Many businesses have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. A good example of this is the printing industry with its many small, local print shops. It has not been spared by the devastating economic effects of the prolonged lockdown. Fortunately, most governments in advanced countries have provided a generous stimulus for both businesses and their employees. But this huge financial assistance cannot be expected to last. Small businesses have to prepare themselves for a prolonged period of social distancing and employee protection. Expect this to be the new normal until a vaccine is found followed by mass inoculation. According to the pandemic medical professionals, this will not happen until mid-2021.
Businesses have started to progressively recall their employees and are adapting to the Covid-19 realities. They will have many hurdles to overcome but recovering their lost revenues will be a prime consideration. This should help the depressed printing industry. In particular, printers who are dedicated to producing advertising and promotional materials. Let’s face it, budgets will be thin and there will be a battle for printers to regain their market share of the advertising mix. The fact that direct mail has a superior response rate compared to e-mail must be broadcasted and exploited to a greater degree.
A survey by Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25% of employees will be asked to continue working from home. This will positively impact the environment as fewer people will be traveling to and from the workplace. It will also enable many businesses to cut back on office space to reduce their overhead costs. Some of these stay-at-home employees may continue to make purchasing decisions for products and services. It may be necessary to find a way to establish direct communications with them.
According to the latest print industry surveys, 70% of executives reported a significant decline in revenue due to the closure of offices. These same executives project that the decline will continue to disrupt the market for some time. Some of the customers that individual printers dealt with may be required to continue working from home. Many executives are finding that the productivity of home workers is high but the distractions are many. Isolation from colleagues weighs heavily on some.
Many of them will have critical decision-making responsibilities for purchasing. Locating them and reclaiming their loyalty will be more challenging. Establishing personal interactions will be even more important than before. The post-Covid-19 trends will offer new opportunities for the print industry to capitalize on. Interactions with customers whether they are at home or in the office will continue to be essential. Some of the key factors for success are:
Compassionate Customer Service
Understand that your customers may have been hit hard by the pandemic and offer them the compassion that they deserve. After all, humans are social animals and social distancing has caused severe dislocations and stress. Business communications are sometime dispassionate and remote. Recognizing this and offering a more human touch will surely be reciprocated. Businesses that have established a culture of customer service excellence will be in a good position to regain their market share and add new customers. This will always be true and will be a rewarding cultural trait in the post-Covid era.
Touchless Work Environment
Ultimately a vaccine will be found and neutralizing antibodies for Covid-19 will become a successful treatment for those that are infected. However, there is always a possibility of a new mutation of the virus. Most progressive businesses will want to be more prepared this time. With this in mind, expect a new wave of technology that will be hands-free. This will include automatic doors, light switches, elevators that are activated via voice, and touchless temperature controls. The Internet of Things (IoT) will play an ever more prominent role in the business and home environments. The printing industry will have to invest in these innovations to safeguard their employees and customers. The providers of these cutting-edge devices will need to promote them. This offers an opportunity for the advertising and promotions segment of the printing industry.
Crises like Covid-19 offer opportunities for innovations in technologies, business processes and creative marketing. The printing industry has innovated in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Investment in automation and robotics will accelerate driven by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI). Biometrics such as face recognition and smartcard authentication will become a more prevalent trend in touchless operations. Printers with an eye to the post-Covid future will have to find the budgetary space to adapt some of these cutting-edge innovations. It is not just a question of productivity but also of safety and security.
Out Sourcing Bonanza
Freelancing has grown immensely during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many businesses find it more expedient to outsource their less critical functions to independent home workers operating in the GIG economy. This also holds true for printing demand by both small and large businesses. Marketing collateral that may have been produced in-house by smart multi-functional printers will be farmed out to external vendors. The pandemic will put an end to open office structures and centralized printing will have to be more distributed. Instead of setting up multiple print stations the option to outsource printing will be a cost-effective alternative.
The key for printers will be to seamlessly integrate their printing processes as closely as possible with their clients. Digital collaboration with print suppliers will be even more essential in the post-Covid future. Pivoting to cloud workflow services will create new opportunities. Implementing a cost-effective and scalable print infrastructure with print suppliers is a sustainable path forward for businesses of all sizes. This networked supply chain will have to be protected by tight security measures. According to Covid-19 studies by Quocirca, a majority of print executives indicated that their print management will expand.
Supporting the Changes
The pandemic has had a profound impact on small businesses. Not all have been negative. The reduction of human activity has resulted in a significant reduction in pollution and environmental deterioration. Businesses are creating new work environments that will enhance sustainability and offer other beneficial factors.
Small businesses must be committed to supporting their customers in becoming greener and more flexible. They should become passionate believers in close collaboration with their customers to ensure the most cost-effective solutions for their requirements.