By Jolene Castelyn – While some industry analysts are already forecasting the downward slope of the printer market, I don’t believe we’re anywhere near that precipice, and if anything, printing is alive, well, and growing.

The printer market in Southern Africa, like many regions, is influenced by various factors such as economic conditions, technological advancements, and industry trends. Demand for new and updated hardware products typically depends on the overall business environment, consumer preferences, and the adoption of digital solutions.

It’s the overall business market that’s changing, learning to readjust after several years in the pandemic wilderness. As such, we’re seeing increasing digitisation in the printer market, and a shift towards more efficient and cost-effective printing solutions.

This includes a growing demand for multifunction printers (MFPs) that offer advanced features like wireless connectivity, cloud integration, and mobile printing capabilities, with businesses and consumers alike wanting printers that provide high-quality outputs, energy efficiency, and compatibility with various devices.


Digital transformation

In this post-pandemic market, customers face various challenges in managing their printing operations. Cost management, security concerns, environmental impact, document management, print infrastructure maintenance, print security, mobile and remote printing, print volume control, compliance, and digital transformation are key areas that need to be addressed.

One significant challenge is the concern over security when transitioning to digital workflows.

Organisations may be hesitant to embrace digital solutions due to fears of data breaches or unauthorised access. Additionally, there is a prevailing resistance to change, with some businesses still stuck in traditional ways of operating and reluctant to digitise their workflows.

This resistance can stem from a lack of awareness about the benefits of digital solutions or a reluctance to invest in new technologies.

Implementing digital solutions into the printing environment will prove impactful in overcoming these challenges. The change requires addressing security concerns through robust data protection measures and providing education and support to businesses to help them understand the advantages of digital solutions, including cloud and self-hosted advanced print management software solutions to address these challenges.

By emphasising the cost savings, increased efficiency, and improved sustainability that can be achieved through digitalisation, the printer market in Southern Africa can gradually shift towards a more digital-centric and cost-effective landscape.


A changing landscape

While digital marketing channels have gained prominence, printing still retains its significance in certain areas for corporates, although the extent may vary.

Pre-pandemic, printing often played a substantial role in corporates for various purposes, including marketing collateral, promotional materials, brochures, catalogues, direct mail campaigns, and event materials. Physical copies were distributed at trade shows, conferences, meetings, and other corporate events.

However, the pandemic accelerated the shift towards digital channels due to remote work arrangements, travel restrictions, and the overall rise in digital communication. Virtual events, online marketing campaigns, email newsletters, social media promotions, and digital content dissemination gained popularity during this time.

That being said, printing retains its relevance in specific scenarios, as physical materials offer a tangible and memorable experience for recipients, enabling targeted and personalised communication. Industries like retail, hospitality, and real estate still rely on printed materials for their marketing strategies, for example.

In regions with limited internet access or where physical presence matters for customer engagement, print materials may be preferred. Additionally, compliance regulations and customer preferences for physical documentation sustain the need for printing.

Post-pandemic, corporates will increasingly adopt an integrated approach, combining digital and print channels to effectively reach their audience and achieve marketing goals. The role of printing continues to evolve in this dynamic landscape.


Looking forward

The printing industry is at the cusp of several inflection points, driven by advancements in digital printing technology and changing market demands.

Industrial printing, including wide-format, packaging, and textile printing, is advancing with inkjet technology and digital workflows. The ability to print on various materials enables customisation for industries like signage and packaging.

Functional printing integrates electronic functionalities into printed materials for healthcare, IoT, and energy management applications. Cloud printing and managed print services are growing in popularity, streamlining infrastructure, and improving security.

The industry is also focusing on sustainability through eco-friendly consumables and responsible production practices. These developments represent significant transformations in the printing industry, with potential for further advancements.


Closing thoughts

In our post-pandemic world, printing is likely to undergo significant transformations. While the digital revolution has already reduced the reliance on traditional printing, it’s expected that the shift towards digitalisation will accelerate further.

Remote work and virtual collaboration have become more prevalent, leading to increased reliance on digital documents and online communication. However, certain areas such as packaging, signage, and specialised printing will still thrive.

Moreover, printing companies should diversify their offerings by focusing on value-added services like customisation, personalisation, and environmentally-friendly printing options to cater to evolving customer needs.


Jolene Castelyn is the marketing executive at Ricoh Southern Africa