Just because your company focuses on print doesn't mean you have to forsake all things digital. In fact, you and your business should embrace the wonderful world of technology! Web-to-print is a great way to integrate the sales of your paper products with the ease and accessibility of the internet.

What is Web to Print?
Web-to-print in the simplest terms is a self-service order entry system. This means that when companies implement a web-to-print option they have created an interface with pre-existing templates that customers can use to customize for their own business and print orders. It is a melding of the old print industry with the new digital era: allowing customers to go online and create an order without having to meet with a printer face to face.

Web-to-print does not completely eliminate the need for direct printer design skills because not all products are conducive to web-to-print. However, for easy-to-customize documents such as business forms or checks, web-to-print is a quick alternative that allows for a speedy and personalized ordering process.

Why should you use it?
While web-to-print has yet to reach full market uptake, InfoTrends forecasted investments in web-to-print to grow to $259 million in 2016, according to Output Links contributor Howie Fenton. With that kind of investment, there are obviously some key benefits to executing web-to-print solutions within your print product company.

Customization appeals to users. In a guest article for Forbes, Bain Insights noted that product customization helps brands boost overall sales.  With web-to-print technology, customers can have a direct hand in the customization of their print products.

Online sales are also highly trackable, allowing your company to monitor the spending habits of your customers and market directly to their needs. According to Modern Distribution Management, business owners can use trackable online data to improve sales and their overall relationships with clients.

As mentioned before, convenience plays a big role in the advantages of web-to-print. In a survey conducted by Greenfield Online Inc. 88 percent of participants cited convenience as their reason for shopping online as opposed to in-store. When there is an online interface available to users, it is easily accessible on tablets, phones and home computers.

When it comes to web-to-print, both customers and businesses benefit from online access.

What to watch for
Many companies invest in the creation of a web-to-print program only to neglect it after its implementation. What They Think writer Jennifer Matt has seen this process play out plenty of times and she believes three main failures are to blame: Businesses fail to lead the web-to-print installment, sales fails to sell the system and customers fail to use it.

When it comes to business leadership, Matt thinks that company owners know they should get involved with web-to-print solutions but they don't feel they have enough technical knowledge to spearhead the move themselves. The takeaway? Don't delegate the selection and application of this project to your tech department. Web-to-print is really at its core a marketing and sales move, not tech. But beyond that, it works to change your ordering process and thus the business model you created as an owner. Executive oversight is needed at every level of the transition as your new web-to-print platform needs to reflect your company's overall vision.

Perhaps the most important tip Matt relays is to get sales involved. Web-to-print can be a great tool for your business with great benefits to the improvement of customer details but it is completely useless unless your sales team sells it to your clients. Make sure your sales team is well-versed in just what makes web-to-print so great and how the customer could benefit by using this tool.

The last failure is one that tends to stem from the first two problems: a lack of customer use. Matt sees this as coming from a general lack of understanding as to who is responsible for the follow-through. In her opinion, sales should shoulder the responsibility overall because the process of adoption should begin during the sales pitch. Make sure your customers believe in the benefits and see them firsthand before they buy in, this can help cement their continued use and ensure your investment was not a complete waste.

These common failures are tied to the biggest complaints with web-to-print: A lack of real customer use is often cited. Another disadvantage can be the limited spectrum of templates that can be used in this format, however you do not want to get too advanced in the templates you allow your customers to customize because that could result in production problems down the road.

Overall, when implemented correctly, web-to-print solutions can be nothing but an asset for your company. They essentially exist as a way to make easy trackable sales with less groundwork. If you are in the business of repeatable print products, your company should definitely give web-to-print a try!