Recently, EFI recently received an interesting call from I.T. Strategies—one of the consulting firms we work with in our strategic market planning. They said they needed to make a revision to their prediction forecast related to industry growth rates for soft signage.
Usually a call like this is unwelcome news; it typically happens when researchers are too enthusiastic about a market opportunity and, after reviewing more data they have to revise their forecast downwards.
And while I.T. Strategies did admit that their initial forecast was off, they were taking the unusual step of revising their forecast upwards. Looking back at their data, the analyst group determined that the market was growing at least four points higher than they initially predicted, with the segment enjoying double-digit growth.
Appeal of Soft Signage
One might wonder why the segment would demonstrate that type of growth. Well our company’s own experiences using soft signage is a perfect example of why brands are increasingly interested in moving from conventional signage to soft signage. At EFI, we participate in more than 100 trade shows per year, or roughly two per week. Historically, we would create single-use vinyl banners for each show and dispose of them at the end of the event. Those conventional signs were expensive to ship and easily damaged.
Now, however, having switched to soft signage, we have about 10 banners that we can reuse throughout the year. While the per-piece cost is higher, overall we experience tremendous savings, printing only one-tenth the number of banners. At the end of the event, you can fold that banner up and place it in a FedEx envelope and get it on its way to the next event. Have you ever tried to ship a 10-foot banner tube? It’s expensive, and you often can’t ship it overnight. These days, if we don’t have major branding changes, we can even use the same soft signage beyond the one-year mark!
The other aspect is ease of installation. If you sew a silicon edge into the graphic, it fits neatly into a frame; and it’s really hard to mess up. It doesn’t take special skills or expertise to install it. Going beyond trade shows, think a about retail stores – they like to frequently change in-store signage to reflect new items, sales, or other messaging of the moment. With silicon-edged soft signage, anyone in the store can quickly, easily and accurately change out the signage. No need to bring in specialized labor to get it done.
These are a few of the reasons that well-known brands are increasingly turning to soft signage. But even more compelling, they like the way it looks. It offers a much higher-end look and feel and is still a measure of differentiation – it simply looks better than conventional signage.
Shop Perspective on Textile Printing
From the producer’s perspective, soft signage has many benefits as well. First and foremost, not everyone is doing it. In fact, our data reflects that only one in nine signage establishments offer soft signage. That means there is still a significant opportunity for market differentiation—and better margins for signage producers. From a sales perspective, it also gives the sales person something new to talk about, and often gains them an entrée into accounts where someone else has been firmly established.
One EFI customer in Portland, Oregon, was quite interested in getting into soft signage. This was around the time EFI acquired Italian textile printer maker Reggiani Macchine, and the customer did not have the amount of business that would justify a high-volume EFI Reggiani textile printer investment at the time. Space was also a consideration for this customer as well.
俄勒冈州波特兰市的一位EFI客户对软标识非常感兴趣。当时，EFI收购了意大利纺织打印机制造商Reggiani Macchine，但是客户没有足够的业务量来证明当时可以投资大批量的EFI Reggiani纺织品印刷机。所以资金空间也是一个重要的考虑因素。
But developments—such as the EFI VUTEk FabriVU series, which offers the same high-end imaging technology as Reggiani printers, but is designed for more moderate production volumes—are making soft signage more attractive to this customer and others. On top of that, yet another new technology—fabric printers featuring in-line sublimation capabilities—changes the equation for businesses that also face investment and space constraints for installing a calender machine or heat press. For our very entrepreneurial customer in Portland, the EFI VUTEk FabriVU 340 model was the key that allowed him to jump into the market with both feet.
但是开发方面来讲，例如EFI VUTEk FabriVU系列，提供与Reggiani打印机相同的高端成像技术，但设计用于有限的生产量，使得软标识对这个客户和其他人更具吸引力。除此之外，另一项新技术具有在线升华能力的织物打印机——改变了企业在安装压光机或热压机时面临的投资空间限制。对于我们在波特兰的创业客户而言，EFI VUTEk FabriVU 340型号是让他进入市场的关键。
There’s another perk that this and other soft signage companies have experienced: Once they acquire a new customer for soft signage, that customer is also more likely to send other signage work to them as well. One particular customer told us, “If it weren’t for soft signage, our business definitely would be down. We are able to offer something new and unique. And we are growing, both due to the new revenue source—soft signage—and the fact that those soft signage customers are sending us conventional UV banner work as well.”