Production Print Trends: A Look at 2021

Projecting wider industry movements in a time of increased acceleration

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12/03/2020

Colin McMahon

 

Around the start of every year, Keypoint Intelligence’s subject matter experts release a series of roadmaps that outline the trends we expect to see in the coming months. These trends are broken out by subject, such as wide format and textiles. That said, many larger trends can be seen across industry segment lines. In a recent premium webinar, our Production Group Directors (along with CS&PO Randy Dazo) discussed such movements that are impacting the print industry and how these initiatives will continue developing or fade away as we enter 2021 and, eventually, a world free from the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are just a couple highlights from their presentation. Those currently interested in seeing the full webinar may click here.

 

2021: A Year of Strategy

While every year has its unexpected developments, many would agree that 2020 went above and beyond in terms of unpredictability. The COVID-19 pandemic shocked the world with its rapid arrival, spilling out from China and halting normalcy across the globe. As a result, businesses scrambled to react—many making difficult choices just to remain in business.

 

Eight long months later, the surviving organizations now have more of a handle on COVID and its conditions. Living and doing business remotely have become the norm and, as such, serious planning can resume. While it is very likely that 2021 will see the distribution and mass utilization of a vaccine against COVID-19, we caution against planning for this—mainly because the exact timing is still very uncertain. Yes, workable vaccines exist now, but it could be months before they see approval; even then, more months could be required to mass produce and distribute.

 

The end of social distancing requires a vaccine yes, but it also requires a public trust in said product, as well as dramatic drops in new cases. Until then, companies would be wise to embrace social distancing—or, more accurately, flexible workflow—as a new reality. Remote working will not end with COVID-19 in part because, for many, it has proven successful and practical.

 

With that in mind, we predict that print industry leaders will be those companies that invest fully and comprehensively in remote workflow and flexible working solutions. Successful decentralization requires prioritizing automation capabilities and it requires investment and training in cybersecurity to make sure that this new, more online workflow is fully secure.

 

e-Commerce: The Future of Business is Digital

Workflow is not the only aspect shifting to digital. Before COVID-19, the basic sales model was face-to-face interactions. While these will never likely fully die out, the pandemic has made it so many companies devoted efforts toward improving their online portals for e-commerce. At recent virtual trade shows, like Printing United, we heard that many vendors and service providers expect this to be the new normal. A fully optimized e-commerce platform with cohesive structure between front-end and back-end operations means a business platform where nearly all orders can be received, processed, and fulfilled with far fewer human touchpoints. This means fewer mistakes and less time wasted on deciphering orders that may not have been fully or properly completed.

 

Online portals must be fast, secure, and reliable to win over customer confidence. However, with the right investments, having a fully functional online portal for e-commerce will increase revenue and help drive profitability in 2021 and beyond. The days of face-to-face selling are not over but, as one service provider said, they will now be the exception and not the rule.

 

As it has been said many times now, COVID-19 can be seen as a great accelerator, pushing companies forward at break-neck speeds to adapt or cease operations. Now, in 2021, we will start to see the more fully realized changes brought on by the pandemic.

 

We encourage all our subscribers to check out our full roadmap series for complete breakouts of specific trends and their most immediate consequences. Not a subscriber? No problem. Just send us an email at sales@keypointintelligence.com for more info.