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The year ahead

PrintIT Reseller invited some of the print industry’s manufacturers and analysts to share their print predictions for 2019

Shaun Wilkinson, Managing Director, UTAX (UK)
“Brexit negotiations in 2018 introduced market uncertainties, which remain unanswered for many. We continue to work amidst concerns and unknowns and consumer confidence continues to dip as we near closer to the deal deadline.

“What is certain is that documents will continue to be a necessity for every organisation – the need will not diminish. However, the way in which end users work will continue to change and efficient print methods which introduce time and cost savings will become a necessity. Software solutions and the management of documents, as well as hardware functionalities and quality will continue to grow in importance.

“Organisations will continue to want to cut costs, introduce digital automations and track usage and as MPS is already commonly known and implemented for most organisations, consumers will no doubt be looking for the next step. UTAX Fleet Services (U.FS) presents this next step for UTAX Partners and is a key market differentiator; adding value to their managed print service offering. U.FS will also ensure hat partners have the ability to perform key maintenance tasks and remotely troubleshoot issues on UTAX devices as well as perform firmware upgrades and setting adjustments. This remote solution will optimise dealers’ service processes and present savings on service costs while providing proactive support for end-users.

“With the implementation of the GDPR earlier in 2018, solutions that help end-users introduce security processes and encompass digitisation will continue to prove popular. Solutions that allow the end-user to manage their fleet and report on print usage and accountability will also entice customers.

“At UTAX, we will continue to encourage our partners to offer an all en-compassing solution. The combination of our devices and software provides partners with the ideal opportunity to maintain, upgrade and sell to their client base solutions that can make visible differences to business processes. “My final prediction for 2019 is that there will be increasing opportunities for vendors that can expand their vertical market expertise and meet the ever-changing consumer demands for automation. Traditional channel partners must be willing to enhance the customer experience and step outside their comfort zone to capitalise on these opportunities.”

Cameron Smith, Head of Sales – ICT and Content Services, Kyocera Document Solutions UK
“For me, the future of the IT industry is all about the consolidation of suppliers. Increasingly businesses are going through transformation and are driving towards greater efficiencies and effectiveness in their business.

“One area of focus for 2019 will be the ratification of where they do business. They are going to be moving away from the traditional multi-supply channels and instead will look to a small number of key business partners to work closely with them and provide true value to the business.

“Suppliers who only supply one service or product will need to diversify or become very specialist. If they do neither, then they are in for a very hard future.”

Tatsuo Murakami, Managing Director, RISO UK
“Without a doubt, agility will be the key to success for the print and IT sectors throughout 2019. Why? Because for the UK as a whole, it will be an interesting year, with Brexit and politics dominating the headlines and having an effect on business and personal spending habits.

“People will always need print, but there may not necessarily be the big budgets and margins will be further squeezed.

“More will need to be done with less and those involved in the print sector will have to think how they can deliver quickly and effectively, at a price that offers profits.

“People say times are tough and the industry is facing pressures – it’s been like this for a number of years now, it’s the new norm. But this is where flexibility and agility come in. We’ve already seen it happening through 2018 – in print for example, people are looking at jobs and asking whether they necessarily need to be delivered though large-format devices that present glossy finishes.

“The question is – can things be done differently? The answer is, of course, yes. There is always room for certain types of litho and larger digital devices, but the smaller print devices are offering more flexibility.

“We’ve seen production print facilities maintain their large devices but add RISO cut-sheet inkjet printers to their fleet. These offer the flexibility to do reprints but also the option to handle their own work, creating new revenue opportunities for forward-thinking businesses.

“Manufacturers have to be able to deliver devices that offer flexibility and opportunity, and that’s why we at RISO, for example, invest so heavily in research and development. It’s why our cut-sheet inkjet printers offer low cost colour printing. They offer unbeatable speed and reliability – and flexibility. They are small in footprint too and don’t require huge capital investment.

“These factors are crucial for businesses who need to maintain margins and retain customers through 2019 and beyond. So, 2019 is the year when people will do things differently. They will be agile. They will be flexible. And we can help them be successful.”

Michele Mabilia, Head of Product Marketing, Kyocera Document Solutions UK
“In 2019, expect to see further consolidation in both the print and IT channel with a significant increase in both acquisitions and partnerships. With print technology becoming mature, it leaves little room for technology-based differentiation. As a result, the companies that will thrive next year are very aware that the core value is in their existing customer base and ability to identify critical customer pain points.

“In fact more than ever before the focus will shift in 2019 to maximising customer lifetime value; as a company, we are leading the way in diversifying our portfolio in order to provide partners and customers with a comprehensive solution. Our aim is to offer channel partners the opportunity to enter new profitable routes to market in growing fields with high margin potential such as ICT, managed services and content services.

“With increased competition and margin pressure, companies will be under pressure to minimise costs and maximise profitability. Mobility, BYOD and ‘office of the future’ concepts will become more relevant than ever, creating opportunities for companies who are capable of combining on-premise solutions with cloud, virtualisation and remote working. “Security will continue to be a hot topic in 2019, with firms still finding their feet after the introduction of the new GDPR regulation. Protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information whilst reducing the risk of unauthorised information disclosure, modification, and destruction has become a key focus for organisations.”

Rob Brown, Head of Graphic Arts and Industry Print, OKI Europe (UK & Ireland)
“As we look ahead into 2019, I expect to see speciality and graphic arts-based printing driving continued growth in two key areas. The first is direct mail, which has seen a resurgence. Go back 20 years or so, and against a backdrop of negative headlines about junk mail, the marketing industry started to move to e-marketing. That move is now being reversed as marketers are realising that direct mail can still be a potent tool. The US-headquartered Data & Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2017 report found direct mail response rates rank more highly than digital channels. At 5.1 per cent for house lists and 2.9 per cent for prospect lists, mail response rates consistently outdid the two per cent response rate of all digital channels combined.

“Moving into 2019, there is no reason to expect this recent resurgence in direct mail to stall but its continued success will be dependent on how effectively marketers leverage the materials at their disposal and how smart they are in the way they use print.

“We expect businesses to increasingly move from plain white to quality coloured envelopes, with the recipient’s name printed in typed font. Using high-definition digital colour technology with a white toner combination will significantly increase the chances of businesses getting their mail opened. White toner can also add impact to the content of the envelopes by increasing the marketing power of print used in combination with everything from standard paper sheets to assorted waterproof and tear-proof materials.

“The other key area of the market we anticipate driving growth during 2019 and beyond is personalisation. High quality print can add value to a wide range of personalised products – from chocolate tins, to t-shirts and bags. The requirement here is typically for short-run printing of course – generally one or two items, rarely more than ten or twenty. That is the nature of personalisation. But such is the interest in it and the rate of growth that it is helping to provide a raft of new opportunities for the printing sector to offset volume declines they may be seeing in traditional printing markets.

“That’s where we see a need for high street print houses; large commercial printers and graphic arts, or speciality marketing businesses, to start investing in the technology that drives personalised printing of this kind. Diversifying and offering something new to their customers should allow them to offset that decline. While there will be costs involved, printing businesses will have the opportunity to charge more for the differentiated service offering and drive incremental revenue streams, both from winning new customers but also selling more to existing ones.

“Whatever the specific approach, however, the broad market trend, personalised product offerings looks set to gather pace in 2019. Businesses will need to move fast to take advantage of it and build differentiated solutions. In doing that, the printing capability they have at their disposal will be absolutely key.”

Carlo Longhi, Director and General Manager, Indirect Channels UK and Ireland, Xerox
“Continuing the trend of 2018, we will see the industry steadily increase its transition from physical to digital. This goes beyond the box (hardware) as more and more SMB customers will continue to look for trusted partners who can help and support them on their digital transformation journey. Traditional print centric partners will be challenged by IT centric resellers who are expected to increasingly lead relationships/influence with their customers in the print arena moving forward.

“As part of this, we will continue to see a rise in mobile employees, which was circa 38 per cent in 2017. We anticipate it to account for over half the workforce by 2025, with more than half of end-users expecting mobile print volumes to increase.

“Along with mobility, security and cloud will continue to be the top priorities for companies in the next six to seven years (source: Quocirca Print2025). Print security will be a key consideration and already today 30 per cent of customers rate this as very important. This will rise to over 50 per cent. Security expertise will therefore be a key supplier selection criteria.

“MPS demand will stay strong. As the market moves to digital transformation, it will become increasingly software and services led. Many MPS providers have skills and expertise in this area and so will be ideally placed to service future customer requirements, for example, many MPS providers have access to tools and resources to help customers identify security threats and implement solutions to effectively manage these.

“We are also expecting the market to continue to consolidate – we have seen a lot of acquisition activity and we don’t see that changing in 2019. This will bring both its own strengths and challenges. Benefts of partner organisations merging include the breadth of capability and the option of having potentially one trusted advisor. On the other hand, challenges could include a loss of choice or erosion of local relationships and flexibility.”

Jason Cort, Director of Product Planning and Marketing, Sharp Europe
1 Creating new value through targeted innovation “In 2019, OEMs will build upon and refine the intelligent, connected technologies that have started to permeate the print and IT industries. AI and IoT have become popular buzzwords of late, but as these technologies become more commonplace, organisations need to differentiate themselves by offering products that add real value for customers.

“To do this vendors and channel organisations will need to think more about the end-user experience. This is certainly something we are focused on at Sharp, looking beyond the technology to consider how new features and functionality are designed to have the most impact on the overall customer experience. This helps to create more targeted innovation that delivers the experiences customers need, want and value.

2 Further market consolidation “The print industry is getting smaller; while this doesn’t mean that people will stop printing overnight, there is now more urgency for print focused organisations to diversify. Next year we will see an increase in the number of businesses looking to move beyond their traditional target markets.

“This could be achieved through partnerships with companies offering complementary software and service solutions. However, it is likely we will see further consolidation of the market as a result – another print OEM may change hands for example.

3 Accelerated diversification “It is becoming more challenging to be truly innovative in print. For some time Sharp has been encouraging its channel partners to put the MFP at the heart of a range of integrated solutions that support collaborative working.

“Collaboration will continue to be a key trend for businesses in 2019, so there will be an acceleration in the uptake of products such as interactive whiteboards, digital signage and video conferencing throughout the print channel.

“However, it is also important to remember that the print industry is built around a specific business model, one that relies on a hardware installed base, multi-year business contracts and consumables. Because of this, we will see more manufacturers exploring new areas of innovation that work for the way the print channel is structured.

4 A more IT centric approach “Underpinning these developments will be a shift toward a more IT centric mindset and approach. Customers increasingly want to buy products from IT capable vendors; this is a trend that businesses will have to respond to in 2019 in order to stay competitive.

“We are doing this through the continued expansion of our IT managed services and have also been looking outside of existing business streams for new opportunities, for example Sharp has just completed its acquisition of Toshiba’s personal-computer business.

“This new mind-set will drive more OEMs to move from the office equipment channel to the IT channel, in order to provide the products and services that businesses expect in today’s digital era.”

Phil Jones,MBE, Managing Director, Brother UK
“2018 has witnessed more high profile high street and channel names disappear, leaving a vacuum for others to fill whilst continuing their own transformation. In the IT space, consolidation continues and we may see international M&A activity ramp up.

“Margin pressures continue as many areas of the IT industry commoditise. The runway is becoming very short for some independent resellers who haven’t protected their customer base under contract or transitioned to a more service(s) based business model.

“We’ll continue to see a decline in the traditional transactional reseller population whist ‘born in the cloud’* resellers emerge as the new contenders for customer wallet spend. These businesses are already enjoying revenues under contract in excess of 50 per cent of total sales, which makes them very resilient.

“Public sector organisations are on a sustainability drive with more and more emphasis being placed on suppliers’ environmental credentials and greater weighting being given in tender scoring. The ability to demonstrate capability using standards such as ISO are moving on tenders from preferred to mandatory requirements which will see many channel players rushing for accreditation.

“The RACE (Reliability, Availability, Convenience, Expectation) for customers buying online continues with rapidly changing expectations for immediacy. One hour deliveries in major conurbations for high volume items are becoming the norm. Short demand logistics capability, delivery windows and real-time stock information will be key for those wanting to stay relevant online.

“Security remains high on the agenda across the board, in particular, cyber security and protection of intellectual property. Resultantly, as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, all smart devices will continue to come under the spotlight as hackers continue to look for the weakest link in a network

the role robots will play in our lives, RPA (robot process automation) is emerging as the key technology for businesses to adopt first, contributing to productivity. It’s an easy win to take a repeatable process and digitally automate it. The capability of machine learning (AI) is growing in specialist sectors like healthcare or for specialist requirements like customer support.

“The UK IT industry has an ageing workforce and a need for a new generation of skilled workers to come through. More apprenticeship and graduate schemes are needed to fill the gap with young talent also keen to join the right employer. Employer brand is key to unlocking this, with parents being a key part of the research and selection process.

“And finally, there is Brexit. Will this be the millennium bug 2.0? A lot of scare with little consequence or a genuine shift in the economic fortunes of the country? Time will tell. In the short-term, supply chain predictability in Q2/Q3 will be critical and in the event of a ‘no deal’ the ability to get goods coming into the country quickly will be key to supply chain integrity.”
*Born in the cloud – Credit Context.

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