Epson attempts to turn printing procurement upside down

New York – The business model for printing has steadfastly stayed the same for more than two decades: offer the hardware cheap and make money off the consumables.

With the release of the EcoTank printing system, Epson is trying to revolutionize the way people and organizations acquire and consume printers and ink. Instead of offering a printer at roughly $129 and ink packs at $70 on average, Epson has made available a new line of printers at $599 for the ET4550 unit. EcoTank inks are in bottles instead of cartridges and can produce 11,000 pages in black-and-white out of the box – 8,500 in colour.

“We are going to transform the industry,” said John Lang, CEO of Epson America.

He admitted that the market was not ready for EcoTank five years ago, but things have changed, he added.

Epson has heavily researched this market place for EcoTank and found that the customer experience with ink, specifically running out of ink, has led to frustration and people printing less.

“We believe people will print more with EcoTank and they are looking for convenience. People will print more if they don’t have to worry about running out of ink,” he said.

Epson America research has pegged the market at $40 billion in North America; of that 90 per cent of businesses print in black-and-white. “This is a great opportunity to see how things play out with colour. The expense of colour printing has been a barrier and with EcoTank it eliminates one of those hold backs,” Lang added.

Epson is asking the marketplace to do the math with its line of EcoTank products. According to Rodrigo Catalano, senior product manager for Epson inkjet division, individual users, SOHO businesses, office workgroups can all realize the savings with EcoTank.

For example, at an average 300 pages per month, the new Epson EcoTank system will need new ink in two years. Compare that with other method where you would have to replace the ink after 200 pages of full color prints and there is the potential to get a year’s worth of printing at no extra cost with EcoTank.

“This is a different kind of value proposition where it offers more affordable colour printing and the freedom from the anxiety of running out of ink. It is more expensive up front, but the more you print the more you can save,” Catalano said.

The cost of the ink bottles are $15.49 for four colour and $23.29 for black.

The go to market strategy for EcoTank is predominately retail. Epson is working with Staples, Best Buy, London Drugs and Amazon in Canada. Another route to market for Epson is the managed print services (MPS) providers. Both Catalano and COO John Lang told CDN that the MPS channel will be another challenge for the company.

Lang added that EcoTank’s route to market strategy with MPS is still in development.

“We are interested in this channel and one of the things we can offer is with EcoTank they do not have to do a lot of replacing. It’s a little different way to look at the business. We need to work that model through a little bit more with this group,” Lang said.

That works is the development of a new channel program from Epson for the MPS channel specifically for EcoTank. Also Epson has launched some pilot programs for EcoTank in the MPS channel.

“We want this channel program to be profitable for both the partners, the manufacturer and for the end users as well. If any of those things are missing then it’s not going to be a good partner program,” Lang said.

Epson unveiled five new all-in-one colour printers at the New York event that feature large ink reservoirs called Supertank, which can handle approximately two-years of prints.

The EcoTank printers combine advanced MicroPiezo printhead technology with a large ink reservoir (Supertanks) built for wireless printing from any device and OS including Windows 10 along with the Epson Connect solution.

The Epson Expression ET-2500 EcoTank at $459 is the entry-level model and at the top end there is the WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 EcoTank for $1,399.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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