Interview: ‘Web-to-print has not reached its full potential yet’
Unitedprint SE is an international, innovation-driven ecommerce company in the printing, media and advertising industries. As one of the first and leading internet printers in Europe, Unitedprint operates the well-known web-to-print portals print24 and Easyprint as well as the partner shop programme Unitedprint Shop Services.
Since July 1, 2019 Fabian Frenzel has been the new member of the Management Board of Unitedprint responsible for Innovation/Marketing. In an interview he gives an exclusive insight into Unitedprint’s strategy and an outlook on the future of web-to-print.
“Everything that is quite normal today was somehow unusual – which was not so long ago in the case of web-to-print either. And much of what is unusual today will eventually be quite normal. This is due to the nature of disruptive changes by smart companies, like we are at Unitedprint,” he says.
Can you tell us more about your future responsibilities in your new position on Unitedprint’s board of directors and what your mission is?
In the coming years, the main focus will be on accompanying our transformation from a hybrid group consisting of web-to-print with its own production facilities to a smart, data-intelligent ecommerce company that is consistently committed to the platform strategy. It is therefore a matter of breaking down complex, traditionally vertical business processes in order to be able to carry them out more efficiently as a result through the interaction of different, networked participants. This brings with it not only new marketing and sales processes, but above all new procurement processes, which is of course a challenge for our entire company.
So far, Unitedprint has been known as a company that produces for its own customers. Will this change in the future?
Yes, something very fundamental is changing with us. We are currently implementing the step-by-step outsourcing of our entire in-house production. We are increasingly covering our analogue production – i.e. everything relating to offset printing – via qualified national and international production partners. We are using new online-based, technology-supported resources with decisive advantages over conventional structures.
With the help of this system, operational processes – which expressly includes manufacturing processes – can be presented in a decentralised, scalable and internationally process-optimised way. Among other things, this gives us a maximum degree of flexibility and accelerates delivery times because we are much closer to our customers. ‘Think global. Print local.’ This is a slogan that we have been practising very successfully at various levels for several years now and continue to perfect consistently.
Your customers value print24 – Unitedprint’s flagship portal – because of its high product quality and delivery reliability. Can your production partnerships meet these requirements of industrial production?
Throughout Europe, there are thousands of small, medium and large printers with great expertise in delivering high quality products with very high performance and absolute reliability. We have all experienced in recent years that many of these printers are still experiencing difficult times because they simply lack sufficient capacity for highly qualified employees and their mostly first-class technical equipment.
With us, printing companies gain an additional, significant source of revenue without having to incur additional marketing and sales costs. At Unitedprint, we will focus more than ever on innovative, professional e-commerce in the future, so customer orders and our production partners have the necessary power to produce these orders optimally in large numbers.
Of course, we moderate the fully automated processes and ensure the necessary standards, from which our production partners also benefit massively beyond our orders through an optimised organisation, lean processes and, last but not least, significantly improved material purchasing conditions.
Understood. So platform economy in procurement.
And in sales! We have been offering our Unitedprint Shop Services (USS) partner shop programme at Unitedprint since 2016. We now have several hundred independent partners throughout Europe who operate their own web-to-print shop.
These partners use our free web-to-print power including the complete IT infrastructure to build an independent web-to-print business with their local and regional target groups. This works really well and is, so to speak, the sales counterpart to our procurement platform.
About Unitedprint Shop Services
Unitedprint Shop Services (USS) offers complete ecommerce web-to-print shop solutions for printing and media. Independent shop partners with and without their own production have more than half a billion product combinations with their own web-to-print shop and sell in 22 countries.
With Unitedprint, they benefit from the experience and efficiency of one of the most successful Internet printing companies in Europe. With a broad and constantly growing range of products and services, low prices, fast delivery times, high product quality and personal service, USS shop operators enable direct market access to global sales volumes of € 100 billion without having to make their own investments – simple, free of charge, plug&play.
More information is available at www.unitedprintshopservices.com
In particular, my colleague Ali Jason Bazooband, managing director of all our international sales companies, plays a crucial role here. He is responsible for the sales of our brand shops print24, Easyprint and our special portal for advertising technology DDK PRINT BIG as well as all our USS partner shops. We therefore see ourselves as an open network that no longer feeds into our own production, but above all allows third parties, such as trading partners and producers.
All this has a lot to do with data intelligence and network competence and, for more than ten years at least, has much to do with a very long and very successful experience as an international online printer. As a completely debt-free company with a magnificent capital base that is second to none, we are very proud to be able to stand up to national and international listed and capital market-financed corporations.
So personal local and regional presence is still, or rather again, in demand in the online age?
Correct! With this concept of enabling geographical proximity with personal advice, our USS partners do not just act as contact partners in large conurbations. Many of our partners are active in their personal networks – where there has been little contact with web-to-print so far. In the past two years, we have also invested particularly in this customer proximity for our print24 brand. We now have our own local sales teams in each of our 22 European target countries, who personally look after our customers’ interests and develop new customer relationships.
What are the big topics in the area of marketing?
Of course, it is still primarily a matter of the core task to achieve the highest customer satisfaction and to guarantee it permanently. We work almost obsessively to provide our customers with the perfect mix of variety, product quality, delivery speed, service and best price. This means that support, promotion and sales are even more central to all our efforts than they have been in the past. One concrete task will be to provide our existing customers with even more individual and tailor-made support.
This means, on one hand, a targeted customer communication based on the requirements and needs of our respective customers and, on the other hand, a targeted and effective intermeshing of all communication channels. In the future, our customers will be approached exactly by the content and channels that suit them best. This means great efforts in using contemporary data intelligence and, of course, improving our web presence.
Does that mean print24 gets a new face?
Not only print24, but also Easyprint – our portal especially for smaller companies and families, who can easily design a variety of products online with great new design templates and our completely new FreeDesign tool. Here, too, we are taking a completely new approach and integrating our self-developed Kl-based chatbot for our automated customer communication.
That sounds very exciting and your mission is ambitious.
Everyone has realised that the Internet has fundamentally changed our lives in a very short time. And every company must be aware that the further dynamics of digitisation will turn the basic concept of the previous corporate strategy upside down.
The reason web-to-print is so successful is not because online printers operate as many large presses as possible. These are available in abundance all over the world. The actual value of web-to-ress is based on a simple idea – namely an easy-to-use online platform that reliably meets the requirements of customers.
Unitedprint is an internationally operating ecommerce company in the print and media sector with German roots. As one of the leading online printing companies in Europe, Unitedprint is active in 22 countries. More than 1 million customers use its offers and choose from more than half a billion product combinations and services – such as Europe-wide delivery within 24 hours.
In its recent history, Unitedprint has already turned over more than €1bn . The company is consistently committed to the platform concept and opens up to partnering both in production and in sales.
“With web-to-print, as a ‘first mover’, we combine physical commerce with digital change. Ecommerce processes, IT and data management are increasingly our company’s biggest capital. And best of all, everything is still in its infancy.” says Wolfgang Lerchl, founder, sole owner and chairman of the supervisory board.
More information can be found at www.unitedprint.info
Allaoui Graphic Machinery was responsible for the professional, smooth and reliable purchase of all offset printing machines including all technical equipment from Unitedprint.com’s analogue pre- and postpress area. The internationally operating machine specialist of the graphic industry from Aachen has access to a global network in more than 70 countries and, thanks to years of experience and proven expertise in this field, was able to implement such a major project to the highest satisfaction of all absolutely fairly and reliably.
The team around Ammar Allaoui is able to market machines to suitable customers with competence and reliability. “Not everyone can handle such a large package. And it’s not enough if you only have the financial creditworthiness. You have to have the experience to market the machines in a targeted manner and to handle the entire process in a sensitive, planned and structured manner,” says Ammar Allaoui.
René Winkler, member of the management board for IT/production/logistics at Unitedprint: “With Allaoui Graphic Machinery, we had an extremely competent, cooperative and reliable partner at our side for this project at all times who fully met our requirements.
You can find more information at www.allaoui.de/en
For more information on Unitedprint offers for production and distribution partners visit: www.unitedprint.info/en