However, the large format printing market continues to grow at a steady rate, with technology adoption and new application innovations powering progress. We see several trends that, if approached in the right way, represent opportunities for print service providers (PSPs) to truly thrive in the year ahead.

Automating Workflows

With 80% of businesses worldwide automating processes, automation is increasingly important as organisations continue to navigate macro issues such as labor shortages. Automation also boosts the speed print firms can operate at, improves the accuracy of projects, and identifies errors – enabling PSPs to find new ways to streamline operations.

As businesses run digital presses on a 24/7 basis, we expect to see a greater uptake of automated services, and the arrival of new tools to better meet PSP needs. By running businesses and print jobs through platforms like HP Print OS, print firms can unlock previously unseen efficiencies – such as through data analysis of operations, unattended printing or removing repetitive and time-consuming processes.

Whilst the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) is still emerging in the large format sector, in the medium to long term, firms that have already implemented a highly automated infrastructure will be the ones most likely to benefit from AI-influenced advances in the future, such as predictive maintenance.

Sustainability is Profitability

Research shows that 85% of PSP customers now demand sustainable products and practices. Increasing demand for more sustainable goods reflects the consumer shift in values and awareness of the planet’s health. Print firms will continue to recognize this in 2024 and embed sustainable practices where possible.

For this reason, water-based and odorless inks will be sought after, allowing print professionals to say yes to a wider range of jobs, including sensitive indoor environments. The fact more than one in five printers sold in the large format market is an HP Latex device, is proof that this trend is already well underway.

However, print firms will need to look beyond ink and also consider how substrates can be procured and disposed of in a sustainable way. Although progress has been made, the industry must continue to find alternatives to materials such as PVC by investing in new media and research to discover and elevate sustainable solutions.

Greater focus will also be placed on the energy efficiency of printers, as well as extending the lifespan of hardware through easy recycling options when a device reaches end of life. Vendors will be required to step up and support print firms in becoming more sustainable by practice – via programs like HP Planet Partners which provides recycling options for both supplies and hardware.

Print and Protect

Remote working prompted a rise in the volume and variety of malware attacks over the last four years. In an increasingly connected world, businesses will remain vulnerable. This is particularly true for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), that have lower budgets and a lack of dedicated IT support. Research shows nearly half of SMBs have experienced a cyber security incident within the past year, while over two thirds don’t consider security until after an incident.

As the web of connected devices in office spaces become more sophisticated, and with the advent of AI, the cyber security landscape will become even more complex in 2024.

There is an opportunity to redesign and rebuild a digital ecosystem of tools that help businesses securely manage their end-point devices and data. Printers are often a forgotten endpoint, giving hackers a way into a network. However, with more security-conscious solutions on the market, like HP’s Wolf Security-enabled DesignJet range, SMBs will begin to turn the tide on cyber criminals.

Personalization and Co-created Content

In an increasingly commoditized world, PSPs will stand out and win business in 2024 with customizable offerings. Brands are seeking ways to differentiate themselves from competitors, while end consumers have shown appetite for personalized or ‘limited edition’ products and experiences. According to research by Sparks & Honey, the expected value of the personalized items market will reach $201bn by 2026, up 49% from 2021. Meanwhile, 70% of shoppers are willing to pay at least 10% more for customized or unique products.

We are seeing creative platforms such as Canva increasing end users’ design capabilities, giving them more ways to personalize print products such as wallpaper. HP recently released a trends report which highlights that the digitally printed wallpaper market is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 23.6% until 2025, reaching a total value of $10.4 billion.

Brands will increasingly base their marketing strategies around ‘user-generated’ or ‘co-created’ content – campaigns that tell the stories of their customers and speak directly to them. According to marketing analytics firm WARC, such approaches have become the number one most effective way to reach Gen Z and millennial audiences.

With the right technology, print firms will be the enablers of this growing trend, and become trusted partners for brands. At a hardware level, firms will need digital print technology capable of handling a range of specifications, delivering short runs, and accommodating fast turnarounds. However, the ecosystem around the device will become even more key in 2024, ranging from the software firms are embedding to manage operations, to ensuring staff are upskilled to harness the latest tools coming to market.

Transforming Our World by Design in 2024

Print businesses have been evolving year on year, and turbulence in recent years has only accelerated the pace of change. Large format print providers are displaying resilience and creativity, and the industry will continue to thrive this year in a more connected, automated, sustainable and secure environment.