The print opportunity in COVID-19

Johannesburg, 01 Sep 2020
Read time 4min 00sec
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua

The COVID-19 lockdown has had a catastrophic impact on the office printing industry. Barry Venter, CEO of Nashua, says: “We saw an immediate and drastic reduction in print volumes across the market and customer base as the economy closed. All businesses, apart from essential services, closed their offices and sent their workforce to work from home, where possible. The shutdown of educational institutions, government offices and SOE offices had a particularly hard impact on the office printing segment.”

With a remote workforce and empty offices around the country, print volumes rapidly declined. In addition, customer sales engagements that were traditionally face to face came to a grinding halt, affecting new sales opportunities. Confirmed data indicates a more than 50% decline in the office print sales segment (Infosource Q2, 2020 Sales Data).

“All of this meant that the printing sector had to find innovative ways to engage and support its customers as well as find new business opportunities to keep businesses alive,” says Venter.

One trend that has emerged from the lockdown is a resurgence in demand for home office print and scan solutions, as well as remote working collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. There has also been widespread demand for temperature screening equipment that uses thermographic technology, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE). All of these present opportunities for agile businesses.

“Work from home has become the new normal, with the COVID-19 pandemic being labelled as one of the biggest single catalysts for digital transformation as companies scrambled to ensure that their workforce could operate remotely. The small office, home office market has skyrocketed as a result. People working from home needed to be able to perform the same tasks that they could in the office, creating demand for printers and scanners, connectivity solutions and laptops and/or desktops.”

Instead of spelling the demise of the printing industry, COVID-19 has merely shifted the focus. Venter explains: “Demand has moved from the mid- to high-volume office print segment towards the lower-segment print devices. While this does inherently affect print volumes, it’s indicative of a resurgence of the SOHO print market. Regardless of where they’re located, people still need to print a number of documents for various reasons. This provides new opportunities to embed and attach digital services that provide a unified work experience irrespective of location, such as print and store in the cloud, digital signature solutions, Microsoft 365 and, of course, collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom.”

While many businesses have suffered job losses, reduced budgets and general market uncertainty that are making it difficult for them to engage new customers, the pandemic has also prompted businesses in the print segment to explore new market opportunities, supporting distributed workforces with new rapid deployment products such as LTE connectivity and unified communications solutions.

“The ability to adapt and survive economic downturns such as that which we are currently experiencing requires the capacity to support customers' evolving needs from products to services,” he says.

It’s no longer optional for businesses in the print sector to offer a diverse array of products and services. In order to maintain survival, print service providers have to find new ways to maintain their existence going forward. This extends from evolving their product offerings to current customer and market demands to exploring new approaches to rental and asset finance.

Going forward, Venter believes the print market will see slow to almost flat recovery over the next 18 months owing to social distancing, legislation and distributed workforces. “Home-based printing solutions will see a comeback to support work-from-home requirements as companies realise they no longer need large buildings and that their workforce can operate efficiently and effectively remotely. If nothing else, the coronavirus has shown companies that a remote workforce can effectively run a business.”

The recently announced move to level two and the associated further opening up of the economy will be good to stimulate economic recovery and a move towards some sort of growth. Hopefully this will stimulate investor and consumer confidence.

“The new normal is now, after every world-changing event, the human race has adapted to change in social and economic spheres. The coronavirus is no different. The low-touch social-distanced economy is here to stay. The question that remains is how well and soon will we, as humans, adapt.”

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