I was deeply impressed three years ago when I had the opportunity to stroll the production floor at VistaPrint’s plant in Windsor, Ontario. Their reported growth rates back then were phenomenal, and the efficiency of their business model was so brilliantly simple. Through online orders from around the world the company’s intelligent software gangs-up business card orders and other stationery jobs on a 40-inch sheet to optimize production through sheetfed presses or smaller sheets through digital colour presses. This streamlined process allows them to produce at pennies an order, delivering profitability unheard of in the industry.
“I really think VistaPrint has the potential to be one of the biggest disruptions to the printing industry since the photocopier,” said Robert Keane, CEO of the company, back in December 2005. Keane (pictured below) stated the main objectives of the company were to standardize, automate and integrate every aspect of the value chain.
Back then I was thinking—it’s too good to be true. When is this juggernaut going to blow up? Well, three years later and the snowball keeps getting bigger. The company’s second quarter revenues (ended Dec. 31/08) reveal a 32 percent increase over the same period last year to US$138.9 million (Q2 revenues Dec. 31, 2005 were US$36.3 million). Gross margin for the most recent quarter was 63.5 percent, and they acquired some 1.5 million new customers, with repeat customers accounting for about 65 percent of the total sales.
What can other printers learn from this? Well, getting online might be a start. In our Canadian Printer Industry Insights 2009 report (distributed in Dec. ‘08), only 31% of some 224 Canadian-based printing companies indicated they provide customers with a Web-based ordering interface. What’s the delay?
Give customers an easy-to-access online channel to communicate and deliver work, make the process as user friendly as possible, and chances are they’ll come back and do it again. It’s not as simple as “build it and they will come,” but I’m becoming a believer that if you don’t build it, they’ll never come. CP