2021 was a challenging year for the print industry. Lockdowns and restrictions meant that market demand for traditional print applications declined. Other applications like label, light packaging, and wide format grew. Those businesses that were fast enough to pivot into new areas reported strong growth.
The good news is the industry is showing strong signs of economic recovery. 2022 is predicted to be a much better year. We expect there will be significant opportunities for print businesses to diversify and expand what they can offer. Those that do will play a larger role in their customers’ success and capitalise on emerging trends.
In this piece we interview Tatjana Ferguson, product marketing manager – production and industrial print to identify six major trends that printers should be aware of in 2022:
What is driving the growth in digital print?
Over the last 12-18 months we have seen a definite shift to eCommerce. Consumers are now expecting to receive goods in record times. This coupled with lengthy international shipping times is seeing local manufacturing boom and subsequently the need for on-demand printing and label production is also booming. Customers are also seeking environmentally sustainable options. Digital print is well suited to address this concern, producing fewer emissions and less waste. It also uses more sustainable materials, which can be more cost effective for customers.
What benefits does digital print deliver for eCommerce?
Digital print offers far more flexibility than non-digital methods. This means organisations can create personalised experiences with digital designs or include smart packaging with scannable QR codes and sharable links. This will be essential for organisations to leverage the potential of drone-based delivery and real-time package tracking. Furthermore, some digital label presses can now produce food-safe labels.
How does automation benefit printers?
Automating print workflows and leveraging inline finishing systems is already saving printers considerably in terms of human resources and costs. Having automated processes means fewer people are required to manage a job through to completion. Jobs can be completed faster, and errors are less likely to occur through the process. This means printers can take on more work, deliver a better result for customers, and save on costs.
Printers who automate their workflows can receive and manage orders 24/7, thus optimising the use of their equipment. They can streamline prepress work, speed up printing and finishing, print on demand, increase profitability, and offer new services, attracting new customers.
What does the future hold for automation?
The benefits of automation will result in further adoption in 2022. Adopting automated workflows provides printers with an opportunity to offer more complex services and outputs, creating more demand from customers without adding costs. This can increase margins and build the business’s reputation as a reliable, high-quality printer.
Some of the key areas that printers should be looking to automate include:
What are manufacturers doing to differentiate their products?
The tactile nature of embellishment and visual appeal of varnish and foil can help products stand out from the crowd. This is increasingly true in the post COVID-19 world where people have been starved of touch. Organisations that deliver a sensual and enjoyable feel for their products and packaging can command a higher price: Research shows when people can touch items they are 22 per cent more likely to buy them and they value them more highly by as much as 24 per cent.1
How can printers deliver value through digital embellishment?
Digital embellishment can create a spectacular and impactful packaging experience. It can also be very cost effective, especially compared with the benefits it can offer. With this technology printers can add spot UV varnishing, 3D embossed and textural effects, and foiling to traditional print. We anticipate that more printers will take advantage of this capability in 2022 and beyond as brands look to create premium experiences.
What is driving the demand for wide-format printing?
The industry is likely to see continued demand for wide-format printing from 2022 through to 2027. Research shows that Australia is leading the surge towards wide-format printing.2 This could be because of a general feeling of optimism among printers and an understanding that digital transformation is likely to be key to a strong recovery. Innovating your products and services will help attract new customers and open-up new revenue streams.
Being able to produce large-format materials like posters, wallpapers, and banners lets printers attract customers who are looking to promote their business in an impactful way. With a challenging business landscape in the wake of COVID-19, more businesses will likely be looking to stand out from the crowd.
COVID-19 itself precipitated a growth in wide-format printing with increased demand for posters, wallpapers, and banners. This growth was driven by businesses looking to attract customers with signage advertising their compliance with COVID-19 procedures. Businesses also needed to be able to clearly instruct customers where to enter, exit, and line up, and what pathways to follow.
What’s next for wide-format printing?
Wide-format printing can be more economical than other print methods such as screen printing, especially for a short-run jobs. The substrate versatility now available is incredible, with the ability to print on anything from thin vinyls through to rigid board. So, if printers offer wide-format printing as part of their product set, they’ll be ready to take advantage of these opportunities.
What’s driving the growth in digital inkjet printing?
The digital ink market is expected to generate US$4.3 billion by 2026, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1 per cent.3 The high demand from the printing industry will largely drive this growth, and is due to an increased need for lightweight, easy-to-handle, cost-effective packaging. This means it’s essential to choose ink that can print on a wide variety of substrates, such as tissue or lightweight packaging, without compromising quality or speed. You don’t want to have to invest in special digital stocks or expensive coatings; you just need a reliable inkjet printer that can deliver excellent quality on different substrates.
LED UV inkjet technology is leading the way. Using ultraviolet (UV) light via light-emitting diodes (LED) replacing traditional mercury lamp curing. This delivers key benefits including instant drying; ability to print on non-porous substances; high-resolution output; a wide colour gamut; duplex printing; precise registration accuracy; high stability; light-fastness; and different finishing options.
How can printers benefit from this trend?
The rapid growth in eCommerce will continue in 2022 and beyond, leading to continued high demand for different packaging options. Secondary packaging is emerging as a way for brands to connect strongly with customers, delivering a more robust customer experience. Being able to produce lightweight packaging such as corrugated packaging at a lower cost and faster rate will be crucial. Printing directly onto packaging, thereby bypassing the need for labels, lets manufacturers experiment with their packaging and how their brand is portrayed. This is an area that is expected to boom in the next few years.
How will digital printing affect packaging?
Digital printing will affect packaging profoundly in the next few years. There are three megatrends to look out for in 2022:
Why is packaging important?
Packaging has become an inextricable part of the customer experience. It’s not enough for the product to be useful and well designed. Now, packaging must be tactile and impactful, with the unboxing of products just as important to the customer experience as the use of the product itself. This will see more printers leverage digital label presses with embellishment capabilities to keep up with these megatrends.
What is the overall outlook for print?
Overall, digital technology is likely to take centre stage over the next few years as packaging requirements continue to evolve. Digital print technology offers the flexibility and agility required to deliver exceptional output that can be personalised or delivered for short-run projects without adding untenable costs.
Embellishment and automation will also help printers stand out from the crowd as they provide more interesting and visually appealing options with more streamlined processes. Printers who adopt automated workflows and inline finishing alongside digital presses will be well-positioned to ride the wave of growth in 2022 and beyond.