How online printers are positioning themselves for the future in 2023

Picture source: Picture by creativeart on Freepik

2022 was a mixed year for the online print industry: the war in Ukraine, the paper crisis, price increases for energy and consumables and the increasing shortage of skilled workers caused problems for many companies. Nevertheless, good profits were achieved in some areas. What will happen in 2023? The Initiative Online Print e.V. (IOP) is optimistic about the future.

Last year there were repeated reports of insolvencies and closures in the printing industry, but the general business situation was much better than in 2021. This is also confirmed by the statements of the IOP members. What was interesting, however, was that online printers, i.e. companies that have been relying on the internet as a distribution channel for years, proved to be more resilient, as was heard at the Online Print Symposium in April. They were able to react more flexibly and quickly to market developments and thus compensate for impending losses at an early stage.

With the relief recently announced by the German government, however, expectations for the new year are now more optimistic again throughout the printing industry.

Prices for print products increased

Even the online printers could not permanently absorb the general price increases. They had to pass on the increased costs to their customers. Prices rose constantly from summer 2021 to summer 2022, but reached a plateau in autumn according to the zipcon Onlineprint Price Index (ZOPI). Nevertheless, the order situation remained stable and the Christmas business was also successful for many online printers, although often without massive increases compared to the previous year.

Focus topics of the companies

The businesses that were able to present good figures in 2022 often used the quieter pandemic period to develop further. Digital transformation is the keyword here. For example, the expansion of the portfolio, the introduction or renewal of online shops or modern ERP and MIS systems had great importance in the times when people were at home a lot and ordered online.

But the topic of sustainability was also high on the agenda of customers. More and more people find it important to buy in a CO2-neutral way or to use sustainable resources – this also applies when it comes to print products. In online print shops, the topic has gained relevance over the past year, even if there is still a lot of room for improvement.

The development of print products continues to move away from mass production, which could be seen not only with Obi and Rewe, which had announced that they would discontinue their advertising brochures. Nevertheless, according to experts, free weekly newspapers will not die out so quickly, because the discussion about this has also made advocates of the printed product visible, such as the Schwarz Group with its Lidl and Kaufland brands, which even took over its own paper mill as a countermove to Obi and Rewe. Nevertheless, high-volume advertising printed products are under pressure and are increasingly being put to the test.

A defining theme in the online print world in 2022 was once again production in edition 1 and mass customisation. High-value, individual or personalised print products are more in demand than ever, because they avoid wastage and increase the response rate.

According to Bernd Zipper, Chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V., these trends will continue in the coming year: “There is no room for stagnation in the online print industry. Only those who continue to develop, recognise and implement trends at an early stage and are not afraid of innovation can stand out from the crowd. This is and remains more important than ever. The saying ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ applies all the more in 2023!”

Exchange and sense of community

The Initiative Online Print e.V. has been demonstrating for years how important the exchange among each other and cooperations are for companies. In 2022, the IOP welcomed more new members to its ranks than ever before, and the rush remains high. This proves once again that networking, exchanging ideas, discussing the market situation together and discussing approaches to solutions or new business – also joint – paths are indispensable building blocks for online printers’ own success.

Expectations for the 2023 business year

With inflation slowly stagnating, the expectations of the online print industry for the year 2023 have also risen, and also a certain adjustment effect can be seen. For example, companies have long since adjusted to the fact that paper has to be ordered well in advance and that not every type of paper is always available. You take what you get, and customers have also come to terms with this. The price level will probably remain high in the new year, but at the same time the acceptance of higher prices on the customer side is increasing, as all areas of life are affected by the increases.

Even if the volatility of the market remains high and will continue to pose challenges for businesses, there are also constants in online print. The Online Print Symposium, for example, is casting its shadow ahead and invites you to the anniversary event on 23 and 24 March at the Science Congress Center in Munich. Many IOP members not only use the two bi-annual member conferences for networking, but also meet at the Online Print Symposium, because this is where the who’s who of the online print world meets.

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