By Richard Kearsey

We are living in an age of unparalleled potential. Many of the fantastical inventions we once used to fill science fiction movies are now a reality. Virtual environments, missions to Mars, and 3D printers are the new normal. To call it ‘digital disruption’ is an understatement, because we’re witnessing technological change on an epic scale.

It’s an exciting time, but it presents some major challenges for businesses. Almost all industries are affected by the emergence of digital markets. However, some are finding it harder than others. For instance, the printing sector is one of the biggest victims of the digital revolution. How do you survive in a virtual world when your business model is all about the physical?

Well, the answer is you innovate. It’s exactly what the biggest printing companies in the world are doing right now because they know change is not a choice. Read on to learn why digital printing and personalization are set to change the future of printing.

Staying Relevant in a Digital World

It’s a complex problem and one that seems to have no good solution. However, plenty of printing businesses are proving that a customer-centric approach is key to keeping ‘paper’ services in the spotlight. While it’s true that convenience printing is no longer an essential process – most people view content online – it doesn’t mean tangible products are irrelevant.

Printing services have just become an option, rather than a necessity. So, in order to be successful, a digital printing company must bring back the personal. They’ve got to take advantage of its direct, uncompromised nature. After all, the arrival of digital content doesn’t change the fact we are much more likely to remember printed information.

Time to Become a Service Economy

The growing popularity of managed printing services shows consumers are now more interested in experiences than products. This is good news for the industry, as it means companies can leverage existing hardware and tools to create multifaceted media interactions. The development of virtual reality content is a great example.

Today, it’s possible to combine the physical and digital worlds. With VR apps, consumers can turn regular print media into moving pictures. Transitional photographs perform a similar function by transforming single frame snaps into moving ‘gif’ like images. The printing sector is embracing change by offering content as a service, rather than a consumable product.

The Value of Personalized Services

The ability to provide custom experiences feeds into this. The Internet of Things is already creating entirely personal worlds. The more digitally connected devices you buy, the more controllable your environment becomes. Printing companies can exploit this by collecting data about customers and using it to provide unique, intimate experiences.

For example, with targeted, customer-specific profiles, it’s possible to know what customers need before they do. Replenishment processes can be automated so that products and services are delivered at just the right time. It is perks like this that elevate the printing experience and give it a way to compete with digital content.

Locking Onto Corporate Pain Points

When it comes to enterprise services, the goal should be to zero in on common pain points. Print may have a place within corporate environments, but it can also cause bottlenecks and hinder productivity. Therefore, vendors must continue to leverage digital resources and develop their products as part of workflow solutions.

If they can find a way to retain the impact of print, while minimizing its limitations, they’re sure to survive this evolution of the industry. However, it may be necessary not just to take inspiration from digital providers, but also to team up with them. Print businesses must become a trusted contributor to the enterprise digitalization journey.

Predicting the Future of the Printing Industry

So, it’s clear that print companies have many options. Digital disruption does not spell the end for paper. Rather, it must become part of something bigger. With the right vision and resources, vendors can play a valuable part in our mobile, IoT, virtual reality, custom services, ‘everything at the click of a button’ future.

The deciding factor is a willingness to change. This kind of innovation is never easy – look at the furor surrounding automation on trains and in factories – but it’s a mistake to consider it a choice. Businesses can recover from an excess of speed and ambition. However, it’s much rarer to survive a reluctance to move at all.