Vistaprint’s New View of Globalization

As globalization continues to affect everyday lives, we are seeing a corresponding repositioning of business resources and factors that promote growth and success, particularly in sectors hitherto untouched by globalization’s reach.

The small, local, family-owned enterprise is no exception. Nor is the “old fashioned” printing sector.

In order to remain competitive, “traditional” companies can no longer rely on rigid structures, and thanks to the commoditization of technology, they must now look for ways to reinvigorate their business models.

Vistaprint is one company that has leveraged new technologies and the means of globalization not only to excel in the global marketplace but also to dominate of all things the business card/postcard/T-shirt segment! An aggressive web advertiser, Vista now has 2,700 employees across 13 countries.

One time, Vistaprint—born in Europe—was a small business, but by leveraging the Internet, multi-channel marketing, and global supply chains, it has grown exponentially, reporting $817 million in revenue in 2011.

Vistaprint is now the poster child of how companies—especially those in “traditional” sectors—must adapt to globalization’s new paradigms: aggregated mass production, global supply chains, offshoring, innovative use of the web, etc.

Farther, Faster, Cheaper

Prior to the Internet, operating across geographies was a challenge, but manufacturing today can occur anywhere there is physical infrastructure, shipping access, and/or digital communications. A production facility can now encompass many locations and serve a global demographic—Vistaprint’s facilities, for instance, are in Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.

As Thomas Friedman says, “[T]echnologies are making it easier … for traditional nation-states and corporations to reach farther, faster, cheaper, and deeper around the world than ever before.”

Putting it another way, Vistaprint CEO Thomas Keane explains, “[T]he Internet and the ability to pull orders instantaneously … is the death of distance between these different areas. That’s why we can put manufacturing where it is most competitive. Technology has accelerated globalization to a really exciting place.”

An Element of Salvation?

In the now-globalized world, those who rely on out-moded, rigid systems will never grow beyond a certain level, or they may die on the vine.

The localized, small business printer, for example, realizing that its market share is shrinking, might react—systematically—by buying another distressed business for reasons of purchasing technology he or she covets. But this tactic alone cannot provide long-term growth.

Online ordering with supply chains located all over the world is challenging an industry that once relied on craftsmanship and local business ties. New services and new ideas—ones that leverage globalization’s tactics and that are spread over wider geographic areas—are needed to maintain the same level of success, let alone to grow.

Although online marketing has diminished the printing industry significantly, moving processes and products online might provide an element of salvation. It may be that globalization and new technology benefit the industry and make it suffer simultaneously.

From Production to Service

That is, small printers have the ability—if they have the wherewithal—to move beyond the print shop floor to produce expansive cross-media marketing campaigns for clients that include an element of printing but that also include the management of assets, supply chains, and fulfillment requests.

Online tools allow the printing industry to become less like a manufacturer and more like a service provider. In other words, the print shop can now become an advisor to its clients and sell holistic business and workflow solutions such as fulfillment, warehousing, and cross-media marketing.

And small printers can use online systems to gain efficiencies for clients (such as online prepress, proofing, or print-on-demand), thereby counteracting the fact that digital marketing is competing for client printing budgets.

The changes in the printing industry are reflected in its staffing model, which has seen a significant shift from the manufacturing floor to the front office. Because technology has created machines that need fewer people to produce more goods, printing companies are replacing blue-collar staff with service staff—sales, account management, production, creative, and marketing.

All this is a perfect illustration of the shift in the labor force that Daniel Bell predicted would happen to industry as technology and communication improved. The growth of the knowledge economy requires businesses to include technology and knowledge along with labor and capital as key factors of success.

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