Vistaprint Continues Push Into Digital with Focus on Micro-Business Market

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For nearly two decades, Vistaprint has enjoyed the type of name recognition among small business owners that competitors in the industry would kill for. But as the company’s platform expands beyond print to include a full-service digital marketing suite, it’s working overtime to change public perception and expand its role as an all-in-one service provider for small and mid-size firms.

While it’s not uncommon for companies like Vistaprint to expand into new arenas, the company has a decidedly steeper hill to climb as it continues to transition from a provider of offline print products to an all-in-one marketing solution. That’s in part because the company was so successful at what it did initially — providing small business owners with access to the same customized print products that bigger companies could afford. Now, with a wider suite of tools to serve its clients’ needs, Vistaprint is moving into a crowded territory filled with well-established players like GoDaddy, Wix, Yext, and Constant Contact.

“Changing perceptions and increasing awareness is a large opportunity … We created the Vistaprint Digital brand earlier this year for just this reason; to directly signal to our customers that we offer digital marketing services from experts in the space,” says Scott Bowen, VP and GM of Vistaprint Digital. “This move dovetails with our larger brand strategy, as we’re intent on expanding Vistaprint brand perception and awareness beyond the business card.”

The company is using broadcast campaigns and a new print catalog to show customers the variety of products it now offers, and of course it’s relying on word of mouth among small business owners in their own communities. But Vistaprint doesn’t seem particularly concerned about finding room in a digital marketing space that’s already overflowing with well-funded firms. As Bowen sees it, Vistaprint is facing different competitors in each of the verticals it’s expanding into — including website building, local listings, email marketing, and social marketing. Not only do those competitors vary by vertical or product line, but they also vary by location. Vistaprint is looking beyond the U.S. in its continued expansion, tackling European markets, as well.

“Our differentiation is two-fold. First, we’re one of the few players in the digital marketing space with a full suite, a global presence, and a singular focus on small and micro businesses. Second, and most importantly, we’re the only player in the space able to provide an omni-channel marketing platform for small businesses that thoughtfully combines digital marketing services with physical marketing products,” he says.

And despite players like GoDaddy and ReachLocal already having a strong foothold as all-in-one providers of digital marketing services, Vistaprint’s own data shows there’s still plenty of room for growth within the industry. For example, the company has found that only 33% of “micro-businesses,” defined as those having fewer than 10 employees, are currently using websites as their primary marketing tactic, and only 5% are prioritizing online directories for marketing. Seventy-percent use both online and offline marketing channels to reach their customers, and more than one-third of those entrepreneurs say that improving the consistency of the visual identity between those channels would have a significant financial impact on their businesses.

“Small businesses need the most help connecting their online and offline marketing identities to create brands that will help them stand out in the marketplace,” Bowen says. “That’s why we are so focused on delivering on Vistaprint’s unique ability to help businesses create a cohesive marketing presence across the digital and physical worlds.”

In targeting the owners of micro-businesses, Vistaprint has attached itself to a notoriously price-conscious demographic. Bowen says the company is well aware of its customers’ tight margins, and finding the right price point has been important as Vistaprint Digital continues to expand.

“They have high expectations for quality when it comes to their marketing products and services, but they demand that they’re affordable. We’re in the fortunate position here at Vistaprint to be able to deliver on both, given our economies of scale,” Bowen says. “We’re also data geeks, and our order volumes allow us to do a fair bit of price testing to make sure we’re delivering what people want and the prices they expect.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.