reprinting or refunding payment) and missed business opportunities (winning or retaining customers). This is especially relevant to the modern market where print buyers want short-run work, on-demand and with faster turnaround.

This is where workflow automation and the right software solution is imperative.

Traditionally, customer print orders have been manually recorded into Excel® spreadsheets, or even on paper forms, before being sent to production. Out of habit, it’s natural therefore for PSPs to continue to apply these methods to print orders received via an ecommerce portal. However, these ‘manual input’ production processes can be cumbersome and susceptible to human error. Out of sync with the ‘click and buy’ culture, such processes threaten to undermine a PSP’s capability to meet tight turnaround times, risking their relationship with the customer and, ultimately, their reputation and business.

Optimising the workflow

Optimising the processing stage (as well as the whole workflow) is essential. Fortunately there are software packages that both offer web-to-print capabilities and can automate the entire workflow. Some, though not all, can link the production process, from order acquisition and management all the way to production and fulfillment.

A customer’s order details – such as name, type of order, pre-flight information, cost etc – can be inputted and processed without the need for human intervention to speed up the process, ensuring all processes between the beginning (job submission) and end of the order (delivery) are running smoothly.

Going one step further, once production is optimised, the system can be developed further to include non-print items to become a virtual marketing department, laying the foundations to help a PSP transform into a marketing services provider (MSP).

Trying to adapt to the digital world can seem daunting and complicated, but by addressing the more challenging elements of print production with the best web-to-print software to suit a PSP’s needs, they can begin to look forward to the business opportunities presented by the exciting ecommerce-centric world.

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