How To Transition From Print To Online (Seamlessly)

Richard Stockdale - Rebus Design Richard Stockdale 3rd May 2022

Your business may be in a position where it has to make the transition from print to online – so how do you do it?

Print publishing will always be essential in some business sectors, such as gift cards and gift-wrapping for example, but there are many other sectors where the transition from print to digital publishing has either happened already, is in transition or is inevitable. The obvious example of this is with newspapers and magazines, where a hybrid system currently exists in still printing hard copy content, but also in most cases offering an online version also.

With the increasing value and functionality to be had from social media and online marketing, many businesses are making the transition from print to digital. This might be cost-driven (reducing printing, shipping and distribution costs) or it could be market-driven (responding to the needs and demands of a changing market) or it could be a combination of the two. Your business may be in a position where it has to make the transition or is choosing to make the transition. Alternatively, it might be attempting to combine the two mediums before making the full switch. Whatever your circumstances, there are key considerations which will help you manage the switch.

Prepare your market

You don’t want to isolate or lose your customers by making the switch, so you need to prepare the ground rather than enforce a dramatic and unannounced change.

Explain why you are switching – will it save your existence or make the business/product better?

Explain that nothing changes – people don’t like change so explain that their product will be the same or even better

Explain how it will work – give them a rundown of how the switch will happen and how it will affect them

Make it easy to switch – don’t make it complicated or a chore, or people won’t want to go on this journey with you

Show the benefits – this could be more content, better quality content, increased functionality, more subscription options, discounts for online use, a more user-friendly autonomous experience?

Communicate clearly – focus on the positives and stick to the key information. You need to clearly explain when and why you are making the switch and how it will affect your customers. If people want some more background information, provide a link to some deeper content, but make it optional.

Apply the cost savings

Even if the main motivating factor isn’t cost, inevitably there will be cost benefits, so use these savings wisely and streamline the business. You could invest more in design, marketing, better expertise, more infrastructure to the business, or more social media content.

Executing the change

This is the nuts and bolts of how you make the switch. As we mentioned above, people are naturally resistant to change so you have to make it easy for them.

So when do you plan to make the switch? Think about seasonal trends and how a change might impact on them. Don’t make the change if it is going to damage your key sales period.

Is the switch going to be instant or gradual? Can you scale-back print publication or does it have to be one or the other? Carry out an impact analysis and think about how it will affect your customers.

Think about quality and customer perception. Your product or service has to be the same or better when online or digital, so think about design, content and supplementary benefits you can offer the customer when online.

Listen to and act on feedback

Make sure you create a mechanism through which you can analyse and measure the success of the switch.

Is it working?

Is it providing the customer with the same value and quality of experience?

The beauty of online publishing is that content and design can be changed easily and cost-effectively, so you can react to feedback and tailor your online content according to market experiences. Analyse the numbers and see if the switch has had a negative or positive impact, or if everything has stayed the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Perhaps most importantly of all, you should be patient when making the switch from print to online content. People might be initially reluctant to change so the impact of the switch might not be immediately positive, but this can improve over time. Be prepared to offer a fall-back option for those who might need some help in accepting the change, but it is important that you stick to your guns and be true to your strategy. If the change to online content is the right thing for your business, managing the switch properly should ultimately bring the rewards you want to see.

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