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To start with a sobering stat: The leading market research firm, Smithers Pira values global digital textile printing market at €1.17 billion in 2016 with annual growth forecast at an annual average of 12.3% for 2016-2021. This will see the market more than double in value over five years, reaching €2.42 billion in 2021. The numbers seem promising with the rise of “customization economy” be it t-shirts, bags, upholstery etc. customers want uniqueness everytime and they no longer provide companies to innovate at their own pace. And this where web to print plays a major role for every textile print provider right from t-shirt printer to designer clothing printer.

This article runs down about the drivers associated with in the growth of digital fabric printing, how web to print as the key technology enabler for fabric printing growth and how printers can tap this opportunity. Let’s get started -

Drivers for growth in digital fabric printing

There are so many reasons for growth in the digital fabric printing. First and foremost reason is the growth in digital technologies with which customer expectations are rising. Customers want to see everything before placing an order for (be it B2B or B2C). With old methods of textile printing it was really tough to produce large number of smaller samples with high-costs associated with it.

The second reason is increase in demand for customized fabric not in just fashion and clothing industry with different segments such as sports wear, active wear, but other home furnishings industry as well. Home furnishing and specialist decor segment see high demand in terms of mass customization. The third reason is increase in online sales in emerging economies are adding to the demand of customized and digital fabric printing growth.

How Web-to-print has been the key technology enabler for Fabric printing growth -
Web-to-print has enabled new growth facets for fabric printing by providing new and exciting opportunities, with faster turnaround time for creative designers. Web to print enabled digital printing is affordable, fast and efficient in making small samples, creating product based on customer selected with no wastage or minimal costs associated with it. It’s very simple and achievable to even change designs on web and then put into production either for one meter or hundreds of meter of fabric in minutes.

Web to print software vendors provide wide range of fabric types to be configured and printed with the one click of a button for small as well as bigger brands. This helps designers and fashion houses to offer wide range of options, choices and release their exclusive collection multiple times in a year than being into a yearly cycle.

An opportunity for printers -
Technology is an enabler for business nowadays, those who are not catching up will not be able to survive in the long run. Web to print software provides opportunity to printers to revisit their fabric printing business models,, upgrade them and give customers what they want. Web to print gives freedom in terms of experimenting with new ideas and creatives to all its stakeholders - businesses, designers, end-users, and also partners. Here are few pointers to get started with a right web to print solution for your textile printing business -

1. Do your homework properly - Before starting your technology journey with any web to print service provider, chalk about your business plan and goals to be achieved. You don’t need to understand technology but your business primarily. List down your current customers, potential customers, market where you want to expand, fabrics you print and want to print in future, shipping and pricing model, current production process, future scalability requirements and features you want to give your customers to stand out in the market. For example, often print houses and designers request for small smales for fabric testing, do you want to give it for free or will there be small cost associated with it. The second alternative to the similar scenario is if they are placing order with you, you can forego the sample cost but if they are not there’s some sample cost associated with it. These small things with complete clarity can make a big difference in creating a transparent digital business for your customers.

2. Creativity - The textile industry runs on creativity and you need to provide ample room for your customers to play along with the designs, change them easily without getting into repeated phone calls and see the desired output in terms of printing. Web to print solutions these days provide in-built design studio and charge for it separately, It’s up to the printer whether he wants to have it or not. If you are opting for design studio, look for the features that can match up with the textile design software, easy-to-use and compatible across all browsers, mobiles, and screen sizes.

The web to print design studio must come with all the design elements preconfigured in it with options to change text, clipart, font and other design elements. Printers can also look for localization support in terms of language and currency as per their customers.

3. Back office administration - Digital textile printing can be demanding in terms of changing designs, printing fabrics and types of printing methods and thus, a robust back office is required to accomodate all such changes. The easy to use back end with configurable support for unlimited fabrics with different attributes and pricing. Also look for color support in terms of printable colors and matching printed and digital version perfectly. It is possible to calibrate CAD screen in a production environment for matching perfect colour in a studio.

With back office set up it is also required to easy order management and fulfillment, manage approval workflow, pre-production workflows, ability to customize them with changing business.

Conclusion - Web to print is a technology promising growth and innovation for printing industry. It is very important for companies to be aware that using it in a right way can be a game changer for businesses to grow their bottom line. Both printers and web to print service providers should collaborate together to remove the boundaries for printers.
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