INTRODUCTION TO FILM
Web-to-print is not only for the pure players. Abel Ben Hamou, Sales and Marketing Director of the Artésienne printing company interviewed by INKISH France tells us how this beautiful commercial printing company, constituted in the form of a “Société Coopérative de Production” (SCOP) since 1967, is approaching online printing without any complexes, recently in B2C with the first bricks of their online shop “Impri’Scop” offering masks, protective visors and other products enabling companies to meet the constraints and requirements of distance… or in B2B by developing microsites in the colours of the charter of its major corporate customers. He explains to us how the company approaches these different projects, whether in the choice of technological solutions and/or in the management of the change so important in the success of such projects.
This interview is very rich in lessons for a “traditional” printing company that wishes to understand this online order taking channel that is more and more requested by customers whether they are individuals, VSEs, SMEs or large accounts.
Take advantage of the Artésienne’s lessons and visit the first floor of its rocket’s online Web-to-print shop: http://impriscop.fr/covid19/
INTRODUCTION AU FILM
Le Web-to-print n’est pas réservé aux seuls pure players du web. Abel Ben Hamou, directeur commercial et marketing de l’imprimerie l’Artésienne interviewé par INKISH France nous raconte comme cette belle imprimerie de labeur constituée sous forme de SCOP depuis 1967 aborde l’impression en ligne sans complexe, récemment en B2C avec les premières briques de leur boutique en ligne “Impri’Scop” offrant masques, visières de protection, et autres produits permettant aux entreprises de répondre aux contraintes et exigences de distanciation… ou en B2B par le développement de microsites aux couleurs de la charte de ses clients grands comptes importants. Il nous explique comment l’entreprise à aborder ces différents projets que ce soit dans le choix des solutions technologiques et/ou dans la conduite du changement si importante dans la réussite de tels projets.
Cet entretien est très riche d’enseignements pour une imprimerie « traditionnelle » qui souhaite appréhender ce canal de prise de commandes en ligne de plus en plus sollicité par les clients qu’ils soient des particuliers, des TPE, des PME ou des grands comptes.
Profitez des enseignements de l’Artésienne et visitez le premier étage de la fusée de sa boutique en ligne Web-to-print : http://impriscop.fr/covid19/
So for me today is a little bit special, because, well… I must admit that today’s guest on INKINSH France, I know him quite well, so I really have the honor to interview Abdel Ben Hamou who is the Marketing Director of the printing company l’Artésienne. And, come on, let’s keep it simple! Abdel Ben Hamou, on a first-name basis? We’re used to being on first-name terms… We’re on first-name terms, come on, I’m fine with it!
We’re used to being on first-name terms. A few words about you and your beautiful print shop l’Artésienne. Well thank you, then, thank you for welcoming me Yves, it’s true that we know each other, we’ve crossed paths a few times in the years before…. So to introduce myself quickly, I’m Abdel Ben Hamou, Sales and Marketing Director of L’Artésienne. I was born professionally here, in this company, because I arrived here in 2003, it was my first company, in which I started, with a sales job at the beginning, before taking over the sales management in 2010 and then chairing the board of directors of our Scop.
Because the particularity, as you know, Yves, is that the company was born in 1967 under the cooperative status. The company was born out of the association of 7 founders who wanted to create a company that was in line with the values that animated them: sharing, car-sharing, risk pooling and a true entrepreneurial spirit.
So it’s a company that was created ex nihilo in Scop, and has remained in Scop since its creation. So it wasn’t born out of financial difficulties because this is often a bit like the Scop statutes we have today, which are companies in difficulty taken over by their employees… at l’Artésienne it’s a bit different because it was a real desire of the founders to find a statute that was in line with the ideas they had in 1967. Therefore, as a company of about 60 people, with about 60 associated employees, since each employee is associated with the business project after 2 years of presence in the company, each employee has the obligation to return to the capital.
In fact, it’s a bit like living as a couple, you get to know each other for two years, and after two years you decide to get married and become a shareholder in the company.
So, we are 60 associate employees, and now we’re going to say that we have 3 strategic areas of activity. The main area which is the core business of the company is offset printing, which is about 80% of our activity.
And we have started and developed from 2013, two areas of activity that are a little bit annexed to our core business, which is digital printing and large format printing, which represent respectively about 15% of the turnover, and 5% for the large format part. A clientele of about 700 active clients, we’ll say, rather heterogeneous. We also have this chance to always ensure the balance of the company’s portfolio.
We are not particularly dependent on any one client, because the biggest client represents about 3% of the business.
So very little dependency, even though we obviously don’t want to lose our customers, but if it did happen, it would not undermine, I would say, the company’s balance. And then, for the other particularity beyond the status is, I would say, all the certifications that the company has.
We’re going to say that the whole company is standardized…so a certain number of certifications linked to quality, with ISO 9001, ISO 14001 for the environmental part, and the different PEFC, FSC, Imprim’Vert certifications for the more environmental aspects.
And then, for our 50th anniversary in 2017, we had chosen to align, we’ll say, existing practices, with certifications that are developing and in particular the ISO 26000 since… yes, since 2015, for the 50 years…since 2017…sorry, for the 50 years of the Artésienne.
That’s it for the short introduction. That’ s a nice introduction. Abdel, if also I invited you today, on the one hand because, for this special feature that at l’Artésienne print shop but also I was really pleasantly surprised during the confinement period of your launch of your ImpriScop online shop, and therefore offering masks, protective visors I saw, and other products allowing companies to meet the constraints and requirements of distancing. And so, you are not originally an online printer: could you tell us how you set up this platform, how you undertook this initiative, you will tell us a little bit of this story, this beautiful story. So actually if you want we’re not really an online printer, even though pretty quickly in 2008 I was convinced that there was really something to be done online.
We started developing our first B2B platform in 2008.
We had been commissioned for a major national client to create a platform that would allow the franchisee network, since it was a franchise, to simplify the ordering process and the respect of the graphic charters which was important for the founder of this franchise. So we already had a foot in the door, but it’s true that we were rather in a B2B situation.
At the end of last year, in this logic of reflection that is constantly in place here at l’Artésienne, we wrote the next 3 or 5 years through strategic plans, in which there was this will to open up to B2C.
And it’s true that, well… concerning the crisis, there was a first step which was to take what… this brutal reduction of our activity, because we took the decision, after the announcement of March 16th of the President of the Republic, to close for 15 days. Right, okay.
…in consultation with our employees and customers, we warned everyone that we were going to be responsible, to close down, in solidarity with what was happening in France.
During these 15 days of closure, we obviously thought about how we were going to restart. And when we met here at the management committee… obviously before starting up again, we said that we had to ensure the safety of our employees; and to do so, we needed protective devices such as masks, visors, elements that can secure Séverine here at the reception of the frost and it’s true that we were quite quickly confronted with supply difficulties and at the same time we also had customers who asked us to offer them solutions that would help them restart their activity. In fact, the reflection was conducted in 2 stages. The first one is that we said to ourselves, the problems which were those of the Artésienne were also those of our customers and those of people who did not know us so it was perhaps judicious to… not in a business logic but in a logic of answering an existing need, to create a website, which could allow at the same time our 600 or 700 customers to get supplies: that was the first interest, but the second interest was also to start gaining experience in the B2C market that we didn’t know at all. We had a real expertise today in the development of B2B shops, but B2C was a bit… it was reserved for others, we’ll say!
Reserved for others… There was no reason not to take advantage of the time we had available to try to gain experience and also tackle these markets where there is everything to be done for the Artésienne since it is not present…it is not present. So that’s really how we came to develop this ImpriScop website, and then with Christian Garin who is the general manager here, whom I recruited in 2019, last year, September…
So we both locked ourselves in the office and said: “here, let’s get started”, so we took 3-4 weeks and then we created this site that we published during the containment phase. So very happy to have succeeded, but it’s only one approach, the idea being to develop a B2C site, we thought it would be a learning experience for the second phase, which will arrive in a few weeks, of launching a B2C site that is much more comprehensive than just this site that only allows us to supply products or protection tools.
So this is the first phase? It’s the first stage… well, I’d say the second stage of the rocket.
First stage of the rocket, I like that ! So I’m going to…let’s say for B2C and B2B goes a little bit more in detail. How you made your choice, precisely, between the solutions. How did you approach the fact that you said to yourself, are you moving towards an internally developed solution or a choice, a off-the-shelf solution that exists, available on the market?
In fact, we’ve done both.
I was telling you in 2008, when we started to set foot in the world of e-commerce, we developed our own solution with the support of IT engineers. We had really built a hand-crafted solution, tailor-made, for this client I was talking about earlier.
A solution that we continued to improve in these functionalities and its possibilities until it reached, shall we say, its obsolescence base.
And since 2018, we have, in any case, our B2B sites, decided to use an existing solution on the market, from Aleyant, the Pressero solution that better met the needs of our customers for online personalization, security too… And then in terms of ergonomics, in terms of… we’ll say in the specifications that these were the 3 points we were very attentive to.
And it was quite easy for us, after a market study, I looked at what was being done on the market, I talked to a lot of players, a lot of solution providers, and it was the one that responded to the specifications in the best way, and it was the one that we used to support the development of our B2B platforms.
However, for the ImpriScop site, we preferred a Prestashop solution…
… because it’s easier to implement, faster, obviously cheaper too, and better able to respond to our B2C issues.
In fact, we make the two coexist, and in the future, we will say, of our e-commerce offers we will make the two coexist.
A solution, we’re going to say, existing on the market, which will better meet the needs of our multi-branch customers or our franchise customers or our B2B customers, we’re going to say, and then this Prestashop solution which will most certainly be the solution on which we’re going to develop this comprehensive site of printed product offerings. So that’s the part, the solutions… And now, to introduce it within your company, how did you manage to find the skills, to introduce this project within your company? How is this solution perceived… how is it perceived by your sales people for example? I’ve always been convinced, Yves, that the… how can I put it, that the development of solutions like Web to Print was a question of strategy for the whole company and that it necessarily concerned the whole company.
We often tend to think of it as a sales channel, so it’s the responsibility of the business alone to promote this solution there or to popularize it with our network of customers.
And I think that if we lost the lead we had, it’s because we had effectively reduced the Web to Print issue to the company’s sales department only.
We have developed our sales and installation performance, and the automation of customers with Web to Print platforms, since we have considered this offer as a transversal offer for the whole company, involving everyone.
Everyone, because it necessarily has an impact on the life of the company, on the work of everyone, not just the sales people, but the manufacturers, the people who accompany the manufacture of printed products, the people who are in logistics, the people who manage the flows in our prepress studio. And I have always had this deep conviction, that it is only when this is a cross-company project, that it will really be able to develop and accompany the development of the company’s turnover.
At first, it’s true that we had…it was centralized on the management team, these Web to Print solutions and then we quickly started…we were obviously supported by external skills because these are skills, we’ll say, development skills that we didn’t have internally.
And then for 2 years we changed gears, in the sense that we have installed training spots across the whole company, which you were part of since you accompanied our sales department to help them improve their skills in the necessary language acquisition…
With a vocabulary specific to his activities there.
We trained… We also recruited a digital project manager…
…Web to Print with us. A young man, Pierre-Alain, who is in charge of developing in-house shops so we are totally autonomous today on the development of platforms dedicated to our customers in B2B.
We have strengthened the logistics department with a person dedicated to processing all Web to Print orders, whether for Print on Demand or for procurement, and managing products stored internally. And then, of course, massive investment in prepress automation, because in order to be able to succeed in being competitive and reach levels of competitiveness close to what is done on the Internet today, it is necessary to resort to automation, and to eliminate all the non-value-added tasks that pollute our teams, occupy time that must be set aside to listen more to our customers and serve them as quickly as possible.
So no. And then for the sales people, you participated, as I said earlier: it’s the ambassadors, we’ll say, of the offer, it’s the sales people.
Even if you might tend to think that the dematerialized or Web to Print offer is a competitor to the traditional sales force, I tend to think that field sales people are the ambassadors of this offer and that the two must coexist. They should not be pitted against each other, but on the contrary succeed in… …complementarity
… effectively to install a complementarity between projects that require a commercial presence in the field and then a whole host of needs that we identify today, we identify today about 25% of our activity out of the 7000 to 8000 orders that we process every year, we estimate that there are 2000 orders that eventually have to go through a full automatic flow because … because there is no reason today to involve a sales person or a person in prepress to control a file. The investments that have been made in recent years should help to ensure that they can be processed in a fully automated manner, and this is the objective of the company’s transformation plan that was launched a few weeks ago. It’s just something that I noticed and that I really… that I consider to be a strong point.
Often, when we talk about Web to Print, I see … it is approached as a simple project, whereas your company, very early on, understood that it was a whole culture that had to be introduced into the company at all levels in the company’s value chain. And that is, therefore, a good example. And often, when commercial printers ask me the question, I confess that I give the example of the Artésienne printing press, of your approach which I think is one of the best approaches to meet success.
Thank you for that.
Thank you, Abdel. But alongside these successes, there can be obstacles.
What are the main obstacles for precisely, your feedback, that you have encountered, or that you are still encountering today, for the implementation of such platforms or online shops?
In fact I would say that the main obstacle is…in fact, the natural resistance to change.
Changing is never pleasant, it’s not in the nature of man to change, so we will always find reasons to avoid changing and I think that’s often what wastes time, in fact we don’t have enough fear to change. And I think that… changing is a necessity. I mean, yesterday’s models are not today’s models and they won’t be tomorrow’s models.
Now until we have confidence that change has to be… we have to support change, we have to help people change. I think that the key to making it work here is the time and the means that we put in place to accompany people towards change, to demystify it, to explain it and to give it meaning as well. Explain that… and also open our teams to the world. It’s true that we printers always tend to look at each other’s navels, but the world is changing around us.
And what happens in other sectors of activity, printers are not immune to it, and obviously we have to live with the times, and use the great tools that exist today. Is that just the point… It’s…with the appearance of these platforms and the introduction of just… of this e-commerce within your company, has it increased, increased the number of supplier partnerships to respond to the products that you promote or the requests that your customers may have?
Of course, as in any project, you have to surround yourself with people.
We can’t do everything here. We can’t do everything the Artesian way. We have a core business in offset printing and obviously in this logic of a global offer that we also promise our clients, we need to be able to surround ourselves with related trades, with products related to print, which are still part of this family of communication products.
So, yes, we have formed partnerships with colleagues or companies that are also in the print communication or advertising object markets, for example.
So, yes, that necessarily pushed us to open up, to also open our doors to understand how these majors, which everyone talks about, succeed because there’s also something that struck me during the confinement… I’ve done quite a few webinars, I think like everyone else, we spent a lot of time on…
… either to follow training courses or to look for information and then also to reassure themselves by looking at what was happening in others.
And it’s true that when I look at some of the majors, including one that had made a particular impression on me, you realize that these are people who have entered the Web to Print market without necessarily having had any training as a printer at the outset. They were not printers at all.
And we often looked at them from a distance, saying that it wasn’t the same job as us.
They do a job that is not ours and we even said to our clients: “watch out, online printers are not as good as physical printers”; we even tended to play this opposition and try not to compete with these same players. I think that today it is time to invest in these markets. There’s no reason why people who don’t know the print market fundamentally should be able to find a blue ocean on e-commerce, and why printers whose core competency, their core business, is e-commerce, shouldn’t be able to get into this wave of e-commerce.
The proof is that during this period of confinement, those who suffered most were certainly those who did not have this dematerialized channel. Yes. This connection…
This connection, this openness to… this visibility that the internet also offers.
So no, the brakes are certainly not to want to change, to think that we are the only good, the only better printers because we’ve been doing this for 60 years.
I don’t think we are. I think we need to accompany people, and demystify the world of e-commerce a little bit, and that it’s completely accessible to traditional printers, there’s no reason why not. And then there’s also some great hits from… We’re going to say independent printers who are doing very well on the web today, so I think that this also opens the eyes of historical or traditional printers to their ability to succeed in this new business channel that can be e-commerce and Web to Print. Maybe it’s a little early to have a detailed analysis, but you’ve talked about the impacts of the pandemic, about containment, but do you feel right now that there will be changes in the behaviour of your customers, and also in the working methods of your employees? Have you introduced teleworking in your company? So I know that you stopped for 15 days, but, when there was the resumption, was it also accompanied by teleworking, you’ll tell us? and finally with your partners? Actually we… so we had to stop for a fortnight. We had started the year off very well. Supported also by an electoral activity that has always been quite present here at l’Artésienne, we have a real know-how on these markets.
So we had a first quarter, we will say, the first 10 weeks were excellent, we had a really good start in 2020, and then it stopped, on March 16, and it killed the first quarter a bit. Let’s just say we finished March at 54% of the target, so… We’re two weeks away from a very good quarter.
And then in continuity, April was very bad… About 30% of the business. In May it slightly improved but we were at 42%, we’ll say of the 2020 roadmap. And then in June we are quite satisfied with the recovery, we are not back to a classic activity such as we had projected for 2020, but we are about 75-80% of our business plan for 2020, so we feel that there is a return of activity but we will say that the second quarter has led us to lose about 11 to 12%, the equivalent of about a million we will say… And your customers react differently? Your customers have …so there is a lot of talk about the fact that e-commerce is becoming more and more an essential element precisely because of all these constraints.
Do you see this in your approach, particularly in B2B with your customers? So in fact we are more audible on the offers we could make for the development of platforms dedicated to our clients, to their image.
We didn’t always get the listening we hoped for, but it was a boost. This health crisis has been a real accelerator, in the end, of digitalisation. Since this phase of containment, we have a discourse that is better heard. When we propose to our customers to develop dedicated solutions, they are better listened to and we manage to convert a prospect into a Web to Print customer more quickly.
Internally I don’t think we actually have…so this turnover that we’ve lost because of this slowdown, I don’t think it’s related to the fact that our customers preferred to do business with web printers rather than with the craftsman. I don’t think that’s where it comes from, it really comes from a slowdown because our customers, like most of the French structures, have closed and their activity has slowed down drastically. Now I think that’s going to lead to some changes in practice.
It’s true that it’s not tomorrow that our sales people will go back to their customers as they could do until March 16th, I think it will take a little time to get back in place…
They use, your commercials use platforms like Zoom or Skype? Yes of course, now it’s true that … So we, as managers, we managed in a digital way, so we put ourselves on Zoom, I was doing my boards of directors on Zoom, my commercial meetings on Zoom, my milestones too. I was checking up on everyone on Zoom and it became a habit and there are commercial meetings taking place today on Zoom. This was possible before the confinement, but we never did it. Yes.
We’ve never done it before, now we do it easier.
All right, okay.
It’s one of the ways we keep in touch with our clients as well. Then versus teleworking… I was, well we’ve always been… I’m not going to say avant-garde but honestly teleworking here we’ve been doing it since… 5, maybe even 10 years what… maybe even 10 years, our sales people work remotely. All right. All right, all right.
So it’s true that it was still reserved for salespeople who did one, two or three days a week remotely.
They worked from home and connected to their remote office, access to all the work tools. But on the other hand, I think that this period gave a better image of telework than there could have been, even internally.
There was always a tendency internally to think that telework is like this, you don’t see the people, you don’t necessarily know what they can do while they are at home.
But I think it’s revealed the fact that it’s a very good way to work. At times, we might even be more productive when we’re teleworking… Yes, absolutely.
…that when we’re in physical, face-to-face work in our offices… So I think it improved people’s internal perception of telecommuting. We’ve also developed it in other departments than just the team… the sales force, because today there are assistants working from home, our two supervisors work from home.
That’s what I wanted to know: are there other jobs, precisely, so there are also the two managers?
Yes, the support functions as well, HR, the accounting department… Yeah, it’s been… And I don’t even think we’re going to back off today…
You don’t think so? Yeah, I don’t think so.
I think it’s going to be established as a practice, accepted internally.
Then, unfortunately, there are some jobs where that’s not possible. A driver unfortunately can’t drive…
Yes, of course…
…from a distance. So there are jobs in the company in which face-to-face work is a prerequisite, but in all departments where teleworking can be implemented, it has been done.
But also simply because it was a way for us to take better care of our employees.
As soon as we had the possibility to limit the presence of teams internally, we did it.
And even today, for the sales people, they only come to the office one day a week. They work from home four days a week to limit the number of people in the same space.
The other point I wanted to discuss with you is obviously… what is enormously emphasized by the authorities and public opinion, the Made in France.
You can see when you look on the web, also in our sector of activity, there is a lot of talk about it. Can you tell us a word about it, and your vision of Made in France? So, I’m thinking, … why not decide to print in France? So we all hope so, it’s a hope I think that all printers secretly have, of an awareness of the fact that here’s… I mean, when you can make the French industrial and commercial fabric work, you shouldn’t hesitate. I’m hoping there’s an awareness.
Awareness in this next world that everyone imagines today.
There are signals that give cause for optimism. I don’t know, the decision by the Système U group, for example, to relocate, to repatriate to France its production of all their prospectuses for the second half of 2020, the takeover of a unit of Arjo in France…
There are positive signals, now I insist to see.
I ask to see, I’m a bit like Saint Thomas, I only believe what I see.
I think there is an awareness now, there is still a long way to go. If I take… I was reading an article not long ago by Ludovic Martin that you know well, which talks about the e-commerce market in particular… and web printers.
We will say that there is about 30%, if we summarize… about 30% of the market share that is generated in e-commerce. Out of this 30%, we’ll say e-commerce in printing, you still have the…that is generated with foreign companies.
That means there’s still room. There is still room to conquer, to reimplant, to reintegrate these market shares that are eluding us to the benefit of the major majors that everyone knows. I’d say… I’m an optimist by nature, so I tend to see the glass half full. I tell myself there’s still a lot to be done.
There’s still a lot of things to be done. And then it’s also up to us printers to be more present, more audible, more visible, to invest more or to communicate more on know-how that I am convinced we have mastered, but simply that we don’t make it sufficiently known.
I’d say that’s where we’re at today. I think we have to be optimistic.
Then we can be worried for sure. I recently read a study by the Banque de France, I believe, or/and INSEE, which said that 25 to 30% of printers would disappear, and about 12,000 jobs in 2020.
It’s true that this is a source of anxiety, because we tell ourselves that we are continuing to destroy jobs, and on the other hand, there are still markets that escape us. But I would like to believe that in every crisis there are opportunities, that each of us must be able to seize them.
And then, if we don’t believe in it, there’s no chance it will work! No, I think the key word is optimism, and then we have to get on with it! We have to roll up our sleeves and make up the ground that most independent players like us can have in these markets that we have left too much to others and that we have looked at from afar as not being part of our business and our capabilities.
I’m going to stick to those words Abdel, really, how can I not stick to optimism and this glass half full! Thank you very much Abdel!
It was a pleasure, it was a pleasure!
Really, a very great pleasure and really a beautiful example of your approach.
I remind you, this interview will be published on the INKISH platform and will be subtitled in English.
The transcription will also be done in French and also in English.
Feel free to share. You have seen that the experience and approach of a traditional printer is very concrete. All this culture that you introduced several years ago in the Artésienne printing house… I will really continue to keep in touch with you, to follow you and of course, the ImpriScop, the online shop, will be linked to this interview and we will look at the other phases that will come afterwards.
The new rocket stages!
There, the new stages!
It’ll be here soon! In any case, thank you Yves, for offering me to take part in this interview and it’s always a great pleasure to exchange with you on these subjects we are both passionate about!
Both of us, exactly! Thank you very much Abdel and see you soon!
Thank you all, see you soon!