Open a shopfront without the hassle

It should be obvious, even to Blind Freddy, that a business that does not take advantage of the opportunities afforded through technology is not sustainable. It will not survive the challenges ahead.

But there is a level playing field and the small guys have access to the same technology as the big end of town. This is a powerful development.

Consider Vistaprint – your gigantic, monolithic “elephant in the room” competitor. I’m not threatened by them. They have educated the market and serviced customers so successfully that they have reported a 41% increase in profits for the second quarter of 2012 in Asia-Pacific region.

But small and medium-sized printers can be competitive against the large multinationals.

Imagine your own branded online shopfront, open 24/7 for your customers to log in and access their artwork, upload new designs, customise existing and new products, edit, save, copy, proof and order print all within the one platform. The hardware suppliers have huge web-to-print solutions with huge price tags and complicated implementations. These are perfect for huge print companies but out of reach and inappropriate for the sector that most need assistance: the small to medium-sized printers 

What should you ask when choosing a web-to-print solution that is right for you and your clients? In my opinion it is simple and boils down to a number of questions (see below).

If the solution that you are assessing can offer positive responses to these questions then you may have found your solution.

Of course, every solution has a unique offering and it is important to realise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The ability to manage your own site and content and ensure that it meets your business needs and also attracts new online business is vital to your survival but one thing is for certain – it must be online and it must be now. 

Top tips: W2P investment

• How easy is it to use?

• What are the costs?

• How easy it is to set up?

• Can I host my own solution?

• Can I just subscribe and get all the advantages like hosting and upgrades automatically?

• Can I set my own published prices? Is this easy to do or do I need a mathematics degree?

• Can I upload my clients’ artwork for them to customise?

• Is there a range of products and templates to use?

• Is there a design library?

• Does it allow online editing?

• Does it allow online proofing?

• Can I send a print job to anyone?

• Is there a secure login for clients?

• Can I promote my specialist print services to other printers?

• Can this be ready next week?

• Is there local support?

Katherine Smith is the managing director of 44 Gallons Technology, which has developed Edit & Print web-to-print software. Reach her on

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