Print consumables: The trends and dangers

With inkjet increasing in popularity – and the counterfeit consumables market growing – what can dealers do to keep on top of this sector?

The vast majority of OP dealers sell print consumables – and it’s big business. We are far from the oft-mentioned ‘paperless office’ concept, and the need for print continues – but what are customers currently crying out for in the print consumables world?

Well one, glaringly obvious, trend is that inkjet printers and their corresponding consumables are seeing a surge in popularity over laser print; the simple reason for this is that inkjet is more cost-effective. “Companies are, increasingly, recognising the benefits of, and switching to, inkjet technology,” says Jade Paris, product manager at Epson.

“Inkjet printing, and high-volume solutions such as replaceable ink packs, can yield big sustainability savings for businesses of all sizes. Printing solutions can have a substantial impact on a company’s triple bottom line – which is important when it comes to non-financial reporting. Inkjet technology produces 99% less waste than laser, consumes 96% less energy than laser and produces up to 92% less CO2 than laser – offering multiple business benefits.”

In fact, inkjet can be so beneficial that, if every UK business made the switch to it, enough energy would be saved to run over 60,000 households. This, in turn, could contribute substantially to the EU’s goal of cutting its carbon footprint by 80-95% before 2050. “Forecasts suggest that the overall business inkjet market will grow at a rate of 10.2% (compound annual growth rate, or CAGR), up to and including 2020,” Jade continues. “According to industry analyst International Data Corporation inkjet printing is forecast to account for 34% of the total business printer market in 2019.”

The preference towards inkjet is now changing behaviours across print as the category matures. “More end-customers are now buying high-yield supplies,” says Andy Johnson, head of product management at Brother UK. “On top of cost gains, these supplies help customers to create less waste, from a sustainability perspective, while reducing the frequency of replacements frees-up time for staff to carry out more productive tasks.”

For businesses, inkjet printer consumables are often acquired under contract, as they are highly likely to be integrated as part of a managed print service (MPS) system. This is something for dealers to think about in their consumables offering. “Customers without MPS are also preferring to buy value packs of consumables, for their overall cost benefits, rather than buying individual cartridges,” Andy adds.

Counterfeit consumables

‘Trend’ may be the wrong word for this, as that word has connotations of positivity, but we simply can’t talk about print consumables without touching on the counterfeit market. It’s no secret that selling unbranded printer consumables could prove damaging to the businesses trading in them.

Back in October we collaborated with ICCE – an organisation which aims to prevent the intellectual property theft of imaging supplies – on an informative piece about why avoiding counterfeit printer products is important. For starters, these consumables can contain chemicals which actually damage print hardware – not to mention these chemicals can be toxic to humans, threatening their health as well.

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However, the illegal printer products market is believed to be worth around €1.6bn, making it a difficult monster to slay, and the general demand for print consumables is growing all the time. “Figures published late last year show that there has been a rise in the use of printing consumables in offices and institutions,” says Jade.

Dealers should ensure they are making wise choices when acquiring print consumables to sell to customers, as sending sub-par products down the sales chain can have serious ramifications. “When it comes to consumables, and making the choice between branded and third-party cartridges, users should choose carefully,” Jade advises. “Printing is a partnership – it takes both a printer and its ink to produce a quality print.”

Jade suggests that dealers research the products they are sourcing – and where they are sourcing them from – in order to ensure they are safe to sell. “This will avoid potential printing pitfalls and wasting money on unusable consumables,” she says.

“Cheap ink alternatives don’t always produce outstanding print quality,” she continues, “and 15% of third-party users have reported that unbranded cartridges have refused to work – compared to just three per cent of those who use printer-branded ink.”

Aaron Anderson, relationship marketing manager at KYOCERA, is concerned that some dealers aren’t paying close enough attention to the consumables they sell – or are wilfully making poor choices. “There is a reluctance in parts of the dealer community to always provide genuine consumables to customers,” he says. “Take a look at almost any compatible toner advert and you will find words like ‘cheap’, ‘cost-effective’ and ‘unbeatable price’. Compatible toner, more than likely, comes at a lower cost which means that, by switching from genuine to compatible products, your profit margin increases.”

In truth, Aaron says, selling cheap compatibles to clients is a false economy. “In the short-term you may save money – but, in the long term, this is offset by the cost of spare parts and servicing that is incurred by using compatible toner in branded machines.”

Dealers should also consider the fact that many customers buy print consumables based on their green credentials, and environmental accreditations are only awarded on the basis that the equipment is combined with its original manufacturer consumables. “You should not assume that the emissions produced by the equipment in use will comply with voluntary environmental standards,” Aaron says, because the ingredients in counterfeit consumables cannot be guaranteed.

“Cutting costs shouldn’t damage your reputation and create spiralling, long-term rolling costs,” Aaron continues. “Ensure both you and your customers don’t get less than you bargained for by recommending and rolling out non-branded consumables – because you might be surprised to find out that the lasting damage of counterfeits can be felt in your machines and your pocket for years to come.”

All in all, aiming to cut costs by selling unbranded print consumables simply isn’t worth it. “Printing should be hassle-free and reliable,” Jade concludes, “and branded consumables are designed to work seamlessly with the printer to produce high-quality and reliable results, for both text and graphics.

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