by Christina Robbins
An interesting headline appeared recently in my hometown newspaper The Denver Post: “Video One gets June 5 closing date, set to sell 17,000 movies before final day.” The article explained that after 34 years, Denver’s oldest video store was closing. The article caught my attention because it describes a business that adapted in small ways to changes in their customer’s needs (they did start carrying DVDs and then Blu-rays in addition to videocassettes), but they did not anticipate or adjust for the true market change represented by Netflix, Hulu and other on-demand video services. Ultimately, that failure to adapt cost them their business.
What does this have to do with you?
As an imaging VAR, your industry is well into a significant change (in video store language, we might say you’re at the Blu-ray stage). Your customers are moving away from primarily paper filing systems to digital storage. This evolution has huge implications for your business.
What trends are driving digital adoption?
Three key trends are driving this shift away from paper files. First, the cost of paper is going up. In the last five years, the typical worldwide average cost for a box of paper has roughly doubled. That’s enough to motivate most business owners to encourage staff to minimize spending on office supplies.
Second, print volumes are declining. I discussed this chart with analysts at InfoTrends earlier this year. They explained that each time the United States experiences a recession (shown here by the gray bars), office copy and print volume — which is directly linked to how many paper files businesses generate and store — declines. How much? Well, the analyst said about 15 percent on average. What is even more concerning, as you track that blue line representing print volume, you’ll notice that it doesn’t tick back up to the pre-recession volumes. The downtrend is a permanent change in consumer’s behavior. And as you can see by the vertical red line, we’re past due for another recession, according to InfoTrends.
Third, while print volumes decline as the cost of paper rises, the amount of digital data is exploding rapidly. IDC estimates that between 2009 and 2020, the data we need to keep track of is doubling in size every two years! The explosion of data in all its forms has consumers and businesses scrambling to find cost-effective solutions that enable them to intelligently find the critical data they need to make smart decisions. What does this all mean? Well, if you’re primarily storing paper files for your customers, you should expect the revenue from that portion of your business to continue to decline as customers move toward better digital options.
How Can I Simplify My Shift to Digital Storage?
The cloud continues to grow rapidly. Forrester predicts that global cloud revenues will reach $106 billion in 2016, up 21 percent from 2015 levels. Though cloud technologies aren’t new, the economic downturn in 2008/2009 really focused organizations on saving money while boosting efficiency and the financial return on technology investments causing more and more to choose cloud options. Today, more than 35 percent of companies are only considering cloud technologies for 2016 implementations. The cloud simplifies the shift to digital for you, because you do not have to invest in IT expertise to sell these products. Manufacturers build and maintain cloud services, so there is no hardware or software for you to buy. You also don’t have to hire IT staff to install or customize solutions for customers. In addition, manufacturers are responsible for uptime and reliability, so you don’t have to pay for on-call technical support staff.
One of the other concerns you may have about going digital is the complexity and cost of scanning and indexing information for customers. Did you know that artificial intelligence-enabled applications can make the imaging process really simple? The marketplace today offers forms processing applications that can automatically recognize document types and extract important information with no manual intervention. When driven by artificial intelligence, these applications mean you don’t have to hire personnel to hand sort documents for customers or to hand key index values. It’s dramatically simpler and less expensive than if you’d tried to convert to scanning even five years ago.
The trends clearly indicate that you need to prepare for a shift toward digital storage options for your customers. Cloud and artificial intelligence make this shift easier now than it has ever been before. Don’t wait too long; it’s time for you to follow your customers to digital storage.
 Personal Interview, May 4, 2016. Chart provided by InfoTrends.
 IDC (2014) The Digital Universe in 2020. Retrieved from: http://www.emc.com/collateral/analyst-reports/idc-the-digital-universe-in-2020.pdf
 Columbus, Louis. (Jan 24,2015) “Roundup of Cloud Computing Forecasts and Estimates.” Forbes. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2015/01/24/roundup-of-cloud-computing-forecasts-and-market-estimates-2015/#280fe438740c
 Wettemann, Rebecca. (April 2016). “Cloud Delivers 2.1 Times More ROI.” Nucleus Research.