The printing market in 2021: how will the market evolve as office life resumes?

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of being realistic. We have learned to be realistic about the present and we must continue to be realistic about what lies ahead.

The scale and sheer force of the change throughout the last year suggests that it would be unwise to expect our industry to mirror the pre-COVID-19 landscape. In a nutshell, too much has changed.

We have been part of a remote working revolution. Out of sheer necessity, a shift which many experts forecasted would take years played out in the space of a few months.

As I have reiterated in previous articles, remote working is here to stay. Every company will look to build upon the benefits they have enjoyed from this way of working while searching for ways to iron out the teething pains they have experienced during this period.

These are changes that are affecting nearly all industries, including our own. IDC estimate that, in 2021, 35% of large global enterprises will reduce their print fleets by at least half as a direct consequence of these changes to the way we work.

We must be prepared for small and medium businesses to follow suit. This is a time to be prudent and proactive – we cannot ignore what is happening around us. It is up to us to anticipate and take action. Those who wait to react will be left behind.

Looking ahead, companies are going to print less in the office – this is undeniable. They will, however, print more across their remote working locations.

The hybrid working age is posing new security, productivity and communication challenges for companies, and employees must be equipped with the quality of tools they need to be able to work to the best of their abilities both individually and collectively, while ensuring optimal data security across the entire organization.

I expect remote working document solutions to be a very important area throughout the year ahead. Now that the dust has settled and this way of working is no longer viewed as an emergency solution, companies can no longer rely on low end, entry-level devices, which do not provide the same capabilities, workflow solutions, security and cost efficiency as their office equivalents.

In Spain we have a saying that says “the cheapest option turns out to be the most expensive”. I firmly believe that this sentiment is particularly true for technology. Those who invest in building strong digital foundations will reap the rewards in the long-run. Short-term patches are not sustainable, and a failure to invest in the best technologies only increases organizational risk. Future -proofing your business should not be viewed as an expense – it is quite simply the smart investment.

With this in mind, I expect a new wave of opportunities to arise for OEM’s and dealers alike, particularly those who are able to deliver comprehensive solutions for both the office and home worker with the same level of support, expertise, cost, technical capabilities, and governance. This is all the more pertinent if we consider IDC’s forecasts which estimate that by 2022, 30% of organizations will enter into contractual agreements to cover home printing in the wake of COVID-19.

Whereas the sudden, mass shift to remote working at the beginning of the pandemic saw the demand for A4 devices skyrocket, the hybrid working age will demand a competitive and professional offering in both the A3 and A4 markets. This will require a strategy underpinned by flexibility because of the differing needs of each organizations.

At Kyocera we have realized that, in order to become a stronger and more robust organization, we must continue to do a great job right across the board, not just in printing services. IDC predicts that by 2023, 45% of G2000 companies will have accelerated the implementation of zero-paper workflows. This is a trend that will have a very real and direct impact on our business. Now is the time to embrace and meet these challenges with renewed determination and the same collective commitment to excellence in everything we do in this organization.

Our dealers have developed tremendous working relationships with our customers over the years and their expert insights will be invaluable at a time when the value of customer-centric innovation is there for all to see. They will play a vital role in delivering tailored document solutions and providing process consultancy while ensuring their seamless integration into the overall printing infrastructure.

Whether or not a shift towards IT Services is the best strategy to replace lost income from declining print volumes is perhaps a debate for another day, but one thing is for sure: our customers will demand us to deliver the technology that meets their changing needs.

They require solutions that support and strengthen remote working environments while safeguarding their data against new security threats as they transition to cloud-based services. Moreover, detailed analytics regarding device and workflow performances will be fundamental to the optimization of efficiency and productivity. In such a competitive market, the ability to create that “outside the box” value for end-users will be a critical differentiator.

We must, however, continue to research and invest in order to increase our technological capabilities. If we fail to do so we will be failing our customers.

The pandemic has also been a huge driver of online sales and, with incentives such as free delivery, convenience, and quick turnaround times, e-commerce will only grow further. Again, this is a fact we cannot shy away from. Rather than a new threat, we see this as a new opportunity. To capitalize on this, our dealers must look to build their own online channels and it is our duty as OEM’s to assist them in this process by providing the technological platforms, processes, and product portfolio to allow them to compete with the big e-commerce platforms.

Finally, beyond the when and where, we should also expect a further evolution of how customers buy our products. The inherent difficulties that arise from collecting counters from home offices will, in all likelihood, translate to a greater demand for subscription or flat rate models as opposed to traditional pay-per-click for maintenance services.

Considering the benefits this approach offers – flexibility, greater control and cost savings, to name but a few – it would appear quite likely that these types of contracts could very well start to take center stage in the traditional office document solutions space.

While we tend to overlook some clichés nowadays, there are some which cannot be ignored. Like past crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed given rise to many new opportunities – this is a fact. We have seen an increased demand for A4 devices and cloud printing. Companies now seek tools which help their remote workers remain productive and secure, while they look for more convenient and flexible ways to invest in their future.

Our business is evolving rapidly, and it is only by understanding the environment around us will it be possible to make the best possible strategic decisions.

I do not claim to have the answers to all of the conundrums we face on a daily basis and I may get some things wrong, but I aim, through these articles, to provide my personal insights and opinions about our industry so that I can contribute in some way to its overall well-being going forward.

Óscar Sánchez
President & CEO
KYOCERA Document Solutions America, Inc.

Implementing An Effective Hybrid Workplace Strategy