Now or Never: Office print opportunities in 2021

To emerge stronger in 2021, print industry players must adopt a future forward mindset to address the rapidly evolving cloud and hybrid workplace era – or risk being left behind.

The office print industry has been plunged into a perfect storm. COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation and speeded the shift to the “less-paper office”, which means that standing still is no longer an option for industry players.

With every crisis comes opportunity, and while the office print industry has undoubtedly taken a severe hit during the pandemic, 2021 will be the year when industry players will be forced to capitalise on opportunities beyond printing.

Focusing on core business areas in a bid to keep the lights on will hinder success in the long term. As they navigate the crisis, manufacturers and their channel partners will gain advantage by changing organisational structures and operating models.

The industry acknowledges the need for such change. Quocirca’s last COVID-19 Study found that two thirds of industry players believe that the pandemic presents an opportunity for innovation and 56% said it will lead to a change in their operating models.

The industry is at a crossroads where those who take the path to reinvention and take advantage of the following trends will emerge stronger beyond 2021.

This is the first in a series of 5 trends for 2021 that Quocirca believes will create opportunities for the print industry.

#1. The beginning of the end for traditional channel partners

The office print channel is ripe for disruption, due to rapidly evolving customer demand, new digital technologies along with margin pressures, new business models and economic uncertainty. 2021 will undoubtedly see further channel consolidation, and the demise of the traditional channel partner.

The traditional reseller model based on transactional sales or a basic service contract is built on a legacy view and unsuited for future growth. Such approaches are financially unsustainable and today, in a flat to declining market, traditional channel partners are under pressure to find new revenue streams and adapt business models amidst eroding margins and hardware commoditisation. Those that fail to adapt will either go out of business or be acquired.

Meanwhile some manufacturers are on a path to win the relationship with the end customer. Today’s smart MFPs are highly sophisticated, with embedded software, sensor technology and cloud connectivity. This enables MFP manufacturers to deliver predictive maintenance, proactive support and automated supplies replenishment direct to the customer.

To fight back, the channel must exploit the deep customer knowledge it has built which is supported by a wealth of data. By understanding where customers are on their journey the channel can develop broader customer-centric services and drive business value beyond the commodity of print.

Fortunately, the channel is resilient and willing to adapt. Quocirca’s most recent COVID-19 Business Impact Survey showed that 65% of channel partners see the pandemic as an opportunity for innovation and 55% expect to change their operating model.

The channel partner that can press reset to reinvent their business – adopting an entrepreneurial mindset and looking for areas where it can not only innovate its own business but also its customers’ business – will succeed in the race to relevance.

Take action:

  • Accelerate the shift to trusted partner. Quocirca’s Print 2025 study revealed that traditional manufacturers and their partners were losing influence in favour of those with IT-centric expertise. As such, channel vendors must consider potential new partnerships and collaborations particularly around cloud and security as these issues become ever more critical to purchasing decisions.
  • Develop a diverse set of revenue streams. Leverage traditional print relationships (basic MPS, break-fix) to build new services such as managed IT. Think beyond the initial product or MPS sale and consider how to build an ongoing solution for customers that delivers on business outcomes on a recurring basis.
  • Enhance/modernise the customer experience. Reposition offerings to increase customer flexibility. Focus on communicating messages and values that resonate with customers – such as flexibility through subscription pricing models, lowering environmental impact and reducing risk.
  • Partner and collaborate. Serving customers through a standardised set of hardware, services and software is embedded in the channel DNA. However, partners need to evaluate collaborating with other partners to deliver a broader ecosystem of solutions – whether its IT services, audio visual/communications services or managed security. This requires a change in go-to-market strategy and also for print manufacturers to facilitate integration where they have offerings in this space.
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