According to recent surveys, many types of print shops don’t yet offer online ordering. If your customers don’t explicitly ask your shop to offer online ordering, it’s natural to focus your attention on more immediate priorities. But continuously postponing the adoption of a web-to-print system could prove to be short-sighted. As people grow accustomed to ordering everything from clothing and furniture to groceries and household services online, they will expect to be able to purchase many business products and services online too.

Continuing advances in e-commerce platforms for retailers have created similar technology breakthroughs for selling business products online. Web-to-print software developers have adopted some of these advances in B2B e-commerce.

Here are four simple truths about modern web-to-print systems you might not have considered:

You can provide better service to existing customers while boosting repeated business. According to a survey of companies that operate B2B e-commerce sites, 33% said more than 75% of their online business comes from existing customers. Many customers like being able to place an order any time they choose. Some prefer not to deal with a sales rep to place an order for a relatively simply job.

For example, if your print shop has worked with a company to design and build a customized modular trade-show booth, a web-to-print storefront could make it easy for that customer to order updated, replacement graphics for their custom-build booth.  At the same time, they could order whatever updated marketing collateral, signs, or promotional they may need for a specific trade show.

When web-to-print systems make it easy for clients to re-order everyday printed products, your sales and customer-service teams can focus on winning and managing more complex, higher-margin jobs.  

Online ordering can be a natural extension of your print estimating and order management system. In the early days of e-commerce, the first web-to-print systems were developed independently of the print-management information systems that enabled printing firms to quote and process a higher volume of shorter-run jobs.  When print shops tried to integrate their first web-to-print system with their legacy print management information systems, unexpected problems cropped up. Some integrations resulted in lost data and extra headaches for the print shop customer-service team.

Ordant’s web-to-print storefronts provide end-to-end solutions from online ordering to shipment tracking. The storefronts integrate seamlessly with Ordant’s easy-to-use system for creating estimates and purchase orders, tracking job status, printing shipping labels, and sending invoices. The same online estimating system your salesperson uses to provide quotes during client visits can also generate prices for customers who prefer ordering products online.

With Ordant software, you can build a B2B storefront that provides contracted or custom pricing to selected customers. And if customers want options for processing payments online, we can help with that too.

Because Ordant’s order-management system is integrated with software from UPS and Fed/Ex, your shop can accurately calculate the package size, weight,and shipping costs of orders from your web-to-print storefront. When the online order is ready to ship, click one button and Ordant software will print the shipping label. Your customer can track the delivery of the order after it leaves your shop.

You don’t have to choose between an off-the-shelf system and a build-it-yourself solution. The first web-to-print systems were built for specific types of printing businesses, such as commercial printing, sign making, promotional products, screen printing, or wide-format graphics. As print companies started to diversify, some developed proprietary programs for the specific requirements of their own operation.

Today, many print shops are equipped to produce everything from business cards and marketing collateral to vehicle wraps and trade-show booth backdrops. Ordant’s web-to-print system can easily be customized to sell whatever mix of printed products you offer.

Setting it up and maintaining it can be easier than you think. It’s true that building and maintaining a web-to-print storefront is an ongoing process. The types of products you sell online will change, along with the pricing.

But you don’t have to offer a huge selection of products immediately. Start with a few standard products that will enable your existing customers to place re-orders as needed. Add more products and features as employees become more comfortable operating a basic online storefront.

After you build a few storefronts for existing customers, consider expanding your business by opening a storefront to attract customers with whom you don’t already have good working relationships. This requires a few additional considerations that we will discuss in a future post. To see how easy it can be to open web-to-print storefronts that fully integrate with an easy-to-customize estimating and order management system, schedule a demonstration on www.ordant.com