News - The Future Trends of Commercial Printing

Even in this digitally-focused world, commercial print remains a growing market, projected to be worth 460.28 billion by 2025; and yet the industry landscape has seen significant changes in the past ten years, with more on the horizon. In the wake of COVID-19, now more than ever budget is a primary concern. Volumes are reducing, digital print is on the rise and the British high street, historically a key investor in commercial print, is struggling. As such, those offering commercial print services have to be ever more creative in order to offer clients solutions that ensure quality while still delivering savings and efficiencies. Here, Walstead gathers the key industry trends to be aware of, sourced from the insights and expertise of our team.

Print remains a trusted product

Research from the Data and Marketing Association found that 56% of people believe printed marketing material is the most trustworthy form of communication

With 43.1 million readers consuming monthly magazines in the UK between April 2019 and March 2020, it’s clear that there is still a significant interest in print products, regardless of the appreciation of online media platforms and advertising.

In order to ensure that printed items retain that trust, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19, Walstead has offered clients the option to use anti-bacterial varnishes to ensure their printed materials are safe and offer readers peace of mind, especially in relation to items that might be handled by multiple customers. 

Reducing volumes and the adoption of a more targeted approach

UK publication print volumes are expected to decline by an average of 3.7% in the next five years. The rise of home-based online shopping and Click & Collect services has seen a vast reduction in the number of printed catalogues produced by popular high street retailers. As a result, commercial printers need to help clients be more agile within such a rapidly changing market. 

In addition to product reengineering, which is discussed later in the piece, by considering more regular and more targeted print products in sectors where consumers are responsive, Walstead can help retail, mail-order and high street clients achieve an increased return on investment. In this way, marketing budgets can be stretched and additional funds used to get a client in front of a wider audience, or to allow a client to print smaller, more frequent runs. Market-driven brochures, event-based collateral and seasonal shopping guides are some key examples of how brands can maximise reach in a targeted manner.

Making the most of partially addressed mail

To be effective, commercial print now needs to work harder than ever before. As a result, targeted marketing campaigns, including partially addressed mail, are on the rise. Utilising geo-demographics at a postcode level,

Research suggests that employing a marketing campaign that uses partially addressed mail is 165 times more targeted than a door drop campaign

When one considers that 80% of the UK’s top advertisers use door drops, this is a trend we expect to see a huge increase in. By offering added value to the recipient, such as bespoke vouchers, a retailer could also increase traffic to its stores and e-commerce platform. With the price of door drop campaigns becoming too costly for many businesses to invest in, partially addressed mail gives a more cost-effective means of targeting customers in an intelligent way.

Walstead can offer the support of our partner company Rhapsody to assist with mailing list data management. GDPR-compliant, Rhapsody offers NDAs and data protection agreements for all prospective clients and can receive data via a secure FTP server, standardise it, screen it against UK and US postal information lists, remove any duplicate records (as well as those of people who have moved house, passed away or asked not to receive direct mail) and prepare the clean data file for mailing. Utilising clean data ensures your marketing campaign is smarter and more individualised than ever before.  A postal management service is also available, so the whole process, from data receipt to doorstep, can be managed by Rhapsody if the client wishes.

Linking print and digital

The commercial print market remains competitive and the need to offer cost savings and efficiencies is crucial. One of the more innovative ways to make your print work harder is by offering campaigns that link print and digital platforms together. Tesco recently produced a limited edition free Disney Frozen sticker folder and stickers. By using the Tesco Discover Augmented Reality app, customers were able to make the stickers ‘come alive’ and explore different scenes from the highly popular children’s film. The app also allowed customers and their children to take a selfie with their favourite Frozen character. By creating a buzz on social media, Tesco was able to use this enhanced print campaign to drive traffic to store, increase customer engagement and maximise brand loyalty. 


Walstead has been working with Rhapsody to explore augmented reality (AR) and what we could offer our clients in this area. For example, a garment could be scanned in a catalogue using an AR app which sends it straight to a customer’s online basket to buy it. When one considers that print catalogues are still the number one browser for retail products during the shopper buying process, it makes sense to retain a print element in the shopping journey. By linking this to an ecommerce platform, you can offer the comfort and reliability of print and the real time pricing, speed and efficiency of online shopping.

Employing green thinking

Today, environmental concerns are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, with 64% of consumers now describing themselves as belief-driven buyers. As such, businesses and brands alike need to be able to show a commitment to greener practices and reducing their carbon footprint. For example, a popular supermarket recently partnered with a heritage brand to send out their brochures (which reach hundreds of thousands of homes) with a separate booklet for children. By sharing distribution costs, both organisations were able to save money and reduce environmental impact while offering a two-in-one product.

Walstead is no different in its desire to implement greener policies, and has actively made the following changes to simplify the supply chain and deliver an all-encompassing service:

  • We have implemented an in-house mailing facility to eliminate onward transportation of finished goods from our print plant, helping to reduce our carbon footprint. 
  • We offer a carbon-balanced paper-wrap service which qualifies for various postal incentives, including Mailmark. For this reason, millions of items a week are now being packaged using paper wrap. It can also be adapted with four-colour print to offer bespoke vouchers or an additional source of advertising/sponsorship, which in turn delivers added value to the customer.
  • There’s been a surge in popularity for soft touch varnishes on front covers, which add a velvety feel to a publication. Traditional UV-varnishes can now be replaced with more environmentally-friendly cover finishes – Walstead offer a variety of cover varnish options directly in line, on our presses, further reducing the product’s carbon footprint. 
  • Walstead has introduced carbon offset balancing for any interested clients, where we calculate your carbon footprint and offset the costs accordingly. 

If your business is looking to reassess its sustainability goals, get in touch and see how Walstead can help.

Consider product re-engineering

A key trend for the commercial print industry is considering how a product could be re-engineered to make it more cost-effective.

Walstead takes a consultative approach with our open-minded clients, working with them to assess their print specifications and suggest slight changes which could lead to huge cost and workflow efficiencies, without reducing quality.

A luxury home decor brand, for example, used an expensive embossed cover paper for its brochure. Walstead worked with a third party to emboss paper with a similar look and feel for a fraction of the price and was able to send the client dummies to prove that the quality had not been compromised. By offering advice on how to adjust a product, based on our client knowledge and industry awareness, we are able to suggest subtle changes that offer vast savings. Examples include:

  • Standardising the paper used for all promotional materials. A small reduction in grammage is not likely to be noticeable, but can offer substantial savings, drive efficiencies and allow printed materials to be more sustainable.
  • Adjusting a publication size can also take it from a sheet-fed print job to being web offset, allow more pages to be printed in one pass and could ensure the same design area is retained, creating real cost savings.
  • A third of all UK purchases are now being made online via retail giants like Amazon, who regularly include printed parcel inserts in their deliveries – an incredibly effective way to get branded marketing materials directly into a consumer’s hands. Walstead can also work with clients on resizing their print materials to ensure Amazon compliance.
  • A commercial print trend that’s gaining traction is the use of uncoated paper. Walstead recommends bulky matte coated paper as an alternative, which delivers a broadly similar look and feel but with a price per tonne saving of around 30%.
  • Utilising clean data allows brands to produce more targeted campaigns, reducing cost, ensuring brand loyalty and prolonging the data’s lifecycle in order to increase sales and return on investment.
  • Making minor workflow tweaks to Walstead’s internal schedule allowed the company to deliver substantial transport and postal cost savings for our publishing clients.

With more than fifty years of experience in the commercial print industry and a roster of well-known retail and publishing clients, Walstead’s innate knowledge of commercial print trends helps us to offer efficiencies and increase sustainability while maintaining a high-end look and feel. Speak to Walstead about how to future-proof your print.