MOST CHANNEL PROS think of inkjet printers, if they think about printers at all, as products more fit for the home and microbusiness markets than for mainstream SMBs. According to Long Beach, Calif.-based Epson America Inc., however, inkjet is for everyone, as well as one of the fastest-growing product categories in a print market that still offers plenty of opportunity for people who know what to sell and who to sell it to.
In this ChannelPro Q&A, Scott Marsic, a business imaging product manager at Epson, explains why office inkjet printers are some of the most underappreciated offerings in SMB technology today.
ChannelPro: To set the scene a little, what’s inkjet’s place in the business world currently?
Scott Marsic: In the consumer space—meaning brick and mortar, Best Buy—97 percent of what they sell is inkjet. You’re not going to find a laser in there. The area that we play in is office unit shipments, and what a lot of people don’t realize is that today almost 50 percent of that is inkjet. Now, most of that is in the A4 space, but you’ve seen a big push towards the A3 space too, because that’s where a lot of the acceleration in print volume and color printing really is coming from. IDC says it’s slated to be over 60 percent by 2020. Laser’s not going away, but the growth is in inkjet.
Marsic: Here’s what IDC is saying, so this isn’t Epson speaking. Inkjet technology is disruptive for a variety of reasons. It’s lower cost to build, the consumables are less, and there’s fewer parts, fewer things that can break. If you open up a laser printer, you’re going to see all sorts of parts and pieces, some of which you can’t touch because they’re hot. You open up an inkjet printer, you basically have five consumables. That’s all you need to replace, which means better serviceability for our partners, which means more profitability.
ChannelPro: Which is the greater challenge for you today, building awareness of the inkjet opportunity or convincing people that Epson is the way to go with inkjet?
Marsic: I would say it’s both, in all honesty. There’s a lot of laser bias in the market. It’s kind of what comes top of mind. You think office, reliable, robust. Laser, right? [With] inkjet, people think bubble jet, my grandfather’s Oldsmobile. How does it fit in the office? There’s a lot of misconceptions and preconceptions about what inkjet provides, and how it’s advanced in this space. The investment that’s been put into it is incredible. The shrinking of the technology, the improvement of resolution, the reduction of cost are all reasons that make it very compelling for customers.
So to your question, we’re having to speak to the biases that are out there, and we’re working to be more proactive and aggressive, because we don’t sell laser. Epson has doubled down on inkjet. We believe that’s where the market’s going, that’s what we’re selling, and that’s what we’re investing in.
ChannelPro: Where are you seeing especially strong growth in inkjet?
Marsic: Because it’s disruptive, inkjet is allowing us to place printers in places where people couldn’t previously, because it was cost prohibitive. Now we’re telling people, ‘Inkjet provides 50 percent less color printing cost than comparative laser printers,’ or with some of our printers, 80 percent less color printing cost than color laser comparatives. It’s not five, 10 times what your monochrome costs are. It’s something like two to three, and that’s very compelling for people. And people want to print color.
Resellers are intrigued too, because they make more money with inkjet. Even though color inkjet costs less than laser, you’re still going to charge more for a color page. It’s going to be more attractive to your end users, which means the dealer’s going to be able to make more money, because you’ve got new placements in places you couldn’t put color printers before.
ChannelPro: Is inkjet for any size business, or is there a sweet spot for it?
Marsic: I believe it’s for any business. Really, it’s the solutions that you build around it and the customer’s print volume needs that matter. We’ve seen companies that have 50-page-per-minute lasers and they’re printing three to five pages at a time. An inkjet printer that costs less and brings down their TCO would be perfect for them. You do have some customers that are printing 10,000 pages a month, and they really need a beefier A4 that we might not provide, so we don’t fit in everywhere. More often than not, though, we’re finding that we do fit in. It’s just creating that awareness, and letting them know about the solutions that can augment or replace what they currently have today.
ChannelPro: I’ve got to believe you guys run into resellers who think of print as yesterday’s technology, because nobody wants paper anymore. How do you respond to that concern?
Marsic: We still see tremendous demand. I think if you look at the whole ecosystem, overall people see declines happening, but there’s areas, especially in the office printing and A3 environment and even A4 environment, particularly for SMB, where you see a dramatic acceleration in opportunity. Just looking at some of the IDC predictions out there for $400-plus multifunction printers, I think the five-year CAGR is 19 percent. So it’s significant growth potential in some of these areas that Epson and others are very excited about, and the VARs out there should be too, and they should be looking to Epson for a potential partner in this space.