The Cloud and Mobile Demystified
Cloud computing and mobile communications are just two of the disruptive technologies that are driving radical change in the printing industry.August 2013 By John Foley
More and more businesses are adopting cloud-based and mobile technologies to perform their business functions. These technologies can help streamline processes, save your company money and reduce the amount of on-site IT staffing you need.
But what, specifically, can the cloud and mobile do for your business?
Confusion over what the cloud actually does is one of the factors slowing its widespread adoption. Put simply, cloud computing is the delivery of standard IT solutions, such as software or infrastructure, on a pay-per-use or subscription basis.
Cloud resources can be shared among several organizations or dedicated to just one, but in either case they are often hosted and maintained by a third-party vendor.
One common type of cloud computing is Software as a Service (SaaS). In this model, the software developer maintains the software's core code and makes it available to users on a subscription or pay-per-use basis.
Integrate Print & Mobile
With print volume and sales down in recent years, it's becoming more important for in-plant printers to come up with creative ways to partner print with mobile and digital technology. One way to do this is to integrate Quick Response (QR) codes into your printed materials. Commonly found on everything from product labels and business cards to brochures and signage, QR codes add an element of interactivity to your marketing materials.
These codes, when scanned by an app on a customer's smartphone, can perform a variety of specific functions. These range from opening your company website on the phone's web browser to delivering product information or reviews. You can even use them to deliver a coupon code to the customer, which can be redeemed immediately.
There are several online resources for creating your QR codes, including QReateandTrack.com. This service will not only build your code for you, but track how many scans it receives, and which devices are used. Once your code is up and running, you can direct your customers to a free QR scanning app, such as Laser Beam Lite (available in the App store and Google Play).
A more complex and creative use of blended print and mobile technology is augmented reality applications. This means adding interactive elements to your printed materials.
For example, you could place action icons throughout a printed magazine or brochure. With a specialized smartphone app, your customer can interact with those icons to "like" your page or product, bring up a video, download bonus materials or make a purchase.
Add the Cloud to the Mix
That brings us to practical uses of the cloud. One way to enhance your customer's experience is to use QR codes or augmented reality to send the customer to your website for online ordering of printed materials. Using SaaS applications, you can provide real-time inventory and order status information, along with automatic reorder point calculations, to streamline the ordering process.
Another great use of SaaS is providing online forms (containing text, images and/or video), PDFs, training documents, and more—all easily accessible to your customers in the cloud.
SaaS is also useful for in-house applications, such as customer relationship management systems. These cloud-based systems can provide key data access to your sales and customer service reps, anytime and anywhere they happen to be.
Mobile Internet is set to overtake desktop Internet usage by 2014 (according to Morgan Stanley), and customers are demanding faster and easier purchasing solutions. In this increasingly untethered world, it's becoming ever more crucial that businesses position themselves to take advantage of this evolving trend.