Being aware of key trends in the signage and printing industry will help printers identify profitable solutions they can add to their businesses. But printers need to combine these elements with the awareness of the evolving role of Print Service Providers (PSP’s) in partnering with customers. This article appears in Sign Africa Journal

1. Textile Printing And Home Décor

The global printed textile market is huge, estimated at 32 billion square metres of output annually. According to Smither’s Pira’s report, the value of the worldwide décor and laminate print market in 2017 was over R205 billion and this will grow by an annual average growth rate of around 4% to 2022, when it will be worth R254 billion.

Smither’s Pira also states that with the wide use of online travel review sites, hotels are increasingly keen to deliver a fresh experience. A ‘TripAdvisor effect’ has been identified, with the claim it reduces the hotel renovation cycle from every seven years to every five years, consequently boosting the market for printed décor.

Home décor decorative applications are endless, think: wall coverings and decals, window coverings, cushion covers, canvases and much more. Home owners want something unique, and printers have the technology to do that.

Customisation also extends to T-shirt printing. An additional solution is to offer a web-to-print service, where buyers upload their own unique image to be printed onto a garment on demand.

2. Sublimated Décor

Jimmy Lamb from Sawgrass said there are many opportunities to offer sublimated products meant for turning a house into a home. ‘You can use systems to decorate baby and throw blankets, sequin pillows and faux-textured pillow cases, welcome mats, hand towels, key and jacket hangers, and many other items people will love to have in their homes – or give as gifts.’

With home décor, there is a demand for personalisation, which gives you the opportunity to set premium prices. ‘It costs little to add a name or photo to a product, but customers pay more for the value delivered,’ said Lamb.

3. Millennials

Born between 1981-1996, Millennials require customisation, are experience seekers and love having something that’s unique. They are also social media savvy and enjoy sharing positive experiences with network peers. Brands must reflect how these consumers want to be seen as individuals.

They also want to stand out and want prints done yesterday. This is fuelled by social media and having things at our fingertips. Take music as a simple example of instant gratification: now one can download a song right after hearing it on the radio. We can apply this to print. ‘The average age of print buyers has decreased, with buyers in their mid-twenties expecting results immediately, because they are getting that instant gratification in other forms of technology,’ said Ryan Miles, Managing Director, Heidelberg Graphic Systems Southern Africa. ‘The advance in technology available to printers has allowed for the meeting of these demands, as well as to cater for new trends, such as personalisation and differentiation.’

Printers are seeing the benefits of digital printing, such as speed, which allows for targeted campaigns and ‘real time’ packaging that allows products to go from design to shelf overnight. Another benefit is unique, customised packaging that stands out and gets brands noticed — key to targeting Millennials.

Digital printing is the ideal opportunity to create packaging to target modern consumers, providing the following benefits:
– Event specific: printers can capitalise on moments of social consciousness what consumers are talking about right now.
– Social responsibility and cause: an example of this is Amarula’s #NameThemSaveThem campaign, printed by SA Litho Label Printers. A special edition of 400,000 unique Amarula bottles, representing the same remaining number of the endangered African elephant, was released with labels individualised by HP Indigo digital print and HP SmartStream Mosaic variable design technology.

According to Richard Gray from Print Tribe, ‘Millennials are a huge and increasingly influential generation in economic terms. They use digital media more than older generations but still want to use print; but only as part of a multichannel communications process.’

Amarula’s #NameThemSaveThem campaign. Credit: SA Litho Label Printers.
4. Creating Multi-Channel Experiences
Multi-channel experiences encompass a whole campaign, such as a printed brochure featuring Augmented Reality or QR codes that lead consumers to the company’s website and drive them to buy the product, as well as make print fun and interactive and make brands memorable. It’s print seamlessly combined with digital channels.

According to, ‘Adding a print component to digital marketing strengthens campaigns and increases conversion, retention and sales. Then, when print and promotional marketing are seamlessly automated, marketers can transform the customer experience by engaging in a 1:1 dialogue that is memorable, tangible and high-impact.’

There is an opportunity here for printers to consult on the best way of integrating print into digital campaigns, so you need to ensure you’re up to date on the latest marketing tactics and technology available to maximise campaigns.

Interactive packaging. Image Credit: Watermark Design.

‘A multi-channel experience is expected to be the norm in the near future. The more interactive we can make a personal experience, in a way that is acknowledged professionally, the more it will suit Millennials’ needs. In order for print marketing providers to cater for this, they have to understand these needs and make use of available technology to achieve this and to stay relevant,’ said Miles.

Printers have the potential to blend print, digital, data and consulting with triggered direct mail, which puts puts customers at the centre and gets results for marketers. Based on the action a consumer takes on your website, a particular ‘trigger’ determines the type of printed message. The communication is mailed quickly, within 24 to 48 hours, while the action and motive are fresh in the consumer’s mind. As a result, the attention of a highly qualified prospect may be captured at the peak of their purchasing probability. Examples include: postcards, letters, self-mailers, catalogues, loyalty offers, manuals and service coupons. While this is a big trend overseas, the main concern South African printers will have around this is issues with our postal system.

5. Moving from Print Service Providers To Marketing Services Providers

Printers need to be proactive and show clients and brands what they can do. ‘Partner with your customers and join them on their long-term journey by finding out the problem they want to solve over time. Identify where clients can improve their product and go to them with ideas ― showcase the exciting possibilities you can create for them,’ said Tamir Hativa, Product manager at HP.

Also consider taking advantage of events like wine shows, music festivals, farmer’s markets and more. You need to know what’s happening in your area to approach event organisers with unique printing, signage and marketing ideas.

Jeanette McMurtry from e4marketing Digital Transformation has the following tips on becoming Marketing Services Providers:
– Be consultants, not order takers. You need to consult about personalisation, by going beyond the transactional value.
– Integrate digital with print for total engagement.
– Elevate your partnership with customers ― you are not providers but rather partners in consulting, ideas, intelligence and technology.
– Test the work you do for clients. When you do this, you take the ad agency out of the equation and you get more of the budget share.

The Sign Africa Expo’s are ideal for getting market and industry insight and learning how you can evolve your role as a printer. Ask exhibitors what you can print on and what new markets you can target that you haven’t thought of. What capabilities on your printer haven’t you thought of using, and are there new tools or software you could add? The next event takes place in Johannesburg from 11-13 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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