Not every online print business is a huge enterprise investing in multiple-unit litho presses. Though to be successful some kind of USP may be needed. Hatch Print, which has been trading for little more than a year, has a USP which is truly unique.
The central London digital printer began promoting its environmental credentials, promising to deliver the same day to customers in Central London using bicycle couriers. And if that was not enough to appeal to the hipster community, Hatch proudly became the first printer to receive the endorsement of the Vegan Society.
Managing director Gary Toomey says that this is crucial to the company’s ethos, but not necessarily for customers. “We have some customers who love it and actively come to us because we have the recycled stocks, we are vegan and others probably just stumble across us and haven’t a clue. Producing work ethically and sustainably is a fundamental pillar in our business, if it’s a USP who knows?”
The company started out with a single employee and a limited product range and a heap of teething problems to overcome. “We had a slow painful start, though we did expect this but never planned for it to continue for so long. We had tons of website functionality issues on our launch so we had a good few months of ridiculous hours packed full of problems, anything from VAT not showing correctly to addresses not feeding through, artwork being resized as it hit our service and people getting straight 404 issues as they navigate the site,” he says.
Courier issues were another problem as packages went astray, but over time, problems were tackled and the company settled down. There are issues that are still posted to the to do wall and on the opposite wall, a list of upgrade and product releases. “We are in a great position at moment leading into the summer months with a boat load of products to release, stock options, more shipping options, and some much needed website upgrades.
“Our banner product from the get go has been roller banners, we have been pushed to the limit on a few occasions in terms of production capabilities, though what a lovely problem to have.”
The team has grown to six with plans for an increase before the end of the summer. Working all hours remains the norm, sometimes to the detriment of domestic life, but Toomey has at least had a few days break, though the laptop came too.
The start up knew it faced the challenge of being a small fish in a large pond where established players had the resources and ability to price keenly. It could not challenge these on cost, but has been able to do so on customer service.
“We are manning the phones and Live Chat all the time, if we do mess up or a courier slips up, we put things right as quickly and as effectively as possible, not for the business but for the customer. We have often had to jump in Ubers, on the Northern line or a Boris bike to get something to a customer that has to be there now,” Toomey explains.
“We fight the fights we can and sit back on others. We have to just do what we are good at, not stretch ourselves thinly. What we do produce we produce very well and extremely quickly.
“We are dynamic with our cut off times for next day delivery to ensure we aren’t piling on the work and letting customers down out the back.”
It also faced the marketing challenge. How does a start up online business find its first customers? Some have come through more traditional routes of email and telephone rather than through the trading platform.
Currently, says Toomey, around 60% of orders are placed on line, though the aim is to push this to 80% by the end of the year. This will be achieved through increasing spend from online customers by increasing the number of products on offer and by improving the journey through the site so that customers do not drop off the line before they can be safely netted and landed.
Speed has been a key factor: it can deliver same day which is impossible for the giant online business located on the continent. Business cards can reach customers in the City in a couple of hours, roller banners can be shipped to the US for next day delivery.
“This is a massive tick for us as we have only just started offering international delivery and it’s been going really well. We have shipped to Switzerland, Japan, Germany and France as well as the US – and we are not advertising this yet.
“We can’t always compete on price but we sure as hell can break the sound barrier when it comes to speed and to quality and with customer service. These are our selling points and I think, hope, know this is why customers keep coming back.”
Speed, quality and customer service are Hatch Print's selling points, according to managing director Gary Toomey. "This is why customers keep coming back,” he says. The central London digital printer also has environmental credentials and was the first printer to receive the endorsement of the Vegan Society. Producing work ethically and sustainably is a key pillar in its business.