by Luke Goldberg
If you have been in the imaging industry for any length of time or follow it as closely as I do, you know that on any given day a Google search will yield a vast number of articles predicting the death of printing. However, the fact that this has been true for several years now leads to the question: is print really dying?
There is no question that the office printing business is under attack from a number of forces — economic pressures, adoption of mobile devices and advancements in digital display technology top the long list of reasons why many think printing is on its last legs. Forecast projections from market research firms show declines in print and hardware placements in most segments. However, it’s worth our while to actually look at that research rather than simply glancing at headlines.
In its Worldwide Quarterly Hardcopy Peripherals Tracker, International Data Corporation (IDC) shows an overall decrease in the hardcopy peripherals market of more than 10.8 percent. However, the overall market in the fourth quarter of 2015 is still 27.58 million units. That is no small number of hardware devices. Meanwhile, high-end color laser devices continue to grow, meaning color, which has always been an enormous opportunity for the aftermarket supplies industry, continues to represent potential growth. Historically, we have managed to capture a relatively small piece of the lucrative color market; the opportunities only continue to increase for those who provide a product that competes with the OEM in quality and value.
Geographically, IDC shows positive trends as well — for example, the aforementioned hardcopy peripherals tracker shows 7.2 percent year-over-year growth in the Canadian market, while its Printing and Document Trends in CEMA, 2016 report shows that shipments in mature markets (Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada) declined only slightly in volume and increased in value as the result of a shift to higher-value categories – single-function to multifunction, monochrome to color. Once again, these numbers represent tremendous opportunities for the aftermarket supplies industry. In its “The State of the Hardcopy Industry in 2016” webinar, Actionable Intelligence noted a huge uptick in new hardware introductions in the home office/enterprise hardware market — the first half of 2016 saw twice as many new hardware introductions compared to the same time frame in the last three years.
IDC also shows a growth trend in the managed print market — more than 1.6 million units were shipped for managed print services. As I have noted in the past, MPS programs offer opportunities for the aftermarket as well. The MPS base often includes older devices, ones that frequently use aftermarket cartridges — the adage has historically been, the older the base, the higher the aftermarket share. MPS, after all, is intended to create cost savings, and aftermarket cartridges are a key component in those savings. However more and more we are seeing MPS providers needing to shift their models and offer additional services such as document management in order to respond to a demand for increasingly digital processes. Quocirca’s Managed Print Services Landscape, 2016 shows that 88 percent of organizations view MPS as an important driver for digital transformation — however, the report notes that the starting point for a digitalization strategy is still the MFP. Smart MFPs — connected, networked devices — are still placed in organizations seeking to digitize, and those devices, in addition to scan, capture and storage, are fully capable of printing — and you can be sure they will continue to do so.
Another area where it pays to read the numbers rather than merely the headlines is in those doom-and-gloom page volume forecasts. People are printing less. The paperless office is coming. Page volumes are down — to just under 3 trillion pages, where it is projected to remain flat, per IDC. Three trillion. It’s not time to compose eulogies just yet.
And let’s not forget the mobile workforce and associated mobile printing. There was a time when it seemed that the need or desire to print from tablets and smartphones was a myth perpetuated by desperate printer manufacturers. But over time, mobile print technologies have improved and the mobile workforce and their associated mobile devices have become more common, and research shows the ability to print from tablets or smartphones is in demand. A 2015 IDC study titled Mobile Device Users/Non-Users: Print, Scan, Document Management, Worldwide found that smartphone and tablet users had a greater tendency to print from their PC than non-users, that respondents expected their share of prints from smartphones and tablets to increase by nearly 10 percent in three years, and forecast double-digit growth in the mobile print market for the regions surveyed.
Is print ever going to have the same prominence it did 20 years ago? No. Print is certainly going to give way to digital for certain applications, and businesses will continue to look for ways to increase productivity by automating or, in some cases, completely replacing certain paper-based business processes with digital workflow. The paperless office is a long way off, but it may be said we are seeing a transition to the “less-paper” office. This does not mean print is dead and there are no more opportunities in the imaging supplies market. The SMB remains a great opportunity for MPS solutions, OEMs are releasing new hardware at the fastest rate in years, and that hardware is being used to produce trillions of printed pages. The opportunity is there, and it is huge if you simply look for it.
Luke Goldberg is the executive vice president Sales and Marketing for the Clover Imaging Group. He is responsible for developing worldwide market analysis, examining sales trends, expanding and analyzing emerging sales channels and opportunities for the industry. Goldberg also is responsible for Clover Imaging Group’s Latin American sales, MPS business, OEM relationships, and global marketing. With more than 25 years of experience in the imaging supplies industry, Goldberg has extensive industry knowledge and expertise in sales and marketing techniques, industry trends and developments, market analysis and sales channel development. He has been a longtime speaker at global trade shows and contributor to industry trade magazines. Contact him at Luke.Goldberg@cloverimaging.com.