Sustainability drives the shift to a subscription-based consumables supply model?
The prestigious BlueAngel label that certifies most printer manufacturers joins the trend towards extending the actual life of printers. A scenario in which fewer and fewer printers will be sold, because they will be used longer, is getting closer and closer. Hence, subscription-based consumables supply services are all the rage. Any dealer or wholesaler that wants to survive will have to offer this service as it is the only way to ensure the future and recurring sales of their customers.
Sustainability is more than recycling. It implies an attitude of prolonging the use of the goods we buy for the maximum number of years. This condition is now part of the new criteria that the BlueAngel environmental label [https://www.blauer-engel.de/en/] has incorporated for printer manufacturers to earn the right to use it.
Until recently, the approach to tackling the environmental problem caused by an unsustainable consumer economy was to collect and recycle as much as possible. But as this system has become more efficient, collecting an increasing proportion of waste, it has become clear to everyone that the volume of waste is so enormous that the cost of processing may become a new problem per se.
The question then arises: do we really have to waste so much, and does waste not hide a problem of consumer attitude? If not, how is it that our grandparents bought only one washing machine in their lifetime, while we replace this appliance every 5-7 years?
The approach must change, and indeed it is changing. The European Commission itself is pushing for re-use. Governmental organisations are making a communication effort to make us all aware of our responsibility to extend the actual lifetime of goods, bringing them as close as possible to the lifetime for which they were designed.
The well-known and prestigious BlueAngel label has just announced that it is joining the trend. To this end, it will now require printer manufacturers to explicitly communicate the expected lifetime of their products.
The aim is to reduce waste and the method to achieve this is to extend the actual life of the printers. The following immediate consequence can then be expected: revenues from hardware sales will decrease drastically. All players whose business depends heavily on printer sales will see their survival affected. This partly explains why manufacturers are pushing hard for subscription-based services in printing. Services such as HP Instant Ink. The subscription signed by end-customers guarantees the manufacturer a recurring revenue through cartridge sales. By the way, sales that no longer go through the manufacturer’s traditional channel.
Manufacturers know that the transactional sales model is finished (for many reasons) and are making a big effort to gain as much market share in the shortest possible time for their new subscription services. HP recently announced that its HP InstantInk business is already valued at USD 500 million and has signed up 10 million customers!
In this new business model, the OEMs have decided to dispense with their distribution channel. Distribution will be the first victim as their customers will be directly owned and controlled by the manufacturers. Dealers and wholesalers still have time to react or they will have to prepare to abandon printing.
The channel must fight back with its own service offer for its customers. And this means taking a definite step towards monitoring all the cartridges and printers they sell to their customers. Today, monitoring does not require any technical knowledge. Anyone can activate a monitoring service from the Nubeprint app on their own mobile phone as long as they are given the activation code by their supplier. This technology is available to any dealer for as little as €0.03 per printer. Time is running out for dealers and wholesalers. They just need to make the decision before their customers make the decision for them and go directly to the manufacturer.