What are the 'big opportunities' for the Print Industry in 2018?

Guest Blogger - Francois Martin

Starting 2018, from a professional standpoint, we are all looking at predictions and trends. We also know than half of them will not materialize or will be delayed in time. Some are gimmicks which will fail shortly. The objective is to set your company into the right directions building the future while managing the present effectively.

Reading across multiple sources and appreciating the acceleration of the technology, I see the following for 2018 and strong reasons to be optimist about printing. 


What is up, flat or down?

UP - Decoration printing. This segment encompass many applications from soft signage to textile production and wallpaper. All the segments are now addressed by digital production and the recent arrival of Mouvent TX801 is a major step forward demonstrating true innovation able to transform markets. If your clients requires textile print, look at digital before they move to another supplier. If they look for wallpaper, look at HP Latex technology and the recently announced HP Indigo 20000 designed for wallpaper.  2018 will be the year of decoration.

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UP - Packaging is the N°1 priority for brands (as major customer touchpoint and growing population able to consume) as well as for the equipment manufacturers (analogue or digital). No wonder why this segment will further grow especially the digital adoption

-       Label is the segment with the highest digital adoption, but it will further grow as new players arrive (eg. Mouvent), existing solutions are getting either cheaper or faster (eg Xeikon, HP Indigo).

-       Flexible Packaging is now ready to grow. The new revolutionary presses HP Indigo 20000 is bullet proof and the new truly innovative PackReady is shipping. This is a perfect cocktail for success if your are in flexible packaging. 

-       Folding Carton – the focus of the major players has never been that strong. Landa and Heidelberg have entered the beta sites and these first installations will fuel the growth. None of them should fail. HP Indigo 30000 closed 2017 with more than 50 units installed. So it works.

-       Corrugated Packaging. This is where the ramp-up will be the fastest. HP, Barberan, EFI, Durst, Fuji, they all have ready to install presses. Multi-pass, Single-pass, UV and water-based inks, workflow, finishing. A full range of solutions is available. Pick the one which fits your client base and your strategy. 2018 will be the year of digital corrugated packaging. 

UP - On-line printing. 2016 and 2017 were outstanding years for the big on-line players. As more and more companies create in-house high-quality marketing collateral incl. basic large format items, and as the one doing it are digital native. This is therefore more than natural having a strong growth of on-line ordering of printed stuff. Ordering print on-line is intuitive, and the quality levels are more than satisfactory. I am not talking about the prices which are very affordable.

UP - Embellishment. Driven by digital solutions from numerous players (Duplo, Konica Minolta, Scodix, etc…) the choice has never been so large. Why? The printed communication needs to be attractive and effective. Proper embellishment contributes to it. Boring basic print continues to decline. And in packaging, the new Indigo GEM is as well an amazing solution to look at carefully.

UP - On-Line Shopping. The last 2 years saw an amazing growth and more to come and the one producing boxes (and the one delivering them) must be smiling. In September 2017, the Pitney Bowes’ Parcel Shipping Index revealed that global parcel volume has grown by a phenomenal 48% over the past two years. It has increased from 44 billion parcels in 2014, to 65 billion in 2016 and the index estimates that it will continue to rise at a rate of 17-28% every year until 2021.

What will remain in 2018?

FLAT - Information overflow. This is not new, and this will continue to be nightmare for brand owners to decide on where to invest to reach out to their clients the most effective way. The good news for 2018, is that in a crowded world many voices recognize print as a tangible and relevant way to engage with prospects and clients. 

FLAT - Connected Packaging tentatives. It already started few years ago and it will further continue. The internet of products is on everyone’s agenda but the lack of standard and the remaining complexity will further keep these wonderful ideas as an idea, until someone makes it easy and simple to make any product part of the Internet Of Things (OIT)


What will decline?

DOWN - Low added value pages. As I wrote back around drupa 2012, low value pages are by definition at risk. The print market behaves according to the Darwin law. The pages having the least added value disappear as soon as an alternative comes. Newspapers went into this crisis already, boring thick catalogues did follow and user’s manuals are with the dinosaurs. More pages will follow this pattern. The future is with pages adding value into the way you consume information, or you transport goods. In French, there is a wonderful sentence to say it: « Le papier a un future, si il vous emballe, au sens propre comme au sen figuré »A translation tentative would be “Paper has a future if it communicates well raising emotion and if it packs the goods effectively and properly”.

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DOWN – "On-Line For Everything" and the only element of the marketing mix. As visionary marketing CEO are already mentioning, on-line is one channel and not THE channel for the entire communication. Unilever-Media VP Arne Kirchem: “On-line campaign, 60% Percent Viewability? I am sorry, this is too low". While on-line information exchange and shopping is effective and convenient, the consumers value what some describe as “vintage”: a nice vinyl to listen, a book to read, a magazine to browse, a nice direct mail to touch and smile at, playing simple game among friends versus reading solo on your phone. On-line is part of our individual lives but this is not a life.

Let quality prints continue to inspire designers and brand owners, so that printers and converters can enjoy beautiful pages and packages coming out of their factories.