More and more businesses are starting to use colour printers to project a more vibrant look on the page.
At one time colour printing was something that had to be contracted out to expensive printing shops but, with recent developments in technology, it has become a viable option for many businesses. Even large print runs can be accomplished in-house, saving both time and money.
For small to medium-size enterprises (SMEs), the pressures of keeping costs down while continuing to enhance their professional image are important.
Offering far greater flexibility than in the past, in-house colour printing is giving companies the opportunity to produce their own short print runs and mail-outs cost-effectively.
Wherever you look, the world is becoming saturated with colour. Multimedia presentations, web pages, digital photography and even the latest mobile phones all make a feature of using colour. Now the same is starting to be true of the printed page.
"Psychologists have proved that adding colour to documents aids understanding and retention, so even for internal documents there is a justification for adding colour - for example, to highlight significant points or to add structure to a complex spreadsheet," said Tracey Rawling-Church, head of marketing at Kyocera Mita UK.
Mark Anderson, European business manager at Xerox, agreed that colour is becoming ever more important.
"Printing in colour helps the reader retain more information and reduce errors, and gives a more professional feel to the document and hence the image of the company sending the document," he explained.
"More and more documents are in colour, whether pages from the web, spreadsheets, word documents with coloured logos or HTML emails. Printing the document as it was originally designed is becoming important. Most users have colour screens and applications are colour, so the requirement to print is increasing."
Demand for colour printers is on the increase, offering an excellent opportunity for resellers. Graham Lowes, business product development manager at Oki Systems UK, believes there is little doubt that the in-house colour printing market is starting to take off in a big way.
"A recent IDC study shows that 66 per cent of business respondents across Europe who own or are planning to buy colour-page printers report they are being used to bring in-house print jobs that would normally be outsourced," he said.
"And 21 per cent say they are foregoing black-only printer purchases for colour-page printers.
"In addition, 55 per cent of businesses believe that colour printing will replace mono entirely in the next decade. The heaviest users of colour printers are general office, marketing, and advertising and graphics departments.
"The main uses are for presentations (90 per cent), photography (77 per cent), brochures and newsletters (73 per cent) and advertising and packaging layout (64 per cent)."
There are two key technologies that address the market for colour printing: the inkjet printer and the laser printer. Of the two, the inkjet is far more widespread, especially in the consumer and SME arena where it accounts for 96 per cent of sales.
However, at the high-end sector of the market, the colour laser printer is gaining ground fast and starting to increase penetration.
"The inkjet market is about 60 times the size of the colour laser market, with the vast majority being low-cost units for home use," said Rawling-Church.
"Colour laser market growth has so far been a little slower than the analysts predicted, almost certainly because of the initially high cost of the hardware and consumables.
"Hardware prices have fallen substantially but business users are still concerned that placing a colour device on the network will lead to indiscriminate use, creating an explosion in consumables costs."
The high cost of consumables for colour machines is the most frequent objection resellers are likely to come up against.
"Resellers should be prepared to demonstrate the total cost of ownership of the machine over its lifetime," said Rawling-Church.
"By preparing cost projections based on the customer's actual print volumes and the reseller's own list prices for consumables, the reseller will have an opportunity to create an ongoing relationship with the customer for the provision of consumables."
A big opportunity for resellers lies in the positioning of colour laser printers as departmental workhorses. In many organisations a mono machine supplements a colour printer to keep the cost of consumables down.
But truly hybrid colour machines that provide mono output at a very low cost create the opportunity to sell colour to organisations that have neither the space nor the budget for more than one machine.
Robin Edwardes, managing director at printer manufacturer Tally, said: "Currently, the typical office workgroup has a mix of mono lasers and expensive to run colour inkjets. This product mix is not cost-efficient.
"Between 2000 and 2001 the colour laser market grew by 31 per cent, while other market sectors were stagnant or in decline.
"This is because business and public sector users began to realise that, in a typical workgroup environment, the dual functionality of a colour laser that is also fast in mono is the most cost-effective solution for office printing."
Traditionally, the quality of inkjet technology has always far outweighed that of laser technology. However, this has been changing. Technological developments are making laser colour printers a far more affordable option for all.
Graham Warren, UK country manager at printing solutions provider Genicom International, believes the time is ripe to push colour laser technology in the marketplace.
"Our experience has shown that there is an increased demand as companies become aware of what laser colour printers have to offer," he explained.
"The benefits are clear, and SMEs will want to take advantage of them. Resellers should be looking to benefit and start educating those SMEs that are not yet aware of the advantages they can reap from introducing colour printing technology into their businesses."
One area in which resellers can truly add value to colour printer sales is in providing training. John Broderick, managing director of reseller Print Demon, believes that many users are failing to get the best out of their colour printers.
"The problem for many users is that they simply don't have enough experience of using colour in their documents," he said. "You only have to look at some people's efforts at designing web pages or presentations to see just how amateurish and naive the use of colour is.
"Resellers can certainly help by providing either consultancy or training in how to use colour effectively. The object is not to turn everybody into full-blown graphic designers, but simply to point them in the right direction."
Katie Palmer, colour category manager at Hewlett Packard (HP) UK, suggested that the barriers to in-house colour printing have almost disappeared, and that all resellers need to do is to push the concept harder to their customers.
"As speeds get faster and prices continue to fall over the next few years, the colour machine will become the main printer in the workplace," she maintained. "In the past, businesses have had a limited colour strategy, as only selected departments have had the need for a colour printer."
The colour page market is expanding rapidly, and there is an opportunity for resellers to pursue large roll-out projects as customers begin to standardise on colour printers, according to Palmer.
"There is a growing need for businesses to add a more personalised feel to material such as catalogues, direct mail and special offer flyers," she said.
"By bringing colour printing in-house, businesses can personalise their documents on demand, rather than sending out a standard outsourced document.
"In-house printing helps businesses to become more customer-focused. In addition, all their other marketing material, such as brochures and datasheets, can be printed in volumes which previously required the help of outside contractors."
CASE STUDY: ST MICHAEL'S ABBEY
St Michael's Abbey is a small community in Hampshire founded by Benedictine monks who arrived in Britain from France in the 1890s.
Although their lives may appear tranquil, the monks are extremely busy. As well as attending seven services each day and running the monastery and kitchen, the monks manage a popular retreat house.
They also make honey, candles and other products to sell in the Abbey shop, and publish religious cards and books.
Printing and publishing have a long and honourable tradition in the Benedictine order, which created many of the most famous illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. At St Michael's Abbey, this tradition has continued, although in a radically changed form.
Father Cuthbert, the Abbey's prior, said: "The Benedictines have long been renowned for their skill in producing high-quality printed pages. We are now benefiting from the discovery that this skill is transferable to the latest technology."
Six years ago, St Michael's Abbey began to use HP printers, supplied and installed by reseller DPI. Today, it has two networked HP colour LaserJet 8550 printers, which the monks use to produce greeting cards, scriptures, prayer sheets, newsletters, souvenirs and other documents.
Some are printed on high-quality paper to create an effect comparable to parchment, and many of the pages end up as books which are bound at the Abbey.
"When we first started to look at printing from the computer, we discovered that many printer suppliers weren't interested in our small operation. HP, however, seemed prepared to make the effort," explained Father Cuthbert.
"Since the initial contact, HP and DPI have looked after us extremely well. Every time we have identified a need, they have come up with the right solution."
Father Cuthbert said that the HP LaserJet 8550 provides the Abbey with a cost-effective print solution for all of its needs. Perhaps the most important benefit is its ability to handle a wide variety of media, including hand-made paper and high-quality card.
"The 8550 is capable of the very highest standards. Regardless of the medium, the quality of the output is always outstanding," he said.
"Whether we are printing out Gregorian chants for our services or temporary signs for visitors, we get superb results. Even HP has been surprised at some of things we've done."
The monks also value the printer's usefulness in turning out short runs and rapid proofs. According to Father Cuthbert, the HP machines have paid for themselves several times over thanks to product sales at the Abbey shop and elsewhere.
In fact, he believes the Abbey's rapidly growing reputation for quality is largely due to the capabilities of these printers. St Michael's Abbey now also produces material on behalf of several other religious establishments, including the cathedral shops of Westminster, Birmingham, Northampton and Leeds.
"The HP printers have enabled us to maintain our dedication to artistic perfection, and they complement our traditional craftsmanship beautifully," concluded Father Cuthbert.
"We are able to combine the clarity and crispness of the traditional approach with the convenience of a modern process, and we have the flexibility to produce any kind of document we like, from leaflets to books."
OKI Systems (01753) 819 819
Kyocera Mita (0118) 931 1500
Tally (0870) 873 1520
Print Demon (01748) 850 133
Genicom International (01252) 357 830
Xerox Office (0870) 241 3245
Hewlett Packard (08745) 474 747
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