RACAD TECH – Q&A ABOUT WEB-TO-PRINT WITH RACAD’s REUBEN QUESUS, DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Printing Impressions, America’s most influential and widely-read resource for the printing industry, caught up with RACAD Tech’s Reuben Quesus, Director of Business Development, about web-to-print’s (W2P) growing importance in the industry.
RACAD Tech is an innovative leader in web-to-print solutions, based in Toronto, Canada. Focusing exclusively on the print and graphics industry since 2001, RACAD is an industry pioneer in web-to-print capabilities, with powerful, affordable print solutions, including Web to Print Cloud, and Web to Print Shop.
Here’s the full, candid interview between Quesus and Printing Impressions digital editor, Julie Greenbaum.
Greenbaum: What do you feel are the top 5 requirements printers should look for when investing in a W2P solution?
Quesus: That’s a loaded, but very important question.My five requirements would be as follows:
- Adaptability / Flexibility of the W2P System. We find that most of our customers have been burned by a previous system that was very limiting in technology. After on-boarding, our customers are always floored with the array of things the system can do; they know what it’s like to be on a system that’s very limiting and narrow in its focus.
- W2P Support responsiveness. This one is also a pain-point to many print organizations. They know the feeling of not being serviced. One of the things that drive our advancements is the open line of communication between our customers, and our willingness to add practical features for our customers at no additional cost – unless it’s unique and/or urgent.
- W2P Service options. Most W2P systems will train their customers so that they are self-sufficient in setting up the online stores, products pricing, etc. We do that as well. But we also recognize a new W2P system can be overwhelming for some to learn. Additionally, some print infrastructures are managed by a skeleton crew who are busy enough as it is. Therefore, we offer a W2P service option whereby our staff is available to use as a customer’slabour force to set up their stores, templates, pages, pricing, ecommerce, shipping, and production process, so that our customers and licensees only need to broadcast the URL, take orders, and produce them. No need for extraneous overhead in employing additional human resources!
- A willingness to integrate with 3rd party systems. Not all W2P solutions have everything you need. Some are back-office oriented, others are front-end oriented. Whoever you choose might not have all the things you need. That’s typically not an issue, as long as they’re willing to work with other 3rd party systems. This ensures that the print provider can achieve his objective somehow, in some way.
- Ask to see sample sites and/or customer sites. The proof is in the pudding. Weigh the presentations of the various W2P providers, and see how they stand up to each other in light of the unique requests that they get from their various customers, and see how those requests are addressed.
Greenbaum: Once they have chosen the W2P solution, what are some of the steps in getting that system off the ground?
Quesus: We kick off our on-boarding with an introductory call to set customer objectives, and then we map out a set up or training schedule accordingly that addresses their goals.
If set up is facilitated by training, we’ll schedule that according to their needs, so that by the end of their training, their first online store is ready to launch. If set up is facilitated by our services or labour department, then we provide a multi page document / questionnaire that our customers fill out, providing us with the necessary materials. This document and the materials they send helps us build out their online store. Delivery of the initial store is typically complete within 30 days for an average customer, with more complicated sites may take longer depending on the scope.
Greenbaum: What are some of the things that you hear keeps printers up at night with W2P?
Quesus: The most common frustrations we hear about W2P solutions is that printers invest substantial money in a system that is anything but simple. The set up ends up taking months – sometimes close to a year. The systems have a very narrow focus. The companies that support the technology are typically very inflexible when it comes to adding additional features in a timely manner, too.
Thankfully, the team here is quite incredible, and we see a lot of relief in our customer base. I’m speaking to someone now that has his own proprietary system, which has no redundant infrastructure. He relies on one single developer. His program is on a single machine – in a single location. There is no back up infrastructure, no redundant servers, no dual internet lines and power. If his developer gets hit by a bus,he has no security that his web-to-print has continuity. Too morbid?
Greenbaum: From a functionality standpoint, what are some of the things that printers want in a W2P system?
Quesus: Things like eCommerce elements, shipping integrations, label printing, and product catalogs are common features we’re asked for.
But the magic is in the details. You want to make sure that you have a system that can accommodate unique product and pricing options. Dynamic templates, fixed templates, rule based templates, custom requests, paper products, promo products, maybe even 3D products.
Print sometimes involves various groupings and permissions for various management and production levels, so that products are grouped accordingly, and that production workflows are in place for easy management.
Flexible reporting is also a major issue. We starting to see a steady rise in job routing features to various production locations, based on the delivery location and/or based on the specialization of the product. For example, we can arrange to have all products that are ordered to be delivered to the west coast can be routed to a west coast production facility (assuming you have one in your network). Or, if you have a designated location for specific products – i.e. wide format, t-shirts, or what have you – then we can route the jobs accordingly.
Greenbaum: A recent study revealed that W2P systems are becoming more robust/capable of what you can do with MIS systems. Can you discuss your thoughts on this?
Quesus: Certainly. With an MIS component, your back-office management and production is simplified, since all aspects of the back-office management is recorded,giving you optimized production and reporting. So, for every material you have inventoried and for every order that you fulfil, you should have a direct correlation of what your production expenses are compared to your revenues.
Greenbaum: A lot of printers hire programmers to create their own W2P (off-the-shelf) systems.
Can you talk about off-the-shelf vs. implementing a new W2P system from a manufacturer – are there jobs that may have unique requirements where off-the-shelf doesn’t meet those requirements?
Quesus: You raise an interesting point. There are 3 ways you can actually pursue this initiative:
- Build a proprietary system. As I mentioned above, I am speaking to someone now that has his own proprietary system. He may get his program to do exactly what he wants, but in order to support that he needs to pay a full-time salary, and he needs to invest in an infrastructure that their end customer will have confidence in. He needs to collocate his servers in a facility that can guarantee 99.99% uptime. Have backups in place. Security measures need to be updated all the time. Ensure a redundant infrastructure of multiple internet providers, multiple servers, multiple power grids. Having said that, if you do the math, you’ll find that the only companies that can afford that is the top 1-5% of the industry.
- License or buy a pre-existing software. This option makes a bit more sense. The investment of technology is spread across a broader audience that funds the development. So, contrary to having a six-figured infrastructure that supports a narrow customer base, under the manufactured model, you only need to pay a fraction of the costs since other companies are also contributing to the infrastructure – that is if the solutions are affordably priced.
Under this model, the path of customization can go as follows:
- There is the possibility that the manufacturer you select has sloppy architecture. In this case, any modifications would be a time-consuming and expensive nightmare. Unfortunately, I think most of the well-known brands fall here.
- This presents the possibility that the manufacturer may spring board off of an existing reliable platform. In this case, the manufacturer only needs to invest a narrow amount of time to achieve the end goal. That supposes that the architecture of the technology lend itself to modification – we happen to be such a company. And when we are tasked to add or modify features, we only charge for the labor of that narrow request to cover the development cost. We make our money back by having a happy customer.
- The third path towards customization is that despite the ease of creating these additional elements, you are still asked to pay a really high amount of money for the development.
- Open Source. This option is actually something that many of the big companies have not clued into yet. I think we have set the trend, and I see some companies slowly following. I expect to see more over time.
Under the open source model, you can get all the basic functions you require from the open source market. And the advantages are numerous: the source code is readily available, entry into the web is cheap, and ownership of the environment and the property stays with the printer.
The only thing they need to invest in are the elements that will make their website unique and/or geared for print. They can fill these gaps by either developing their own plug-ins that focus on the functions they need on top of the base platform. In this instance, even if you are getting 3rd party plug-ins, you are plugging them in to your own environment – therefore you own the site and all that’s in it. Or they can buy or license the plug-ins they need. This option does not have the same reliability as a manufactured software that is geared for print, simply because the open source world builds product for the masses – the majority.
Like I said, there are not many companies that do this. We are among the few that do, but I think that we will see increasing amounts of manufacturers following suit.
Greenbaum: What are some of the trends that you are seeing now with W2P?
Quesus: Practically speaking, there are tons of buzz words that come around year after year which some people try to cling on to. I see some mention of Virtual Reality elements that is becoming a buzz term people want to incorporate. But I think these are gimmicks that ultimately will have a shallow life.
The most effective and efficient advancements revolve around making the design and ordering experience simpler, easier, and more affordable. Therefore, having something that is responsive and smart phone or tablet-accessible, is essential. A lot of W2P systems are archaic and have still not graduated outside of an antiquated ASP code base, which is madness.
If I were to speak within our own circle of experts, I would have to say that the inclusion of 3D products on our platform is an up-and-coming trend. We have had the technology for some time, but our customer base is only now waking up to it. So, I think we will be seeing a lot more in the world of 3D.
Greenbaum: Can you discuss some of Racad Tech Inc.’s solutions?
Quesus: Sure. I have sprinkled a bit about what differentiates us up above. Our business and development goal is to accommodate the majority of the industry. To facilitate this, we need to architecture a platform that is thoroughly thought-out and flexible to the needs of the majority of the industry.
To that effect, we market our solutions as being Advanced (technologically), Adaptable (to meet nearly any objective) and Affordable. So, we’ve re-built and re-structured our technology to be modular, in that you can pick and choose the elements you need. Those modules can be appended to 3rd party systems,meaning we fill the gaps where you need technical assistance. This offering was re-branded as the Web to Print Shop (webtoprintshop.com), where modules can be selected with particular focus. This is also available through our proprietary Web to Print Cloud system (webtoprint.cloud), so that even start-up customers can pay nominal fees to have everything that they need within the low level entry points. This allows them to compete with bigger companies on a larger scale.
In other words, some retail local print shop that has the need to have a B2B site that does variable data, image personalization, accounting, reporting, shipping integrations, shipping label printing, admin permissions, production workflow, and more, but for a single customer, can pay an entry level fee and get all the same tools that our super trade print customers get. As they get some success under their belt, they can increase their scale of usage by building out more stores.
Greenbaum: Is there anything else that you feel readers should know about W2P?
Quesus: Your questions are quite thorough and I think we covered a lot. Perhaps we can end off saying that there are numerous W2P providers out there, and everyone claims to do everything and be everything.
Find a provider that comes recommended by someone who is happy with their services. While technology is certainly essential, you don’t need to make sure that the solution you are looking for has all the bells whistles you need. Something will come up that you will need in the future that the solution does not have. You just need to make sure that the provider you go with has the skills and openness to doing it when the time comes.
Learn more about RACAD’s proven W2P solutions by calling 844.W2.TECH, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting W2P.cloud. You can also contact Reuben directly at 905.669.9021 ext. 233, or email email@example.com.