Vistaprint announces major tech spend and name change

Simon Nias
Monday, November 17, 2014

Vistaprint has announced plans to invest "hundreds of millions of dollars" in a next-generation software platform that will aggregate orders from across its growing portfolio of customer-facing brands for production at any of the group's manufacturing facilities.

The announcement came as Vistaprint's parent company officially changed its name from Vistaprint to Cimpress to provide a distinction between the corporate entity and the portfolio of web-to-print businesses it owns.

The Vistaprint web-to-print business will continue to operate under its existing brand as part of the Cimpress group, alongside other Cimpress businesses, including Albumprinter, Pixartprinting, People & Print Group and FotoKnudsen.

The web-to-print giant said that for the next five years a "significant part" of its $175m-$200m (£110m-£130m) annual R&D budget would be directed towards its next-generation "mass customisation platform" (MCP).

This MCP will aggregate production volumes from across the group's portfolio of brands, which has swelled through acquisition in recent years, and will enable cross-brand ganging at any of the group's production facilities.

Cimpress founder and chief executive Robert Keane said: "Cross-brand ganging is an excellent - but far from the only - example of the vision and intent of our mass customisation platform. Ganging economics mean that the more homogeneous any given gang, the more optimised it is from a cost perspective: bigger scale drives down cost significantly.

"The same thing applies to many other products that Cimpress produces, and our intention is to give customers access to a broader portfolio of products, a greater range of selection and even better quality than they ever have before, no matter which of our brands they purchase from."

The new MCP will also support the production of the growing range of non-traditional print products available via the Vistaprint brand, as well as continued development of its browser-based design and editing tools.

"We recently introduced a beta site called PromoSpot, which can be found as a tab off of our Vistaprint site, that offers personalised, decorated apparel and soft goods. Customers can embroider clothing, bags, and even beach towels," said Keane.

"In terms of the front-end perspective, we are constantly innovating. We just launched an Apple app in the Dutch market for Albelli that makes designing photo merchandise from your phone or tablet a real joy.

"On the Vistaprint site, we have developed cutting-edge image rendering technology that illustrates photo-realistic previews 'in scene' – showing the customer's customised product on screen in real life settings."

Meanwhile, Keane said that M&A would continue to have a place in the company's future although he added that the bar was set very high in terms of ROI and cultural fit. "We pursue M&A only if and when it directly supports our strategy, and when the capital we invest into an acquisition pays back more than pouring that money into internal technology or process development or buying back our own shares," he added.

In terms of Cimpress's future production investment, Keane said that while the company's engineers had "often been active in beta, or even pre-beta, testing and technology discussions" these were all bound by the usual confidentiality agreements.

Asked whether the company was one of the select group of prospective Landa customers that are privy to updates on the development of the manufacturer's Nanographic presses, Keane said: "I truly respect what Benny Landa has done to transform this industry, and he has some concepts that could drive just as big of a transformation as he has done in the past.

"From our perspective, the good news is that other companies are also working on equally exciting and transformative technologies."

Cimpress has also announced the appointment of Don Nelson to the role of chief operating officer, with direct responsibility for the MCP development programme, as well as a recruitment drive across its main development centres in Massachusetts, US and Winterthur, Switzerland.

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