According to Pieter Pieters, Product Manager for B2B Pro Print at Canon South Africa, South Africa’s miraculous GDP increase of 6.3% in the last quarter of 2020 exemplified the local economy’s tenacity and is most certainly a sign of things to come in 2021. Despite the hardships presented to us during the past year, businesses that were able to turn adversity into innovation in order to weather the storm proved that a solid yet supple business strategy goes a long way.

As the world and businesses start to recover from the tumultuous effects of 2020, we take a moment to reflect on the lessons we inadvertently learned and overcame in the new normal.

Forced out of office, most smaller businesses and SMEs considered restructuring their print fleet to address the change in demand. The pay for print entrepreneurs also had a tough decision to make, aligning limited income once their current range of devices had to be renewed. This presents a unique opportunity for suppliers of these printers to address their printing needs with the simplicity of a device that is capable of the required solutions and volumes.

From a printing perspective and my exposure day to day with the different partners, the economic strain we are currently facing in South Africa has required that smaller businesses innovate at a rapid speed, and this can most certainly be seen in the increased digitisation of the country. Approaches need to change but we can already see that they are geared and prepared for any potential challenges.

In terms of industries that are leading the way towards a digital South Africa, education comes out on top, in particular higher education. But we also see this in the printing industry. Printing houses are challenged in an ever-increasing competitive segment and this is where innovation comes in again. It is of the utmost importance that we offer a wide variety of higher volume devices that address the needs of various printing businesses and educational institutions, enabling them to revolutionise the way in which they conduct business during trying times. We need to be ‘thinking on our feet’ in an effort to best benefit the customer and creatively approach their unique challenges.

Finally, we are seeing a digital rollout within the health industry, whose current significance – and unfortunate strain – has escalated due to the circumstances of 2020. Like most industries, printing has moved in-house as a means to reduce costs.

The fluctuating and sporadic nature of the various lockdowns we have experienced in South Africa has shown that people and businesses are printing smarter. Although they may be printing less often, they are focused on saving on expenses by thinking smart. By us (as businesses) trying to cut costs, we are also trying to do more for less.

Many businesses have seen a drive towards centralised solutions to be able to withstand the economic effects of the previous year. We no longer market printers as ‘printers’ but rather as a solution for the business in which it is bought into. We look at it from the perspective of how we can address the particular company’s needs but also how we enable them to grow.

This is significant as far as arming businesses with their best suited printing solution goes. When we look at the new generation of printers, it’s not simply a case of manufacturing smaller printers with a reduced footprint, but also the advanced capabilities and overall durability of the devices. More importantly, it comes down to the cost of ownership, functionality, accessibility and ease of use.

It is these types of innovations that afford businesses with contingency plans, should any disruption arise. We find that businesses that are open to innovation and creative solutions already have some level of readiness in place. This is a sign of proactive business owners because, as humans, we learn from experience. We also see this in the way in which businesses are interacting with their customers and how they are building meaningful relationships with them. We often refer to this as ‘proactively enticing’, demonstrating the potential growth that the customer can expect.

2020 has gone to show that we truly cannot predict the future but we can prepare for it. Embracing innovation and proactively addressing what businesses can offer customers is at the heart of the matter. Being a part of a business’s innovative growth, we have seen first-hand how enterprises and industries have managed to withstand and adjust to the changing world. With changes come new requirements.

In conclusion, it comes down to thinking smarter and being proactive with your business strategy. Businesses that are able to adapt and operate in this way stand a better chance of seeing the growth or opportunities, as opposed to a decline from situations beyond our human control.

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