BLI Editor Gets Schooled on Vertical Markets

A Recent Visit to the BETT Show 2016 Opened One Editor’s Eyes to the Allure of Vertical Markets



Andrew Unsworth

Buzzwords come and go, but it seems those lingering on the document imaging industry’s lips are “vertical” and “market”. It seems every dealer, OEM and ISV is jockeying to have end-to-end solutions that cater to a specific type of business or sector, be it education, legal, healthcare, financial and so on.

Companies that truly address the needs of vertical markets can count on improving their revenue and market share—not to mention their “stickiness” with customers, who are more likely to stay with a critical vendor for the long haul. Addressing the particular needs of a given vertical needn’t involve a radical redesign of a product, nor the creation of a whole new product. Much can be done by identifying the needs of a specific vertical market and making slight changes to your current product portfolio.

This was apparent at the BETT Show, a UK education-focused trade show with an eclectic range of exhibitors. Among the participants were Lego (who showcased a troop of its programmable Mindstorms robots) computer manufacturers, software publishers and more specialist educational companies, such as those that supply assessment materials.

It was here that I was given a demo of NetSupport DNA 4, a general-purpose enterprise management solution that has effectively tailored itself to the education market by explaining how each of its components, such as print monitoring, hardware inventory, endpoint security and internet metering can improve safety, efficiency and the flow of information. DNA 4 even supports important school initiatives such as safeguarding. By providing examples of how its core product can benefit teachers, students and admin staff, NetSupport helps educational buyers visualise how DNA 4 can be deployed at their institutions, and this should translate into improved sales.

NetSupport has skilfully targeted the education vertical market with its DNA 4 corporate management system.

As for the print industry specifically, two of the biggest names were in attendance: Epson and KYOCERA. For this audience, the two brands had taken their general-purpose products and added value to them with education-specific add-ons and marketing. The public sector is a major buyer, so tailoring their hardware and software to the education market and engaging with buyers and key decision makers at an education trade show can only help KYOCERA and Epson increase their mind-share and build brand loyalty. 

Epson had a number of devices on show with which we at BLI are familiar, such as the 2015 Pick Award-winning Epson WorkForce Pro WF-R8590 D3TWFC, which uses Epson’s space- and money-saving RIPS (Replaceable Ink Pack System) technology. RIPS inks have a rated yield of 75,000 pages, and produced an even higher yield than that in BLI’s lab test.

For Epson, catering to the education market isn’t just about hardware, it’s about supporting teachers too.

One table at Epson’s stand featured an Epson WorkForce Pro WF-6090 inkjet printer and a competitor’s laser printer. Epson’s reps invited people to press a big, green button that caused both printers to start printing and see which consumed the most electricity while doing so. While printing, the Epson model hovered around 30W, while the laser printer hovered around the 400W mark. “[The laser] can go up to more than a kilowatt once it wakes up and everything gets going,” said Epson Product manager Kevin Dobson, “and by that time the business inkjet’s finished. Not only that, it’s dry and a good quality print, too.”

Having a quicker and more energy-efficient printer is important, but Dobson was keen to point out another advantage of inkjet technology, which is the smaller, longer-lasting consumables, “instead of having a cupboard full of toner cartridges and drums, you only need these [inkjet consumables].” He was also keen to point out that users can still get a high yield out of a small set of consumables. “You can get inks that do up to 10,000 pages in black and 7,000 pages in colour. You can get a fantastic cost per copy, which is at least as good as laser if not as much as 50% less. [With the business inkjet] you’ve got all kinds of advantages, but from an educational point of view it ticks all the boxes: economy, ecology, saving the planet and saving time.”

Epson’s stand made every effort to fire the imagination of teachers and show how its products could be used in an educational setting.

For Epson, catering to the education market isn’t just about hardware, it’s about supporting teachers too. Its stand demonstrated how banner printing could be used to create informative and interesting artwork, as well as the fun that could be had when designing and printing fridge magnets. It seems Epson’s approach is to inspire the imagination of teachers so that they in turn can inspire the minds of their pupils.

KYOCERA showed its support for classroom activity with demonstrations of its Teaching Assistant software, which allows teachers to create and grade “bubble sheet” multiple choice tests. Teaching Assistant runs on HyPAS-enabled MFPs, and requires no other hardware or software; everything is done through the MFP. A teacher can hand out a multiple choice test to their pupils, collect their completed test sheets, scan the tests into the MFP and have the tests graded automatically. Teaching Assistant will help teachers to spot trends, such as identifying the most commonly failed or misunderstood questions. This helps teachers to focus on the topics that need more explanation or revision. For more information on Teaching Assistant, check out BLI’s in-depth report

KYOCERA’s Teaching Assistant lets teachers create quizzes that are automatically marked by a HyPAS-enabled KYOCERA MFP.

KYOCERA was also keen to show Connector, which helps schools administer staff and student records by allowing staff to scan documents into from a KYOCERA MFP. The imported data is linked to a specific student, and KYOCERA’s rep used a child’s sick note as an example. A member of staff can scan the sick note and it would automatically be linked to the sick pupil’s records on Capita’s is an incredibly popular school management, reporting and assessment database, so integrating with it can only be good for KYOCERA’s business.

By taking existing products and targeting them towards education, Epson, KYOCERA and NetSupport are maximising their overall market share and the profitability of their current portfolio. They’ve shown that engaging with a vertical market doesn’t require the creation of an entirely new ecosystem, or fancy new products; it requires thought, imagination and understanding the needs of the market a business seeks to serve. That’s an important lesson we can all learn.