Signing up for a signage and printing franchise?
Technology has an enormous effect on the printing and signage industry, and with an assortment of businesses available, the future looks exciting for franchisees.
The most significant improvement has occurred over the last 20 years, with the move from traditional offset printing methods to the development of digital printing. Large format inkjet and laser printers have replaced printing plates, offering savings in time, and enhanced business opportunities. Digital signage (LCD, LED, plasma displays, and projected images) features in public and private environments, such as retail stores and corporate buildings.
Another progression is servicing customers through e-commerce initiatives, which is increasingly vital as clients demand fast and simple processes for transferring artwork files, viewing proofs and ordering files.
The price of technologyOf course there are costs associated with ongoing technology investments but these vary from business to business and across every franchise system. The view at Signarama is that technology in the signage industry is evolving at such a rapid rate that some level of re-investment will be required by the franchisee to maintain a product offering.
Machinery such as flat-bed digital printers, latex printers and digital signage allow sign companies to be more expansive and innovative. All of these technologies have served to revolutionise the capabilities of traditional signage, and invariably lead to a wider range of services available, along with reduced operating costs and greater efficiencies.
The nature of a Snap business requires up-to-date servers and computer systems to be maintained by each franchise. Snap Franchising procures licences for systems such as quoting and invoicing, customer relationship management, online ordering, web to print interface, and one-to-one personalised marketing tools.
At Kwik Kopy all franchisees work on a three to four year technology investment plan. The investment levels vary at individual centres according to market demand and customer requirements. Kwik Kopy has invested heavily in keeping at the forefront of technology, particularly in providing an effective and efficient web2print facility launched in 2009.
Keeping track of the trends is important at Signwave. Andrew McKay, general manager, Fastsigns International — Signwave Australia, says “We have a dedicated research and development department at our head office in Dallas, which identifies industry trends, future technologies and equipment.” He says franchisees carve themselves a niche in the marketplace “by taking advantage of the research and development passed on from head office, sophisticated marketing, and presenting themselves as complete marketing solutions providers”.
What is cloud computing?Wikipedia defines cloud computing as the provision of computational resources on demand via a network. Cloud computing can be compared to the supply of electricity and gas, or the provision of telephone, television and postal services. All of these services are presented to the users in a simple way that is easy to understand without the users needing to know how the services are provided.
Evan Foster, national director, Australia United Franchise Group, says “Signarama anticipates investment in cloud computing technologies for the signage industry, and has just launched its own exclusive cloud-based point-of-sale system.”
Beyond printingToday’s customer looks for a consultancy approach as well as print services. “Rather than just being a basic printing and photocopier service, Kwik Kopy franchisees provide advice on how customers can get the best possible product for the right budget,” explains Graham England, franchise sales manager of Kwik Kopy Australia. “Our centres also provide superior graphic design services as well as marketing expertise; this holistic approach allows centres to carve out a niche, which provides our customers with all the product services to meet their communications requirements,” he says.
Signarama recently launched what it considers to be Australia’s most comprehensive online signage design and ordering site, called www.shopsignarama.com.au, says Evan Foster. Franchisees can now provide a service to those clients that want to be able to design and order their signage online.
“So we have created the ability for people to order 24/7, wherever they are, and with hundreds of pre-populated designs you don’t need to be a designer to create your own signage,” Foster adds. “We like to think that we’re leading the industry in this service.”
At Snap, technology has played a major role in its various brands and products, reflected in the removal of the word ‘printing’ from its name. New Snap products include web design, e-products, QR codes and videos — all of which are technology based. “Launched last year, Snap Level 2 has come about because technology has made it so easy to provide outstanding marketing and e-marketing services to our customers,” says Grant Vernon, Snap CEO.
Snap’s other print services (Snap Promote and Snap Direct) are also based on the latest technology. Unable to give too much away just yet, Vernon hints at an even more promising future for new franchisees: “We are about to announce a new franchise model which is based on the latest technology.”
Success — franchisor or franchisee?In a franchise system the franchisee is benefiting from the model created by the franchisor. So is success down to franchisor or franchisee? At Kwik Kopy the franchise system is a foundation for franchisees to add their own individual skills, flair and expertise to achieve success. “This enables owners who do not have print related experience to operate successful and profitable businesses,” says England.
Signwave provides the process and structure combined with a sound business model, ethics and ongoing support. However, success is up to each franchisee’s contribution. “Ultimately, these are all independently owned and run businesses and nothing will succeed without the dedication and passion of the owner,” says McKay.
Signarama has developed a highly recognisable brand name in the industry in Australia, but is also proud of the work franchisees produce on a consistent basis. “Our franchisees are our best ambassadors and have contributed an enormous amount to the growth of our brand in Australia,” says Foster.
Snap operates a business-to-business model so service and relationships are critical. “We have one of the most recognised brands in Australia,” says Vernon. “Even so, our systems and support would not work without the dedication and hard work of the franchise owners.”
It is the franchisees who make Snap what it is. “They bring their own vitality and flavour to each centre,” Vernon insists. “They are the ones working into the night and on weekends to make urgent deliveries and going out of their way to satisfy customers.”