Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hate Shopping Around?

One of the great advantages of the Internet is that it speeds up and improves the process of shopping around for the best deals. 

In the world of retail this would often mean physically travelling from one shop to another.  The secret of most successful retailers is that they offer some products at very competitive prices and others at a much higher margin – aware that the purchaser rarely bothers checking every price and is prepared to move from shop to shop for every item.  However, as it usually the consumer who saves directly, there are many who are prepared to switch suppliers for the smallest price differentiation.

In the commercial world this would often mean contacting suppliers by phone, fax or email to request quotations.  There is usually a greater degree of loyalty with commercial procurement as a buyer is reluctant to take many risks, particularly on higher value purchases.  Very few commercial buyers get sacked for paying slightly more but they are in trouble if the product or service fails to meet expectations in terms of quality or delivery.

The same principle should apply to most of the online market as well.  All good web sites should now have full e-commerce capability – which means you can get prices with just a few clicks of a mouse without the need to submit all the information and await a call-back or emailed quotation. Then if you are happy to proceed, you should be able to place the order online and pay by the most convenient method.

Those web sites without this basic pricing and fulfilment function are becoming left behind in this new era of ever more demanding clients.  There is nothing more irritating than coming across a website that seems to offer the perfect product you are looking for, but does not supply a price or the means to purchase the product.

There are always those firms who feel this method of commerce focuses upon the lowest common denominator of price but these days, most products have become commodity items.  Admittedly, there are risks that the price could put off a potential client – but at least they “walk through the door” of the online store.  The risk of missing out by not having price functionality on a web site is a far more serious failing of letting a potential customer “pass on by”.

In the world of print there can be a multitude of variations in any single product – even the basic business card.  This is a £14bn annual market and there must be a few thousand variants of such a small printed item.  They can be printed in different ways, to one or both sides on a multitude of substrates and differing quantities.

Typical options would include the thickness of the materials – some from something not much more than a heavyweight paper through to almost rigid plastics. 

At Direct2Print the traditional cards are printed digitally or on an offset litho press depending on quantity required. And with new technology the options are increasing all the time. 

For example, magnetic business cards – are ideal for the washing machine repairman who can just affix it to the side of an appliance for that emergency call out!

This year, Direct2Print are promoting a new innovation which has given the possibility of printing very small quantities of digital business card on specially coated boards that can be sandwiched at the guillotine stage to form a business card of up to 1500gsm thick – or in layman’s terms something like five times thicker than your average card from a print or copy shop.  These particular cards are ideal for professionals like solicitors who are seeking to reflect a very prestigious company image.

However items are technically printed, online pricing should be possible for more than 90% of the multitude of specifications for the most popular print products.  Our print production website www.direct2printonline.co.uk is an example of offering a wide range of popular print products and an easy price matrix based upon specification, quantity and delivery date required.

There is a resistance to this approach to promoting a print business.  Surely it is far better to discuss specification and needs personally and then tailor a price? Some believe there are too many risks that the price causes confusion or may even be wrong and results in a loss on the transaction. 

However, the costs of running a good e-commerce web site are now lower than the cost of hiring a full time salesman.  And they do not take time off for annual leave or illness or potentially take away your client base if they ever leave!

Not every online transaction is profitable.  In fact, it is often only on the second or third order that any profit is made.  At Direct2Print we have identified many discrepancies in the original pricing model that can either be rectified or ignored if the effects are minor.   Many an unprofitable transaction slips through the net.

There is one very well-known online print operation that offers a comprehensive range of products  and if you can work out how the costing model is calculated you can make some substantial savings.  For example, finding out the quantity breaks relative to costs can result in some orders for 500 being substantially cheaper than orders for 400 items. 

Another loophole is just by the name given to the product.  If the product is described as a “flyer” the cost is a fraction of the cost of the same specification but described as a “business card”.

At Direct2Print we regard this as the “swings and roundabouts” of online document and digital printing. 
However, this has been more than compensated by those new clients obtained because they knew exactly what the cost would be for that first order and have been satisfied by their customer experience.  Our objective is customer satisfaction and the generation of repeat business.

Even the concept of Free Delivery had to be tempered because the cost of the carriage was more than the cost of the printing.  A minimum charge of £10 delivery had to be introduced after a few months of offering free delivery on all orders to compensate for the courier costs.  Free delivery is now only available on orders with a value of £50 or more. 

After trading online for more than 10 years there are now a few customers who have made more than 50 repeat transactions. This is the prime objective of our own business - to hold and grow customers! 

Nothing else affects the survival and growth of any commercial enterprise than this single most important business concept!

About Direct2Print (www.direct2print.net) – Direct2Print provides a specialist online document and digital print service from a production site strategically based in the middle of the UK near Birmingham.  It prints, binds and delivers documents for companies and public bodies of all sizes – from 6 working hours to 3 working days.  The majority of customers are within the United Kingdom. Although documents have been distributed to Europe, the United States, Brazil, China, Hong Kong and the Middle East. 
For media relations contact Chris Jepson (Managing Director) on 0800 0346 007.