Commercial Print - Growth is more fun than adaption

27.10.2021

In a way, all print should be called commercial as ‘commercial’ means business. However, we use ‘Commercial Print‘ to refer to printed products relating to commercial activities, like business cards, letterheads, brochures, etc. This article will look at the current situation and give an outlook on where commercial print is moving.

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Commercial Print is huge, but it’s one of the segments in the graphics arts industry with the fastest change in the market. Technology has always been a significant driver in Commercial Print – and always driven by a demand for higher quality, more features, shorter turnaround time, and lower cost. In 2008, when the financial crisis hit, American studies suggested a decrease in Commercial Print of more than 25% over ten years, expecting a further decline.

Supply and demand set prices

Supply and demand set the price, and Commercial Print is again one of the segments that have been under the most pressure. When marketing people shift from print to the web, and emails replace physical mails, demand changes. Since Commercial Printers often have huge investments with long depreciation, the shift in the market is faster than adapting to a new business situation. Many printing companies experience low equipment utilization, and with increasing prices on raw material, both equipment and operational costs increase.

People reading brochure

When the Internet became the default

The Financial crisis is often seen as a milestone where the demand rapidly changed. Maybe less about the financial crises and more the global Internet population passed a significant milestone – with more than 50% connected in the developed world. Facebook, Google, and other SoMe channels thrived.

Where Commercial Print was the most critical channel for mass communication, marketers suddenly saw new opportunities with the Internet. It was cheaper (initially), faster, and if this wasn’t enough, smart people introduced web-to-print and put an even higher pressure (price-wise) on a market already suffering.

However, web-to-print companies can hardly be blamed for anything but success – the market loves and continues to love buying print online.

Onlineshop cart button

Production methods optimize and lower prices further

Gang-print lowered the prices on products typically printed by the local printer – who probably was a very nice and important person in the local city, but to be honest, maybe not the most innovative. I used to work in a small town in Denmark, and when I worked there, the city had three printing companies. The company I worked for acquired competitors in the neighboring cities. Still, as the company grew, competition became tougher locally, nationally, and eventually internationally – as the growing globalization also lowered distribution costs. Bad times for those who did nothing – and yes, those who do nothing times will not be easier in the future.

SO, if technology in the past changed the market space, I believe today’s changes are more driven by consumer behavior. PSP’s could sell print by having a small classified advert in the local newspaper or the local yellow pages; these days are gone. The online printers, of course, use the Internet to promote and acquire new customers, and unfortunately, too many ‘ordinary’ printing companies don’t market themselves at all. I am a firm believer that in today’s market space, you must market yourself, and your KPI’s are less what equipment you have but more what value you bring to your customers.

Printshop digital and online

Not all segments in the industry are influenzed

This paradigm change, of course, applies to all segments in the printing industry. However, Commercial Printers are most exposed to the demands and changes since the Internet has most influenced commercial print. Packaging, labels, textile, etc., can’t easily be replaced by a tablet or an online service. A business card, a letterhead, a brochure, can!

Change is good!

However friends! All the things above are good news. I take that most of us couldn’t imagine a static world, so with change comes opportunities. Commercial Print is a vital media, and I believe it’s time to focus on the value that Commercial Print delivers and that e-whatever can’t. Tactile, personal, exclusive, and often a much longer shelflife and therefore a different value proposition.

However, now Commercial Printers have more opportunities than ever. Print is becoming more exclusive for many brands. With very high SEO, Online-advertising, etc., prices, many brands have started to see print as an economically viable alternative to e-marketing. As I wrote in a previous article here on the Hunkeler blog, Direct Mails and other types of printed communication currently see unparalleled growth.

Commercial print brochures

Commercial Print – Don’t expect success without investments

So if you are a PSP speculating about the future of print, I believe that Commercial Print has many new exciting and profitable opportunities. It does, however, require investments in technology that support the mega-trends we have also discussed in previous articles.

Customers want faster deliveries, high quality, competitive pricing (whatever that is), and a strong focus on the environment. If you have large volume or many customers that can be gang-printed together, offset, of course, continues to be a good solution. However, more and more PSPs see a bright future with digital print.

Today digital print is both fast, delivering high-quality and binding solutions from, i.e., Hunkeler can provide the applications the market needs.

The market has adapted to a new market with lower demand, but with the right marketing and focus on the value print brings, I am convinced of a bright future.

Hunkeler Application Commercial Print

Growth is more fun than adaption!

If you are working in Commercial Print, I believe your focus should be on growth. Can you sell more of the same to more customers? Can you sell complimenting products to existing customers? Can you increase the value of your products and services by choosing better paper, enhancing the application, or just increasing your price because you offer a valuable service? These and other questions you have to ask yourself will also support your opportunities in the market when investing in new technology.

You can‚ of course, also choose to do nothing!?


About the author

Portrait Morten Reitloft

Morten B. Reitoft

Morten Reitoft is the editor of INKISH News and INKISH TV. INKISH TV is a TV-channel for and about the print industry. 
Through his numerous posts and videos around the printing industry, Morten has a broad expertise in digital printing and knows both the companies and technologies behind them.


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