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Ricoh Advances “Print and Beyond” Strategy with PTI Investment

Today, Ricoh Company Ltd. announced a strategic investment in PTI Marketing Technologies (formerly Printable Technologies, Inc.), a leading provider of Web-to-print and marketing personalization solutions for enterprises and print service providers (PSPs) that has been a Ricoh partner for a number of years. According to Coleman Kane, president and CEO of PTI, Ricoh’s investment evolved from an ongoing discussion between the two firms during the past two years.

PTI is a private company, so Kane was not at liberty to disclose the exact amount of Ricoh’s investment, but he revealed that one-third of the company is now owned by Ricoh. When asked about PTI’s business going forward, he told us that PTI has always relied on themselves, a strategy that the firm will continue. As a result, PTI’s intention is to “support Ricoh everywhere we can and continue to grow our core business—PSPs and enterprise.”

Yasuhiko Hosoe, executive vice president, Global Marketing Center and Ricoh Production Print Solutions and associate director and deputy general manager, Ricoh Production Printing Business Group, Ricoh Company, Ltd.

Yasuhiko Hosoe, executive vice president, Global Marketing Center and Ricoh Production Print Solutions and associate director and deputy general manager, Ricoh Production Printing Business Group, Ricoh Company, Ltd., told us that Ricoh made the investment in PTI for a number of reasons. He explains that Ricoh is committed to delivering end-to-end solutions as part of the firm’s “Print and Beyond” strategy that seeks to provide value-add service beyond printing, like smart communications and marketing automation. Hosoe noted that the two firms have different competencies—strong Web-based technology for PTI and strong hardware development and global sales coverage for Ricoh—that are “quite complimentary.” He adds that short term, Ricoh hopes to grow its business with this investment, and long-term, the cooperation between the two firms will enable Ricoh to “create new seamless workflow by linking both companies’ software.”

Coleman asserts, “Ricoh understands the importance of cross media campaigns and technology,” and says that PTI liked Ricoh’s vision for a combination hardware/software solution that would allow PTI to deliver technology that has previously been out of reach to smaller commercial printers. He remarked on Hosoe’s vision to bring advanced capabilities to $3-5 million printers to help them compete, while making Ricoh’s hardware more attractive with the addition of software.

Essentially, the idea is to offer a powerful Web-to-print solution, including variable-data printing (VDP) and image personalization that is bundled with PTI’s MarcomCentral. In addition, Kane says that PTI and Ricoh will provide PSPs with out of the box pre-packaged Web-to-print portals for specific vertical markets that will enable small commercial printers to walk into a location and start to create a relationship with that company. “Some PSPs have a ‘one and done’ mentality,” he explains. “We hope to help smaller commercial printers create a longer lasting relationship with local clients and provide more value.”

Of course, this type of capability is intended to help Ricoh sell more devices and increase supplies usage, but Kane insists that PTI and Ricoh are really providing a value add that will help PSPs move away from a commodity business model and differentiate them from their competitors. Hosoe adds that Ricoh is seeking a competitive value proposition against Xerox, HP, and other global companies. “Our unique solution will be a very strong differentiator from those companies,” he claims.

Investing in the Future

“The investment is meant to spur previous joint initiatives and lead to further integration into Ricoh hardware,” says Kane. For example, Ricoh is working on middleware for its TotalFlow solution that would allow PTI to see the jobs on a Ricoh device in MarcomCentral to provide a workflow that is “as hands free as possible.” According to Hosoe, the two firms also plan to leverage the data analytics of Ricoh Production Print Solutions, the former InfoPrint group. Coleman says that PTI is looking at how to apply the analytic tools in MarcomCentral to benefit the end user, “so they can see who’s using what, who’s buying what.” Hosoe adds that Ricoh also plans to further integrate data analytics technology into Ricoh’s precision marketing model.

Ricoh’s Clickable Paper, which Kane describes as “a super-charged QR code,” is another area where the two firms are collaborating. For example, Clickable Paper can be used to present an image, mark, or words with a link back to a database that enables a lot of data to be delivered back to the user. He asserts that PTI does not have much work to do to make Clickable Paper compatible with MarcomCentral, primarily ensuring that the pieces are in MarcomCentral for ordering.

Later this year at Graph Expo, PTI and Ricoh will demonstrate the TotalFlow integration and vertical market Web-to-print solutions for locations such as a coffee shop and dental office. Coleman tells us that the goal is to launch the vertical market bundles by the end of the year, while incorporating data analytics and Clickable Paper are capabilities that are farther out.

Coleman Kane, president and CEO of PTI

An international scope is the real benefit to PTI, admits Kane, which will help the firm expand faster and grow its reach. Hosoe adds that Ricoh has deployed its software platform business model globally, which will enable the firm to easily expand the PTI offering beyond the United States. In addition, Hosoe notes that the PTI Web-to-print model is quite useful for Ricoh’s managed document services customers.

On the flip side, Kane believes that PTI’s success in selling directly to enterprise accounts will benefit Ricoh, given some of the OEM’s larger accounts. He explains, “There is some synergy there with a marketing resource management (MRM) solution or marketing operations solution” that can help large enterprises organize digital and print assets, create multimedia campaigns, and lock down their brand in a market that he characterizes as “very confused and ever changing.”

Our View

We have frequently commented on the cooperative nature of today’s printing and imaging industry, where alliances and partnerships have replaced the out-dated “not invented here” mindset of years past. And what better place to look for such an ally than in existing partnerships? Recent acquisitions, like HP/Printelligent and Xerox/Newfield IT, have demonstrated the wisdom of leveraging existing relationships, and the Ricoh/PTI tie-up has all the markings of another successful marriage. “We have a long history working together which we believe is a great foundation to build our future success on,” states Kane.