Me & my: ISL Catfish
Monday, February 10, 2014
NCR sets. Remember those? It is testament to just how long Resource Print Solutions has been involved in providing web-to-print solutions for its clients, that the firm’s first foray into the area was some 15 years ago when it created a bespoke system for a customer whose requirements at the time included 500 different carbonless forms.
Things have changed somewhat over the intervening years, both in terms of the firm’s offering, and the needs of the Leeds-based company’s client base.
As sales and marketing director Asif Choudry explains, Resource Print Solutions has developed its services into that much-vaunted organisational model: the marketing services provider.
“We print, but we really focus on print as part of the marketing mix, and adding creative services to that. Our customer base is predominantly end-users – communications and marketing people, not print buyers,” says Choudry, who describes the business as “a service provider with a print knowledge-base”.
That knowledge-base is pretty extensive, and includes creative design, litho and digital printing, finishing, polywrapping and mailing, and storage and distribution.
The firm’s first web-to-print setup was a bespoke system created for that large NCR customer, because there was no off-the-shelf system that fitted the bill at the time.
Subsequently, around seven years ago, the firm revisited the available web-to-print offerings, but still found them lacking in one way or another.
“There were a few options available but it was cost-prohibitive at the time and the pricing structures were all wrong. We would have needed to charge clients £10,000 to £15,000 to develop it for them, and no customer was going to go for that. So we decided to create a custom build again,” Choudry recalls.
As a result, Resource Print Solutions once again built its own web-to-print sites for selected clients who had enough spend to justify the time and effort involved.
By this point, the company could surely be considered something of an expert in the area of web-to-print requirements and the complexities therein, from both a customer and service provider perspective – not least in the all-important area of the charging structures involved.
Meanwhile, the commercially available web-to-print offerings from a variety of software providers continued to move on apace, and in 2010 Resource Print Solutions decided the time was right for the company to take another look at what was available.
“Our web-to-print requirements had grown, so we went back to the market and looked at all the providers again. ISL was quite new to the market at the time, and they were being very sensible commercially,” says Choudry. “They also had a more flexible product and we wanted the ability to do bespoke development. It all just clicked.
“Essentially, all the web-to-print solutions do the same job but in different ways, so it’s about the relationship and the commercial model,” Choudry states, citing the ISL system’s ability to produce bespoke web-to-print setups for clients as one of the main benefits of its offering.
Key to successful implementation, says Choudry, was Resource’s appointment of an internal web-to-print ‘champion’, who understood the web and technical sides of the system, and was able to demonstrate it to clients as well as carry out internal and external training.
Using this approach, installation and training went smoothly. “Training is simple if you just use the right people,” he notes.
Resource began with ISL’s Infigo system, but about a year ago upgraded to its new Catfish platform, which offers a number of advantages. Catfish is based on HTML5, and is mobile optimised making it suitable for use with smartphones and tablet devices, as well as desktop computers. PDFs are used for templates.
“The system had always performed well, but the recent switch of platform to Catfish has been a big plus,” explains Choudry. “It allows us to create more storefronts with the look and feel of a consumer website, but for B2B.”
One of the main benefits from Choudry’s point of view is the ability to create sites that mirror the familiar design of a client’s own website, rather than being restricted to a set ‘look’.
“It doesn’t have to be a set layout where there’s a header here, or a banner there. We are selling web-to-print to marketers. Design comes before practicality, and when it’s designed nicely and practical, then it’s a much bigger sales conversation,” he explains.
“We work together with ISL and they help us to spec it out with the clients. They’ve been very supportive. We’ve found them more sales-focused than some of the other suppliers, and more in tune with what we’re trying to do with it.”
The firm has invested in excess of £30,000 in its ISL setup, excluding ongoing basket charges, says Choudry.
“Most of the investment has been in people. You have to build the sites and understand how the customer wants to use them and that’s often not in an off-the-shelf way. So you need to have the right people.”
Resource’s own expertise, combined with Catfish’s ease-of-use, means the firm is now able to create a bespoke setup even if it’s just to demonstrate how a customised web-to-print would look for potential clients.
And Choudry has noticed that web-to-print is increasingly becoming a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. “We see it in tender documents now. In December we won a contract for which web-to-print was a specific requirement,” he says.
The firm has a wide range of clients, from the public sector to manufacturing companies. And client requirements are equally varied, from the storage and distribution of long-run collateral, to print-on-demand and variable data work.
“When we’re pitching for work we focus on three or four differentiators, and none is print quality. Instead, it’s more about what people are doing with print and how they are using it.
“The system has the flexibility to do variable templates, and lots of other functionality that our marketing customers can use,” says Choudry. “Customers place the order, and we have a slick process where the team here sweep the web-to-print orders into allocated time slots, on a daily basis. The artwork is print-ready and the job tickets are pre-written.”
About 20 customers are currently using Catfish sites, with the capacity to add more where the volume and type of work is appropriate. “We have made a tactical decision in this respect, because having 50 clients spending £300 is not what we want,” says Choudry.
Web-to-print work now accounts for around 20% of the volume of work at the 50-staff business.
Choudry has nothing to report in the way of major gripes or problems. “We have had the odd technical niggle, as you would expect, but ISL has always responded very quickly and things have been fixed in a timely fashion.
“Software updates are included in the package and carried out outside of working hours, and they have communicated the additional features before the updates actually take place,” he adds.
The firm’s wish-list for future developments includes additional variable data features, such as versioned designs. “Although we can do that to an extent now, more functionality in this area would give us something new to take to the market.”
ISL managing director Douglas Gibson responds: “Watch this space! We have some exciting developments in the pipeline that will offer some nice functionality.” He adds that the new features will be shown at Ipex.
Choudry says the main benefit delivered by the Catfish system has been the ability to sell a customised web-to-print service to a wider client base, and in doing so differentiate the firm’s offering. It has also opened up new revenue streams for smaller orders, while at the same time requiring less admin overhead.
The answer to the question “would he recommend it”, then, is a simple “yes”. “In fact I have done recently,” he adds.
While it was old-fashioned carbonless forms that got the firm into web-to-print in the first place, Resource Print Solutions has since become something of a role model for the 21st century print business – an end-to-end provider with a completely different, web-enabled outlook.
Platforms Desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets
Optional plug-ins Available for yearbooks, books and greetings cards
Transaction cost Is ‘per transaction’, and a transaction can include multiple items
Price Standard: (includes 10 storefronts and 250 monthly transactions) £8,000 licence charge, £300 monthly support fee, 50p per additional transaction; Premium: (includes 25 storefronts and 500 transactions per month) £11,000 licence, £350 monthly support, 40p per additional transaction; Advanced: (includes unlimited storefronts and 1,000 transactions per month) £15,999 licence fee, £500 monthly support, 30p per additional transaction; Enterprise: Price depends on application
Contact ISL 0845 658 6469 www.infigosoftware.com
Leeds-based Resource Print Solutions was founded in 1996. The firm has developed its offering from the production of straightforward print collateral into a more sophisticated marketing services offering. The company says: “The desire to learn is central to our business. If there is a better way of doing something, we’ll find it.” The company is an Investor in People and has ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 12647-2 accreditation.
Why it was purchased...
The firm’s web-to-print requirements were growing, and Resource Print Solutions was looking for an off-the-shelf web-to-print solution that could also be customised, allowing it to expand its offering in this area to a wider range of customers. Previously, the firm had used its own bespoke system with a limited number of clients.
How it has performed…
The ISL Catfish system has fulfilled the firm’s expectations, allowing it to create completely customised storefronts that mirror the look and feel of the client’s own website. It has opened up new revenue streams for the business. Around 20 clients are currently using it, with more to follow as appropriate. Resource Print Solutions says the Catfish system is easy-to-use, with the flexibility to create variable templates. It describes ISL’s commercial model as “sensible”.