With the initialization of the world wide web in the early 90’s, and the commercialization of the internet that followed, internet purchasing, including online banner printing, has gained incredible traction in the past 20 years. So much traction that companies have been built or failed – or both – in consequentially the grandest development in consumer buying since the advent of television and radio advertising.
It really took off in the mid-2000’s, and a few companies were responsible for the subsequent sharp declines in pricing that still exists in the market in 2011. But are consumers better off having gotten much lower pricing? Possibly. Possibly no.
Are You Really Going to be able to Purchase a Banner Online for $.99 per Square Foot?
For example, on July 19, 2011, Borders Bookstores announced the closing of almost all, if not all, their stores because a lot of customers came in, looked at books, then went and ordered them at a lower cost online at Amazon.com or downloaded books onto their I-Phone©, I-Pad©, I-Pod©, or Kindle©, where they could read it whenever they decided to at the push of a button. Borders was slow to adapt to new technology and bit the dust, so to speak, as a consequence. So, are we better off for being able to purchase cheaper and/or downloadable books? Possibly. Possibly no. Time will be the deciding factor.
The company I worked for launched it’s first website in 1998, one of the first online banner printing and sign enterprises to do so (under a different name which will remain unnamed). I was impressed with how easily people could find our small West Coast sign company, even from New York City or Chicago or Miami, on the internet. We were the numero uno signage business on a teensy-weensy search engine called Yahoo! in 1998, and among the first 500 companies listed on Yahoo! We didn’t even know what we had stumbled onto at that time.
By 2000, I pressed the owner of the company (I was the manager) to focus our time and energy and money on the internet. It was the wave of the future, I ranted. I got a lukewarm response (note: the owner was my Father, so Dads, take note…your son may sometime have good ideas – you should listen to them!), so, in 2003, I left to his company to market banners (and signs, displays, decals, etc.). We have done very well with it, but we have seen that there are some negatives with online purchasing, but mostly that have to do with specific unnamed companies, and not so much the internet itself.
The Dark Secrets of Web Banner Marketers
Problem #1 – Fly-by-Nighters, Hucksters, and Rip-Offs.
All those mean virtually the same thing, and they are often dominating the front pages of Google advertising for $1.50 per square foot. But hey, it’s marketing, right? You know if you go there you’re likely going to pay double or triple that amount to get a good quality banner, but the ads suck you in, and a slick salesman on the other end of the email or phone line quotes what you really wanted at $5 or $6 per square foot, which is a fair price, but not what you thought you’d be getting, so you go to the next site that is advertising signs at $.99 per square foot and end up in the same place as the first site! But you lost 2 hours trying to save money. Lesson learned, maybe, hopefully?
While it probably is effective, I can’t say that I am fully comfortable using (or abusing) that style of marketing – even if it’s effective. Maybe it’s sour grapes because I’m lousy at being a huckster, but why not just say “Low, billboard quality printing on cheap Chinese material with 2nd rate ink for displays that you don’t need to last more than a month – $1.50/sq.ft.” Where’s the FCC when you need them!?
Problem #2 – You can’t see the product you’re wanting to purchase.
This isn’t as much of an issue any more. Vinyl banner materials are manufactured by 4 or 5 plants worldwide, and the scrim materials come from these same companies, so there’s not a lot of variation in what’s available. There are many brands, but most are the same as other brands. Much banner material is made in China, though there are variable grades of product even from there, and the $1.50 per square foot material is the bottom of the barrel – certainly not retail or trade show quality – most likely OK for 50 dpi billboards, but not much else.
Nowadays, if you really want to see a material sample, you can easily request a printed sample; most companies will be happy to send you samples in the mail, free of charge. Unless you want it tomorrow…then you’ll need to provide an expediter account number from UPS or Fedex. Pretty standard procedure for any legitimate firm.
But Wait! There’s Good News for Production and other Online Purchases Too!
There are definitely pros and cons to web purchases, and the greatest of the pros is convenience. If you have more time than money, or your time isn’t worth much money, and you like visiting your local shop printer, you can depart your office and go down to the sign shop and by the time all you’re done, you’ve spent a couple un-retrievable hours buying one or two. But as long as you’re happy, I’m happy.
As an avid online purchaser, I’ve purchased tires, car engines, shoes, clothing, toys, materials for my banner printing business, golf equipment, and tons more online. Why? It’s quick, easy, and saves money and time. It costs me $.35 per mile or more to take my car out, and a 20 mile road trip takes 45 minutes and $7.00 when I could be writing one of my spellbinding blog articles! :)
Another positive for internet shopping – it can be cheaper – sometimes way cheaper. Prices in the print advertising business have stayed about level for around 20 years in many categories, and have even gone down a bit in others. Why? Less overhead. Retails storefronts cost money in higher rent, heat, lights, fancier fixtures (than a manufacturing facility), and other expenses. Will the retail store go away? Probably not soon, but many successful retailers have also become “e-tailers” as well, making sure they’ve covered all their bets. Which is why we jumped into this business as well as marketing other types of printing back in the ’90’s!
Online banner printing made it possible for printer e-tailers to expand their services over the web world: learn here.
How did your online buying experience go? Feel free to share it on the comment form below.