Epson’s Mark Mathews is on a mission to build a channel for the company’s inkjet office printers.
Last time we saw Mark Mathews he was at a BTA regional event in Baltimore touting the benefits of 3D printing. He has since traded in that challenge for another one. In his new role as VP of commercial marketing for Epson, he’s been on the road talking to dealers about Epson’s line of A3 inkjet printers designed for the office market.
It might be a little premature to call what Epson has available for the office a line because at present the only two products available in the U.S. are the WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20590, a 100-ppm model and the 25-ppm WorkForce Pro WF-C869R. Both leverage Epson’s PrecisionCore printing technology. A 75-ppm model, currently available in Japan, will be hitting U.S. shores later this year. Additional models at various speeds are also in development.
As one of the top two players in the inkjet space, Epson, and the top seed in the field, HP, have a head start and distinct advantage over the other OEMs who are still developing their own inkjet products for the office. Until recently, Epson has focused primarily on the consumer and industrial space with its inkjet products. Not any more as it looks to secure a spot in the office.
“The challenge for not just HP, but for us is to design a product that is truly designed for the office at the right price point,” said Mathews.”
With the WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20590, which has received a fair amount of press already, Epson has taken one of its industrial products and slowed it down to better fit into the office space and compete against laser machines from the usual suspects.
“That is why you see us with this particular machine starting at the high end of the market and working our way down,” observed Mathews. “We came in at 100 pages per minute with competitive price points against Segment 4 color copiers as well as Segment 5 color copiers and a disruptive technology that offers advantages for a dealer and the end user around total cost of ownership and reliability.”
The industry loves to talk about disruptive technologies and inkjet at the office level has the potential to be disruptive. At least Mathews thinks so.
“The last time a hardware [technology] came into this market and was disruptive was digital,” he observed. “We’ve done a lot of research and if you talk to end users they don’t know if they have a laser, inkjet or LED, they just know if the output is good and it looks good. IT VARS don’t care, they just don’t want phone calls. One resistant pocket for inkjet has been at the dealer level. The issue isn’t ink, the issue is the products before weren’t designed for the office. They were sped up consumer products for the office space.”
Epson is a channel-centric organization. Mathews views this as a compelling reason for dealers to consider Epson.
“We don’t sell direct, we don’t own any branches, we don’t own any operations, everything goes through distribution. The channel of choice that was picked is a no brainer for this product was the BTA office products channel.”
Whenever any vendor makes a play for a dealer’s mindshare, the question arises, who will this vendor displace?
“We’re not displacing anybody,” acknowledged Mathews. “We have no false sense of reality. Right now we have a limited product line. There’s no expectation for the dealer to pick us up as a full-line provider. We have a unique value proposition for high-speed color printing that can be a great alternative to the product lines dealers have today.”
That message seems to be resonating with small and midsize dealers—most of the dealers Mathews has been speaking with to this point.
“They are looking for something to differentiate as they go against the large dealers as well as the direct operations,” he said. “This is a different story, a different technology, and because we have limited distribution they can go in without having to worry about six other outlets in their markets selling the product.”
Looking long term
Epson’s long-term goal is to be a top tier player in this market over Epson’s 2025 mid-term business plan. That’s within the next five to six years. For now, Mathews’ focus is building a channel. He’d like to have hundreds of dealers within the next couple of years, and then grow that into a network of several hundred dealers doing significant volume with Epson to establish full geographic coverage in the U.S., Latin America, and Canada.
“As we get these strongholds in these dealerships, as our product line expands, we will gain more share within the dealership and out in the street,” predicted Mathews.
He shares a history lesson that underscores the potential of inkjet vs. laser technology.
“When you look at inkjet in various markets, wherever inkjet has come in with a well-designed product at the right feature set and price point, it takes over laser,” he noted. “If you look at the commercial inkjet market, 93% of that market is inkjet. The photographic printer market is almost 100% inkjet, and if you look at wide format, that’s primarily inkjet. In the production space over 20% of print volume has switched to inkjet output and is forecast to be 40-50% over the next couple of years. The one place inkjet hasn’t come yet formidably because of product design is the office market.”
He added, “If history repeats itself, which it often does, there’s a strong case for players like Epson.”
Epson has been showing dealers the new product at roadshows across the country and more roadshows will be announced for late summer, early fall. But dealers may not want to wait for those roadshows before making a decision.
“We’re moving and I tell dealers if they have a geographic area they want to cover, sign with us quick because we’re starting to fill in the chart,” concluded Mathews.
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