Why does Generation Z find print daunting?

The use of media has changed considerably and this is also reflected in print volumes. Added to that is the fact that this generation finds it difficult to place print orders. Digital allows you to try something out quickly and change it, whereas print is static and its finality makes it slightly daunting. It is therefore important to teach young people about the benefits of print and show them how digital tools can be used today to make print production very simple and flexible.

At first glance, print volumes appear to be constant – at least from a global perspective. But if you take a closer look at the individual continents, print volumes are falling in North America and Europe. Although that amounts to only 2 to 3 percent a year, it has accumulated into a considerable decline over the years. This is being offset by sustained growth in Asia.

In the USA alone, commercial print volumes have fallen by almost 50 percent since 1995, and revenues have dropped by 80 percent. Over the same period, the US economy has grown by over 70 percent. The only segment within the printing industry that has benefited from this is package printing. Unlike commercial printing, it has not become decoupled from GDP growth. In recent years, prices for commercial printing have risen by just 4 percent in the USA, while consumer prices have risen by 17 percent.

For Europe, only figures for the period from 2009 to 2015 are available, but even these are revealing. Industry sales fell by 24 percent to 80 billion euros, and 27 percent of jobs were lost. The result is the same for both Europe and the USA: many companies had to give up or were taken over. In this market environment, printers need to reposition themselves and change their sales strategy. It’s all about making the benefits to customers clear while, at the same time, understanding their requirements and those of the market.

Mistakes can be really costly
Customers have also changed completely. Decision-makers who are 35 years old or younger are more daunted about placing print orders. People are afraid of the finality of print. Digitally, everything can be changed with a few clicks of the mouse; but when printing an error can be really costly.

Simply accepting PDF files and printing them uncommented is not enough for a printing house. No matter where the mistake lies, in the end all that's left is a frustrated customer. I praise my online printer who recently offered me a free sample copy on production paper for an order quantity of over 100 euros. The fact that the final print looked even a little better increased my satisfaction. Such things can even be specifically controlled using a color profile.

Driving force behind purchasing decisions
Print also doesn’t provide any real-time measurement, which is difficult for the "right now” generation to comprehend. But now there are also tools that bridge the gap between print and digital, and which can be used to determine whether and how printed material is used. QR codes and virtual reality might not provide data in real time, but they do provide interesting approaches, allowing individual channels to be interlinked in a cross-media campaign and providing valuable information for controlling and optimizing a campaign. It often turns out that print is the main driving force behind a purchasing decision.

Sustainability as part of self-perception
Generation Z also overlooks the fact that it’s possible to try things out once with print, in terms of trial-and-error, and change them just as quickly if necessary. In addition, it’s difficult to estimate publishing run sizes – due to a lack of experience – and removing parts of an order simply doesn’t fit into how this generation wants to view itself. However, the paper and printing industry has done a lot to reduce the carbon footprint of printed material, especially in terms of sustainability. This even goes so far to allow remaining emissions from production to be made climate-neutral by means of certificates. Sustainability is part of print, there aren't many industries that can make this claim. And as far as the carbon footprint is concerned, print has no need to hide from digital competition either.

Even more successful with print
Many of the issues raised don't even arise with digital media. That's why it's so important to dispel the fears of potential customers about print and also make them aware of its advantages in the media mix – and there are plenty of them. Modern workflow tools and digital printing offer an opportunity to simplify print production enormously. We also need to show customers that print can make their business even more successful within the framework of a multi-channel strategy. And that's what it’s all about!

Knud Wassermann
Chief Editor of Graphische Revue