There have been numerous changes in the printing industry over the past several years. The National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL, 2004) notes that these changes are both cyclical and structural. Cyclical changes are those that are impacted by the upward and downward trends in the economy, while structural changes are those that impact the way we transmit information and how we do business. Examples of structural change include:
Structural changes have forced printing companies to redefine their business models and to expand their product and service offerings. Today’s printing company is more likely a total solutions provider that realizes that value-added services such as fulfillment, variable data printing, and mailing will be the fastest growing services over the next two years (NAPL, 2004).
Respondents participating in a study entitled Industry Trends in Fulfillment, Finishing and Distribution (PICRM-2004-03) conducted at the Printing Industry Center at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) were asked to list all value-added services offered by their company. The respondents were provided with a definition for value-added services and a list of services based on the latest trends in the industry. The majority of the value-added services listed were technology-based. Industry research at the time suggested that fulfillment was the primary value-added service being offered by printing companies. However, based on the results from the Center research, e-commerce was reported to be the number one service (71%) currently being offered, followed by fulfillment (52%).
The unanticipated results prompted the researchers to consider whether the respondents had a clear understanding of the definition of e-commerce. If e-commerce had been previously explained, would it have generated the same response rate?
This research was conducted in conjunction with the research on Media Distribution in the Printing Industry. The sample consisted of 16 U.S. printing company executives. Each participant was asked a set of three questions focusing on the definition and benefits of e-commerce. The primary objectives of this research were: