The printing industry’s post-pandemic adjustment to reality

In spite of the difficulties, the sector has developed strategies to seize new opportunities and keep growing

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the printing industry? What have we learned, and will the emergency measures taken to deal with the situation be sustained over time? More than a year and a half later, there is now data to compare and draw conclusions on how the industry has adapted, and that is precisely what NAPCO Research and PRINTING United Alliance have done in their Research on Business Indicators in the Printing Industry, research from which we extract some interesting figures.

The sales data provided by the printers who participated in the study reflect the impact of the pandemic in the first two quarters of 2020 and 2021. During the first quarter of 2021, 62% of companies experienced a decline in sales, while 74.2% improved sales figures in 2021 compared to the second quarter. The average decrease in sales in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year was 10%. In contrast, the average increase during the second quarter was 15%.

The short-term indicator index, which tracks sales, production, prices, employment and pre-tax profitability, grew in the second quarter of 2021 to 73.9 points, almost four times more than in the first quarter of 2020 and 17.8 points more than in the first quarter of 2021. A number above 50 means that the business balance is positive, trending upwards.

The obvious inference is that the sector is recovering well, and the outlook for the coming year is positive.

New “truths” in the printing industry

In terms of lessons learned from the crisis, the article Post-Pandemic Business Strategies: 5 New Truths for the Printing Industry, by Barbara A. Pellow, offers some insight on how the pandemic has changed some of the business strategies that were previously considered basic to the printing industry.

1) Adapting to changing markets

  • Old truth: targeting the right market is critical to business success.
  • New truth: understanding how target markets are changing and having the ability to adapt to these changes is critical to business success.

It is critical to use all resources, skills and capital effectively to produce the goods and services that consumers want. Most print service providers focus on specific market segments, but now, more than ever, they need to pay attention to the dynamics that have an impact on their customers and adapt strategies accordingly. Successful providers are those that have quickly adapted their marketing strategies to the market’s demands.

2) Bringing added value

  • Old truth: print service providers have to deliver high quality products and services.
  • New truth: print service providers need to provide added value to customers in response to changing market needs.

Blanket campaigns no longer work. The best way to attract and keep the consumers’ interest is through customised communication and a good, tailored experience. Responding effectively to channel diversification is another key challenge.

3) Online communication is both effective and timesaving

  • Old truth: your customers prefer to communicate face-to-face.
  • New truth: customers are appreciating the efficiency of digital interactions with suppliers.

Virtual meetings are here to stay; it’s a permanent change because they bring convenience and better time efficiency to business meetings. However, in the print industry, there are many old-school vendors who will need to adapt to the new technologies to take advantage of their effectiveness.

4) Exploiting online tools for preliminary contacts

  • Old truth: prospecting and cold calling are difficult.
  • New truth: prospecting and cold calling are hard, but there are more tools available.

Lockdown forced the industry to prospect for new customers from home, thus eliminating the opportunity to close sales in person. Tools such as Linkedin help to establish prior contact.

5) Tapping into the potential of omni-channel marketing

  • Old truth: marketing is important to the growth of print service providers.
  • New truth: cross-channel marketing is essential for print service providers to reach new prospective customers and boosting their business.

Historically, print service providers have been investing little in marketing. The pandemic has forced them to develop new strategies to reach the market by taking full advantage of online communication.

We are still overcoming a global pandemic, which has deeply affected society as a whole, and which has forced industrial sectors to adapt urgently in q record time. The printing industry has been no exception, and for machine manufacturers such as Rotatek, we have had to pay special attention to the needs of printers to ensure that their business remains sustainable, while keeping an eye on market developments.