Where is large format printing headed in 2021 and beyond? As we start to emerge from lockdown, it's worth looking back at printing's response to the pandemic and finding ways forward for the future.
The year of social distancing
2020 was the year that social distancing signs were everywhere. While traditional outlets for large format print including travel, entertainment and exhibitions were shuttered, informational and wayfinding signage stepped into the gap.
Indoor and outdoor posters, A-frames and banners all played their part in keeping us safe and secure. Large format graphics became the way to reassure customers that your business was Covid-safe. With their proven effectiveness at influencing consumer behaviour, we expect to see marketers getting more creative with large format signage in 2021.
Diversification and change
Large format print technology is increasingly affordable. Until 2020 there was plenty of work to keep print service providers busy without the need to diversify, but the pandemic changed that. In the print sector we've been forced to change gear and look for new markets and opportunities.
Floor graphics experienced a surge in popularity, primarily driven by their effectiveness for social distancing in-store. Print providers repurposed large format technology to produce pandemic related products, including face masks. As print providers, we're already looking at the capabilities of our print room and exploring where we can take things in the long term.
Throughout the pandemic, retailers have used large format graphics in their advertising to connect emotionally with their customers. Online print providers have leveraged the ability to sell directly to their customers, and as trade shows and exhibitions have moved online, large format printing has enjoyed unprecedented access.
Relationships between providers and customers have never been so important. The most successful businesses will be the ones that maintain and foster those relationships, providing reliability across the supply chain and being responsive to customers' requests.
Sustainability in all senses
As a print business with a solid green ethos, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, and we offer customers a range of alternative eco-friendly products. During the pandemic, climate concerns have moved to the top of mind for customers and businesses alike as we understand the necessity to reduce waste and cut our carbon emissions.
But there's another meaning of sustainability, foregrounded by the events of 2020. Financial security and longevity have also motivated purchasing decisions during the pandemic as sustainability's twin meanings begin to converge.
Ultimately, sustainability in any sense is about growing and thriving. It's a lesson that any print business needs to take on board as we move into 2021 and beyond.
How Covid-19 affects the future of print
So how can print firms deploy the lessons learned in lockdown for the future of their business? Here are our thoughts on the road ahead for large format printing.
Flexibility and diversity
Businesses that did best during the pandemic were the ones that we're agile and flexible enough to adapt to the changing demands of lockdown.
As the situation changes again and we begin to move beyond lockdown, large format print providers need to retain a diverse range of products. It's a balancing act between meeting continued temporary demand for pandemic related products and investing in future opportunities.
Large format print businesses that can retain the agility and diversification they showed during the pandemic will be in the best place to weather future shocks.
If we've learned one thing from the popularity of social distancing signs, it's that the Covid-19 crisis has opened up more markets for large format graphics than ever before.
Services including hospitals, libraries, schools, and the hospitality industry have ordered from UK print providers like never before. Clear and effective signage has been one of the success stories of 2020, helping to reinforce government messaging and keeping businesses Covid-safe.
Demand for those products is likely to fall long-term. But exposure to high-quality and cost-effective large format signage will likely make it a go-to choice for companies and services in future.
The future is e-commerce
Businesses that were flexible to adapt to e-commerce were the big winners in 2020. That's a significant shift for the print industry. Online platforms are a great way to increase awareness while converting customers. If you're not showcasing your range of large format products on an eCommerce platform, you're missing out.
But simply moving your business online isn't enough. Successful adopters will be print firms that are prepared to keep investing and updating to meet changing demand.
Signage has never been so important. The pandemic has highlighted that large format signage is unparalleled in the way it communicates essential information to everyone.
The message from the Roland DG study is clear. And it should be a wake-up call for the print sector. Clear, high-quality signage builds trust. Not just for customers and staff, but in your business.
Providing top-notch solutions should drive your business as we move into the new normal. And large format signage will find markets in zoos, theme parks, gyms, schools and non-essential stores eager to ensure their customers feel Covid-safe.
Excellent customer service is always in fashion
Some things never change. Customers will always demand and expect the highest levels of service. But it's the businesses that contributed to the public effort and went the extra mile during the pandemic that are likely to emerge in the best position.
Reliability, speed and proven results. Those qualities will set your print firm apart from the competition, with or without lockdown. And print providers who learn lessons from the pandemic and find opportunities to provide diversified and better services will be the ones that survive and thrive.