Print is my Business

Why you should say hello, not goodbye, to printed communications

We are constantly being asked to focus on paper-reducing behaviour: both at work and at home. Emails often include messages asking if we need to print out the information and encourage us to act in a paper-free manner.

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We are told that when it comes to paper usage impressive results can be achieved by deliberately not placing a print order. By reducing our consumption, we can easily save resources and noticeably cut our CO₂ footprint. A well-thought-out paperless office system increases productivity and workflow efficiency. Remote and hybrid working is easier with centrally stored digital documents made accessible to everyone in-house at any time. Customer communications and contracts can be easily created, documents scanned and forwarded, and signed in a legally binding manner with e-signatures. There is no need, it is argued, for paper documentation and paper-based processes. A paperless process is the way forward.

This is only part of the story.

Being paperless and sending, receiving, and storing electronic documents creates its own CO2 footprint – in fact March 16 was Dital Cleanup Day, organized by Let's Do It World. The global initiative is aimed at raising awareness about digital pollution, encouraging individuals and companies to declutter and organize their online presence.

While printed documents and communications direct mail such as direct mail have a number of attributes that engage people, prove memorable and drive action.

These was among the topics explored during a recent debate at British parliament’s Portcullis House. Hosted by the IPIA (Independent Print Industries Association) and media and marketing forum The Debating Group, it shared a number of perspectives on how electronic and printed communications stack up. They include:

Attention retention and improved learning – Engagement is better and learning is deeper with printed information according to Richard Pepper, founder of greetings card service Funky Pigeon. This is something that has been recognised by numerous studies including  E-READ (Evolution of Reading in the Age of Digitisation). Seeing things on paper can be more memorable and help with the identification of errors. Print communications, such as paper documents and brochures, are also tactile and people value something they can both touch and see. A joint study from Temple University and the United States Postal Service concurred. It measured subjects’ heart rates, sweat, movement, and breathing while reading to determine their emotional responses. Paper documents resulted in a more substantial emotional response, and readers remembered more clearly what they read. Another piece of research, this time in Norway, tested 50 readers on their ability to recall important aspects from a 28-page short story, with 25 participants reading the story on a Kindle, and the other half reading a paperback version. The two groups performed similarly when asked to recall details but when reconstructing the plot, Kindle readers were notably worse at placing the main story events in the right order.

Sustainable approach – Consumers are often encouraged to create a paperless office and a paperless business for environmental purposes. As a result, they think digital files and document storage has no environmental impact.  Jonathan Tame, managing director of Two Sides, shared the high European recycling rates for paper. He also said pulp is grown in expanding European forests. Electronic devices on the other hand are rarely recycled and rely on extractive mining of non-renewable materials. In fact, ICT industry accounts for 5% to 9% of energy use globally creating a significant carbon footprint. The latter could rise to 14% of worldwide emissions by 2050. There is also the impact of document scanning, document management and electronic storage to consider.

Highly targeted marketing that gets results – The ability for paper-based marketing communications to generate impressive results was acknowledged by John Booth, data centre expert and founder of sustainable IT consultancy Carbon3IT. Highly customised communications see the greatest return on investment, are cost-effective and are more likely to drive action. This is something studies by Marketreach confirm with 80% of adults opening mail, 91% engaging with mail and 70% going online after reading mail. The most recent quarterly results from Jicmail are equally positive. They found 40% of website visits prompted by mail converted into online purchases.

While we do live in a digital-first world, there is still a strong sense that print is valuable, especially to Gen Z. In 2018, The New York Times noted a rise in food-based, small-run magazines that focus on printed products. In fact, most of the magazines’ founders were 20 to 30 years old - young editors seem to ignite the passion for print in their audiences. The article went on to say Gen Z is far from abandoning physical products. Another study interviewed 300 college students in four countries, and found that 92% would rather do their coursework in print, as opposed to on tablets or computers.

Another important consideration is the ability of a physical document to reach a wide and varied audience without reliance on electronic accessibility or connectivity.

Experts predict only a relatively small drop in overall print equipment sales in the next five years. According to Smithers (The Future of Global Print Equipment Markets to 2028. Introduction, Market overview – printing equipment markets, 2018–28, page 9), the global market for print equipment - worth $16.8 billion last year - shows a very small decline to $16.4 billion by 2028.

Supporting this healthy market is the relentless advance of digital printing solutions. While the installed base of analogue equipment will fall, the number of digital presses will grow overall. Smithers’ analysis of a 10-year period from 2018 shows that digital printer equipment sales are on track to move ahead of analogue by 2026. Inkjet and toner equipment sales will both increase, with inkjet accounting for the majority of the rise.

Improvements in speed and quality, plus buyers demanding more customized and shorter run commissions, are factors that will see more jobs move away from analogue. The responsive digital process also reduces manual elements and automates production steps for a more efficient and customer focused approach that helps reduce material and waste. 

So instead of saying goodbye to paper we welcome saying hello to impressive and impactful results with paper-based communications.  

The rise or fall of the paperless office will be among the many wide, and far reaching, industry shaping conversations we expect to have during drupa Düsseldorf, Germany, from 28 May to 7 June, 2024 where we will be present on stand A65 in Hall 8b.

Throughout the show we will be looking to help printing company leaders See the Potential in the Future of Print and ignite new printing possibilities by illustrating growth and business expansion opportunities that enable them to adapt to continually changing market conditions. We will be showcasing our vision of digital transformation in the print room of the future and its road to sustainable scalability with Industry5.0.

Make sure you join us at drupa to discover more!
drupa 2024 | KONICA MINOLTA

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