Make your printing business futureproof
Get inspired right here.
And get ready to accelerate straight into the zone of disruption.


  • disruption means turning a mainstream business model on its head
    and breaking its traditional ways to outsmart competition
  • print should leverage the emotional associations
    and the unique relationship people have with paper
  • marketing – yes, marketing
    is where print can disrupt the classic model

What is disruption to print, really?

Ah, disruption, buzzword du jour. Overhyped, overused?
Sure. But not innocent and destined to challenge print as well.
But we can get ahead of the curve.

“Change the status quo.
Or become it.”

This is Mark Shayler’s call to aspiring entrepreneurs in his 2013 book “Do Disrupt.” In today’s rapidly shifting marketplace, disruption has become the buzzword du jour.

So buzzed, in fact, that it has lost its meaning and has become overused, claimed even by those who are not disruptive at all.

So what does it actually mean?
And why should we pay attention?

Turning models upside down and winning

The official dictionary definition of disruption is “disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process” – basically, a disturbing interruption. Part of the word’s sex appeal as an entrepreneurial buzzword is that it subverts the original negative connotation.

Its current use in business originates from Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” The dilemma being the decision between catering to customer’s current needs or abandoning traditional business practices, known as “disruptive innovation” to address future needs.

The concept of disruption explained how small businesses could end up wiping the floor with old behemoths. Two decades ago, there were about 4,000 independent bookstores in the United States – only about 1,900 remain today.

Yes, with the rise of e-books, digital distribution and Amazon, brick-and-mortar bookshops were definitely on the path to extinction.

Challenged by the accelerated innovation fundamentally changing the commercial landscape, businesses took the word and ran with it. Future-proofing your business has become synonymous with turning an industry’s business model upside down.

Remember the impact of the MP3 on the music labels and shops? Uber and AirBnB on transport and hotel accomodation? So what could that mean for the print industry?

Yet, it would be wrong to set out to disrupt per se. Most companies that look like disruptors fundamentally change their market because of their pure customer focus: they manage to tackle pain points traditional players have failed to address.

Just Try Googling ‘Lemonade insurance’ as an example.

So, disruption is not “harder, better, faster”

The print industry is experiencing a massive reshaping influenced by the rise of digital and the changing marketing landscape. That being said, printed materials are far from becoming obsolete.

Users clearly still prefer print’s tactile and immediate sensibility.

Print rises above the noise of online and holds their attention in a different way. To future-proof their industry, printing professionals have to leverage the emotional association users have with paper.

Disruption is not about “better, faster”: higher quality products and more streamlined services alone won’t help print stay ahead. Disruption is about changing the model. Where print can do this, is through marketing.

The line between print and digital is fading with data mining, universal analytics, augmented reality, QR-codes, integration with apps and social media. For printers, managing data has become essential, and digital presses have innovated to take on this capability.

In order to adapt to declining print volumes and self-service solutions, the industry must focus on delivering a service-centric model focusing on flexibility and mobility.

To make the case for print, printers have to understand what motivates their clients, which pain points they are facing, and develop and sell print solutions that meet their specific needs.

Data insights are the key to improving performance and efficiency for customers. This is where data from websites, CRMs and customer interactions – from social media to live conversation – comes in.

3 ways the print industry is disrupting for the better

There are many ways printing professionals can innovate their businesses to stay ahead on shifting ground. Here are three disruptive trends printing professionals are engaging with to adapt to the changing market:

  • Embrace print-on-demand (POD): Consumers want to print less, and print smarter. They want to eliminate overhead and minimize their risk. They need printing to keep up with the relentless pace of change. This is where the printing industry is in turn disrupting many other industries, from book publishing to décor. POD is just one way that the printing world is shifting to more customized products, powered by technology and targeted marketing.Looking at the amount of printed matter that gets thrown away and the years POD has been available though, it seems the technology has yet to be embraced.
  • Get in the digital driver’s seat: Despite predictions, paper is still very much relevant in the workplace. At the same time, innovative businesses are seeking to eliminate paper bottlenecks to optimize their efficiency. Here is where print vendors can have an important role to play in connecting the paper and digital worlds. Printing professionals can leverage and develop their expertise in workflow solutions and services to support their clients’ business processes.
  • Dive into data: Which data can you use to make your business smarter? Not just yours, but that of your customers too? At Xeikon, we leverage real-time press data to make our presses perform better and save, for example, on consumables and substrates, and identify bottlenecks that make operators work more efficiently.

An industry many can rely on

Shayler challenges companies to “define your customer, identify the competition… and then outsmart them,” in order to avoid being left in the dust. Print has proved to be surprisingly resilient, and there is no shortage of ways industry models can be disrupted to become more agile and adaptable.

A world of enterprises relies on the printing industry to help them innovate. As a printing professional, you are called on to adapt to shifting ground by getting an edge on customer preferences.

With smart use of data and new technology, you are uniquely positioned to ride the wave of change and leverage your hard-won expertise, and, who knows, turn a model on its head.


  1. From tourism to music, retail, taxis and book selling
    disruption has happened and will continue to happen
  2. Can you imagine how disruption will shake up print?
    Start looking at other industries, keep an eye on Amazon
  3. You can be prepared by getting ahead of the curve
    what would it take to adapt a truly customer-centric mindset?
  4. Digital opens new, possibly disruptive doors
    printing on demand, extreme customization, data for better and new services