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Eve Padula

Staying Nimble During Challenging Times

Print providers pivot to accommodate new market demands

Aug 30, 2021 12:22:28 PM


Time and time again, the printing industry has proven itself to be quite resilient when faced with challenging market conditions. Past recessions have certainly impacted the print industry—some of us are old enough to remember when the dot-com bubble burst over 20 years ago. The aptly-named Great Recession took the world by storm several years later, impacting all types of businesses on a global scale. Now, we’re more than halfway through 2021, and here we go again—dealing with an ongoing health crisis (it’s called COVID-19…maybe a few of you have heard of it?). Sarcasm aside, this pandemic has affected almost all of us. It does have its own silver lining, though; it has prompted print service providers (PSPs) to uncover new business opportunities that will carry them into a successful future.


Taking a Lesson from the Boy Scouts
As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, many printers are still working to protect themselves from the fallout. Although we’d all like to believe that something like COVID is a once-in-a-lifetime event (and will someday be a part of our history instead of our daily reality), PSPs are learning that they must be prepared for anything. It might not be an economic downturn or a global health crisis, but there’s always something to contend with. A year and a half into the pandemic, savvy PSPs are continuing to reinvent themselves as they implement new technologies, penetrate new markets, and adjust their prices so they can be well-prepared for additional shifts in market demand. They’ve come to understand that there’s no way to know what’s around the next corner, so they expect the unexpected as they prepare for the future.


The early months of the pandemic were challenging for everyone, and the printing industry was no exception. Even so, these challenges brought with them a great many opportunities. Businesses of all shapes and sizes had a sudden, urgent need for face masks, social distancing graphics, directional signage, and other printed items to keep customers and employees safe and healthy. Whether we like it or not, these pandemic-related printed products will likely remain essential for quite some time—especially now that the highly contagious delta variant has entered the scene.


Pivoting to New Applications
According to research that Keypoint Intelligence conducted during the height of the pandemic, nearly 90% of survey respondents needed to purchase printed products in response to the pandemic (e.g., for events, initiatives, communication requirements, or protocols). Although the printing industry was certainly hit hard by the pandemic, some printers were able to capitalize on the opportunity by pivoting to new applications.


Business respondents that did purchase printed products in response to the pandemic most commonly needed indoor signage, face masks, and flyers/newsletters. Hanging signs, outdoor signage, and floor graphics were also quite popular. None of these applications are surprising because businesses have an obligation to keep their employees, customers, and clients safe and healthy as the pandemic persists.


Printed Applications Purchased in Response to COVID-19


Fortunately, digital printing technology feeds right into these applications. The pandemic has actually accelerated the transition to digital because so many of today’s in-demand applications can benefit from shorter runs, quick turnaround times, and personalization. It is sometimes necessary to swap out print applications on a frequent basis, and digital print makes it possible to respond and pivot at the speed of now. This is especially important due to lingering uncertainty about the pandemic—some restrictions have been lifted, but these same restrictions might need to be re-instated or updated as businesses and the government closely monitor the COVID situation.   


What’s more, the technology is improving all the time. Advancements like white/metallic/clear ink and new, expanded substrates mean that PSPs are now limited only by their imaginations. Although some PSPs are finding that they need to pivot to accommodate the market’s changing demands, many of these new applications tend to involve the same procedures and methods that seasoned printers are already using. The opportunities and applications themselves may be new, but the digital print companies are still dealing with the same technology that is already one of their core competencies.


Our Take
Many businesses’ needs changed virtually overnight when the pandemic hit, and PSPs changed their selling strategies as a result. These same PSPs continue to pivot and re-invent themselves as needs dictate. You can do the same—it might be as simple as using your existing technologies to produce different things that meet your customers’ existing requirements.


Seek new ways to help your existing clients, because they may not be aware of everything you have to offer. With any luck, this pandemic will soon be behind us. In the meantime, it’s more important than ever for PSPs to remain flexible. The ability to stay nimble can help carry you through the rest of the pandemic—and anything else that we might encounter in the future.


For more information about the complete findings from our Vertical Visions research or other pandemic-related studies, please contact your Keypoint Intelligence account representative or send an email to sales@keypointintelligence.com.