*NEWS*PRINTERS & SUPPLIES -VALUE JUDGMENT
*NEWS*PRINTERS & SUPPLIES -VALUE JUDGMENT
2007-05-14 at 10:39:00 am #17992
Lower cost, more fully-featured printers should entice people to print more. As the industry strives to enhance the importance of printing supplies as part of the customers’ printing experience, higher page counts may lead to higher profitsThe manufacturers of printers and printing supplies, the print cartridges and paper used to print photos and maps, invoices and marketing proposals, have long understood that for many customers supplies are considered a low involvement purchase – done out of habit, without much thought. How little thought? When customers in the UK and the US were asked to compare the purchase of ink and toner cartridges to other goods they buy, they most frequently compared it to buying toilet paper, explaining that: “You don’t really want to think about it, and if you run out of it, you’re in trouble.”Because they haven’t wanted to think about it, many customers fail to appreciate the contributions that printing supplies make to the overall printing experience – and that lack of appreciation has led some to wonder why printing supplies cost what they do and to question whether they’re good value for money. In 2005, industry leader Hewlett-Packard (HP) addressed this issue and unveiled ‘The Science of Printing’, a marketing campaign intended to decommoditise the printing supply, to improve customers’ perceptions of value by pointing out the vast amounts of technology contained within print cartridges.The campaign was rich in detail. It pointed out that when designing inks, HP scientists spend up to four years evaluating as many as 1,000 different ink combinations in search of the right formula, that all inks are subjected to more than 20 different tests for purity and more than 50 different tests for attributes such as water resistance, fade resistance and colour accuracy. It explained that HP toner particles are uniform in size – small and round – which results in more precise toner placement for higher resolution, better colour transitions, and glossier prints. And it revealed that HP Premium and Premium Plus photo papers are made up of six micro-thin layers, each with a critical job to do like controlling ink absorption to resist fading or creating a moisture barrier to ensure that paper stays flat.The campaign made great strides in improving consumers’ appreciation of the technology. But to take advantage of a growing market – one which will see 2.7 trillion pages printed on ink and laser printers in 2010, so many pages that if you stacked them one on top of the other, they’d reach three-quarters of the way to the moon – the industry has to demonstrate additional value in printing supplies by promoting features beyond the core technology. So two years after the Science of Printing, HP has begun just that, embarking on a simple and straightforward campaign to project additional value, packaging the content so that it’s easy to explain and easy to understand. As the rising tide lifts all boats, if HP and the reseller community succeed in these efforts, customers will experience greater satisfaction, increasing the likelihood of them returning to buy more – and more.
Perceptions of value
It’s common for critics to refer to ink as the most expensive liquid in the world, to compare it with luxury items such as champagne or perfume. One critic went so far as to compare ink with gasoline, suggesting that it would wipe out an entire year’s salary to fill his gas tank with it. The comparisons aren’t logical, of course; none of the liquids are substitutes for each other. But that doesn’t diminish the comparisons’ emotional charge because they tap into customers’ pre-conceived notions of value.It’s unfortunate, too, because HP has dramatically decreased the cost of printing – and even more dramatically increased performance – in almost all facets over the past 15 years. Since the early 1990s:
• The cost of printing, when measured as the cost of the printer in addition to three years supply of ink or toner, has decreased 52 percent for black and white LaserJet printers and 68 percent for inkjet printers
• Performance, when measured as improvements in speed and quality, has increased 463 percent for black and white LaserJet printers and 900 percent for inkjet printers
• The number of pages a customer can print per ml of black ink has doubled, while the number of pages a customer can print per ml of colour ink has almost tripled.
So the first and most important explanation to offer a customer who questions whether printing supplies are good value is to sell the system – the printer plus the printing supply – to demonstrate that by looking at the bigger picture, customers’ costs have gone down considerably.
Value in choice
Some customers, those who print more frequently and many businesses, perceive good value as being able to save in the long run, even if that means spending more money up front while others, those who print less frequently, perceive good value as being able to spend less money out of pocket, saving now but spending more in the long run. The insight that customers have multiple definitions of value isn’t new; it simply hasn’t been applied broadly in the context of print cartridges, until now.HP addressed the ‘low cost per page’ customer first, introducing higher capacity “X” cartridges for LaserJet printers, and then recently, adding toner cartridge dual packs. For customers who own inkjet printers, HP has introduced 2-packs, 3-packs, high-capacity cartridges, and photo value packs – all solutions that offer customers an opportunity to achieve a lower cost per page, an average saving of ten to 15 percent. In April 2007, HP introduced a solution for customers who prefer to spend less money out-of-pocket by selling inkjet cartridges that offer typical HP quality, but for less money than before.The key here is making customers aware of the choices available to them and helping them choose the type of cartridge that best fits their definition of value for the money. HP is making it easier for customers to choose the right cartridge by colour coding packaging – for example, adding green accent colours to its traditional blue packaging to signify ‘value’ cartridges, those designed for higher use customers. Additionally in retail and on the web, HP is providing prompts to get consumers to think about how they are going to use their printer so that they can identify the most suitable cartridge for their individual printing needs. Point-of-sale ink selection guides, printer packaging, web search results and new displays all help to make the process easier.
Value and hassle
Money is simply one dimension of value, so focusing the conversation on the amount of currency exchanging hands is inadequate. Customers obviously perceive value in quality and reliability, two of HP’s trademarks, covered thoroughly in the Science of Printing. But more and more, as people are getting busier and busier, they are also placing a lot of value in convenience.The worst time to run out of ink or toner is in the middle of a long print job when you’re past deadline, or when your kids are working on a school project late at night when all of the stores are closed. For most people, keeping an inventory of extra cartridges on hand isn’t desirable – either the initial investment is too large or the storage needs can be too great, a particular issue for businesses that have many printers or many models of printers. The solution, therefore, is a system that automates, or at least simplifies, supplies ordering and ensures that new cartridges are available as soon as they’re needed.HP offers software management tools for individual consumers to large enterprises that allow customers to monitor supplies levels, receive alerts on supplies status, and pre-populate supplies order forms for easy reordering from their preferred supplier. Depending upon the number and type of printers involved, HP customers may utilise the following:
• For inkjet printer users, HP offers the HP Solution Center, software that allows customers to view supplies levels, view alternative cartridges that can be used with their printer and print a personalised shopping list
• For home and home office customers, HP offers SureSupply, a program that helps them explore the range of cartridge options for supplies repurchase and then select the right SKU. This information can be used as a reference source for ordering or can be linked online to find a local reseller, to discover a local telephone number for ordering, or to place an order online with HP or a preferred online channel partner
• For micro and small businesses, HP offers SureSupply and Easy Printer Care, which lets office managers or administrative staff customise alerts and consolidate supplies ordering information for up to 15 HP LaserJet printers
• And then for larger businesses and enterprises, HP offers Web JetAdmin, which provides supplies management capabilities to IT managers with networked printer fleets.
The tools are available but customers aren’t necessarily aware of them. Raising awareness, and then helping with set up and use, is another simple way to demonstrate added value in printing supply.
Value and the environment
Environmental responsibility is a growing trend. Issues related to climate change are getting a high level of media coverage and are becoming relevant in the printing supplies market – and for some customers, gaining relevance as a purchasing criteria. These customers would like to recycle their used print cartridges as long as the process is easy and as long as they’re certain the cartridges are being recycled responsibly.For the channel, many of whom collect empty cartridges from customers, the strongest environmental solution is to take advantage of HP’s Planet Partners recycling programme, which is easy to use and free. HP includes pre-addressed, postage paid recycling envelopes and labels with many original HP print cartridges. Or, if customers have many print cartridges to return, they can request a free bulk collection box from HP at http://www.hp.com/recycle. In the more than 40 countries the Planet Partners recycling programme exists, HP accepts returns of virtually every original HP print cartridge sold; and importantly, HP guarantees that no original HP cartridges returned through the programme are sent to landfill.Research indicates there’s growing confusion, and some cynicism, regarding what happens to HP print cartridges when they are returned through Planet Partners or any other recycling programmes. It’s important to tell customers that HP offers a genuine recycling programme, that it does not refill and resell any print cartridges it collects, that all print cartridges returned to HP through Planet Partners go through a multi-phase recycling process where they are reduced to raw materials, which can then be used to make new metal and plastic products.
For some customers, uncertainty about the value they’re getting from OEM printing supplies has led them to consider generic or private-label print cartridges, which seem less expensive because they typically sell for less. The risk these customers take, and the risk resellers take by suggesting alternative cartridges, is customer dissatisfaction. It turns out that compared to aftermarket alternatives, original HP supplies might be more expensive to buy, but they can be less expensive to use, not just in money spent, but in time, aggravation and wasted paper. So, remind customers that with original HP supplies, they not only get reliable, trouble-free printing, but the ease-of-use and the great, consistent print quality that HP is known for.And now, HP has unveiled a number of new programmes to give customers a better sense of getting real value from their purchase – programmes that are easy to explain and easy to understand. By focusing on the system, by pointing out the variety of available purchasing options, by streamlining the supplies management and ordering process, and by directing customers who want to recycle their used print cartridges through a genuine recycling programme to HP Planet Partners, the industry can improve the chances that customers’ experiences meet their definition of good value.