Thomas Fleckenstein, CEO of Druckerei Lokay, highlighted the obstacles that a print provider has to negotiate if it enters the online print business. This is especially relevant given that the Odenwald-based print provider that employs 27 people has once again raised the bar for entry into this business model, which in any case is already set high. Lokay has been heavily involved in “green printing” since 2004 and is now one of Germany’s most well-known environmentally friendly print providers. In January 2017 it entered the online print segment with its www.umweltdruckerei.de brand – an ambitious undertaking in a market where “green printing” is not the highest priority.
So Fleckenstein also posed the question “whether that was what the market had really been waiting for?” and provided an insight into the company’s first year online. Although it can be described as sobering, it was not dispiriting. “Although 209 online jobs worth of 89,000 Euros in 2017, accounting for nearly 2 percent of our total sales, is not that awesome, this represents a good basis for solid growth”, said Fleckenstein self-confidently.
“Those who don’t want to compromise in terms of quality and the environment have come to the right people when they do business with us!” And he sees potential in this niche. This environmentally friendly print provider now offers more than two million sustainably produced print products in its store – environmentally compatible print using eco-inks produced in a socially responsible and fair manner. Blue Angel (RAL-UZ 195) or FSC certification can be arranged on request and every order is produced carbon neutrally at no extra charge.
Fleckenstein emphasized that the biggest challenges lie in the topic cluster involving time, budget, IT skills and human resources and last but not least in acquiring eCommerce, digitalization and automation skills, for example. He also sees a fundamental cultural change resulting from the transformation of the company, given that online production needs to be embedded into existing production methods.
“We have a very vanguard target audience. We focus on individuality, offer a narrow range of products but in a wide range of versions; we also meet special requests and prefer to look after our customers personally rather than communicate by hotline“, Fleckenstein explained. And he thus elaborated on the exact opposite of what characterizes a conventional online print provider – a wide range of products featuring a high degree of standardization and no variations.
But Thomas Fleckenstein therefore provided evidence that the “old-school” printing industry needs to adapt to modern times and must transform. That’s because those companies and online print providers (even those occupying niches) that have undergone transformation will determine the market of the future and are most likely to compete effectively.