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5 questions with Horst Huber

05 March 2019
Today in conversation with Horst Huber - one of the pioneers of Database Publishing, founder and CEO of WERK II and the priint Group, recognized expert in cross channel marketing and process optimization. Find out what does he mean by “digital print renaissance” and what role print plays for a good customer experience.

Print has been declared dead many times over the past several years. So why do your customers continue to print?

Actually, you won’t hear the phrase “Print is dead” as often as five years ago. In my experience, there are now more people speaking of a “print renaissance” than of its death. I noticed that there are hardly any experts left who claim that print is something you can do without.

Right now, the main question is: How does print fit into your overall communication strategy? Our customers know that print plays an essential role in providing a unique customer experience. Print is still important, but its role has changed in the digital world. Our customers don’t just continue printing as before. They are re-evaluating the role print will play - as an integral part of their digital strategy.

But are catalogues still relevant today? As a means to arouse curiosity, to solidify your brand identity and to break down digital barriers, a personalised catalogue can be a powerful instrument as part of an overall marketing strategy.

Thus, I find the expression "digital print renaissance" very appropriate.

What do you mean by “digital print renaissance”?

The distinction between offline and online is misleading. Communication has gone digital. No ifs, no buts. Print plays a unique role in the orchestration of digital channels and touchpoints. It’s like a drumbeat in the digital background noise. If this aspect of print touchpoints is taken into account, a completely different picture emerges. You will need more print, not less. Of course, it will have to be an individual, personalised, targeted, on demand and more cost-effective solution.

Does it make sense to try to send another email to a person who has not responded to emails before? I don't think so. In this case, a 1:1 personalised print impulse may prove to be a better alternative.

You should also consider that virtually all digital touchpoints are controlled by digital corporations (Google & Co.). Whether a homepage is found or not is not something that depends on the website’s owner, but, ultimately, on Google. Print touchpoints, on the other hand, cannot be controlled by digital gatekeepers. This is yet another reason why print is again becoming more and more important.

What is the impact of digital transformation on print processes?

In a word: HUGE. Print processes are an integral part of digitisation. There must be no print-specific core process in a company. One of the challenges is that print touchpoints must be taken into account when designing digital processes.

A recent example: A company has 1,000 different product brochures, that are published in 50 countries. They are still created with InDesign® and then translated manually by different agencies. An error-prone and costly process. The brochures provide valuable information about how to use the products. This process is critical also from a legal point of view. It’s a complex process that needs to be facilitated by an InDesign®-based web-to-print system. As Thorsten Dirks, a member of the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, once said: "If you digitise a crap process, you will get a crap digital process." The solution is to generate and translate the content for the websites first and then use this high-quality content to create brochures. Using the content for a printed brochure is not a core process and can easily be outsourced and scaled cost-effectively.

What is the greatest benefit of Database Publishing in today's digital world?

There are two answers to this question:

Print has to be produced increasingly faster, tailored to specific target groups and on demand. This can only be achieved through automation. The fact that this process also saves costs is a major benefit.

Customer experience needs high-quality content. Data quality and content creation are huge challenges in marketing. All available resources must focus on this task. By automating the print process, you can free up resources and assign them to "media-neutral" content processing instead. Database publishing thus becomes an "enabler" for digital transformation in marketing.

What do you see as the most important trends in the print industry?

There is only a trend: Digitisation. Its consequences are far-reaching, and it sends shock waves through the industry. I would have to answer another 5 questions to explain its different aspects. Just one more thing: Print won’t die, but the industry as we know it today will.

Read an article by Horst Huber about the trends in the print industry (in German).

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