Grafenia has ignited a debate about trade printing after turning its Marqetspace business into a ‘private club’ with pricing only visible to members.
The Manchester-headquartered firm surveyed more than 200 resellers, including existing and lapsed customers before making the change. More than 80% of the people surveyed agreed with the statement “buying prices should be private so my clients can’t accidentally find out what I’m paying,” according to the survey.
“Two thirds of print resellers also strongly agreed that an online print site should not sell to end users at the same price as graphic professionals. However, sites such as Instantprint, Solopress and Helloprint often sell to the general public at the same price as trade buyers,” the firm stated.
Marqetspace has now removed all its prices from public view, with users of its site required to join the Marqetspace Professional Print Buyer’s Club. “Membership is free and there is no minimum spend. However, only graphic professionals are eligible to become members,” it added.
Grafenia chief executive Peter Gunning said: “To help improve our service, we asked clients what was important to them. As you’d expect, price, quality and delivery speed were ranked highly.
“However, we were surprised by some of the other comments. So, we’ve rolled out the red carpet and pulled up the velvet ropes and made Marqetspace a private members' club. We’ve already had some really positive feedback from clients. Which is nice.”
Marqetspace’s stance and comments about rival services has stirred up a debate about the nature of trade printing.
Bluetree Group owns the Route 1 Print and Instantprint brands, with Route 1 focused on trade printing and Instantprint offering print services targeted at small businesses.
Mark Young, head of Route 1 Print, said: “Route 1 Print offers a strict trade only policy. We actually turn away 30% of new customers each week who don’t meet our reseller requirements and we only ever advertise to trade professionals.
“As well as competitive prices, resellers demand a very different level of service to the general public. Route 1 Print is entirely focused on providing and exceeding those expectations.”
Solopress managing director Simon Cooper commented: “People may be surprised to hear that the majority of revenue through Solopress comes from resellers. The reality is that end users place their work through resellers because they value the relationship and the service they receive from that reseller, while price is no doubt important, they would not prioritise getting a lower price if it meant foregoing the other features of the service the reseller gives.”
And Helloprint UK country director Paul O’Connor, who joined the business earlier this year from Grafenia, added: “From speaking with trade clients the feedback I’m regularly told is that they have frustrations having to log in to see prices on other print sites. Often more than one person in the team checks out print prices and the whole team doesn't always have access to the username and password.
“What we find that works at Helloprint is that if you’re a ‘reseller or graphic professional’ we offer our Helloprint Pro service which gives them a set discounted rates from the prices for none graphic professionals purchase at. This means even if they aren't signed in they can quickly check out our prices and know what margin they'll save from the published prices.”
The online trade printing market is hugely-competitive and price-sensitive. Grafenia’s Gunning said Marqetspace had also upgraded its website to speed up the checkout process. In addition, once members have joined and signed in, they won’t have to login every time they use the site.
“Marqetspace is a good way for us to start new relationships. Commodity print plays a part of that, of course. But it opens the door to other projects and avenues,” he said.
“Once we’ve built some trust, and we’ve got to know each other, we see if we can help with some more of their strategic problems. Many Nettl partners were Marqetspace clients first. We just think a good way to build trust is to listen to people’s opinion and then respond to what they’ve said. So that’s what we’ve done.”
In July Marqetspace claimed a world first in the online print space by integrating Klarna Bank technology to offer a ‘buy now, pay later’ option for customers.
Grafenia had sales of £15.96m in the year to 31 March, and employed 188 staff. It carried out a major upgrade at its Manchester production hub earlier this year.