By Stephen Baker on Nov 1 2010 - 6:22pm


To Print or not To Print, That is the Question

In a typically bad reference to very good Shakespeare NPD’s recently completed Wireless Printing Survey (and HP’s Innovation event a couple of months ago in NYC) force us to ask that age old question.

NPD’s Retail Tracking Service shows that consumers are increasingly making the choice to buy wireless printers. Since early 2010 more than 50 percent of MFPs sold at retail were wireless. It also shows that they want to spend their money on wireless printers, spending an average of 50 percent more on a wirelessly enabled printer than a wired one.

All this good news includes sales growth as well, in a category that had been given up for dead. So far in 2010 wireless multi-function printers are showing a 44 percent increase in unit volumes according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service. While this is good news, it’s tempered by a couple of challenging points that show us that consumers are still asking the age old question: to print or not to print?

Despite having considerably more access to printing devices in their home through the ownership of a wirelessly enabled printer about 75 percent of consumers with wireless printer availability print about the same after the purchase as they did before. However, one group bucks the trend, and in that diversion lays some increased hope and opportunity for printer makers. Thirty percent of young consumers, 18-34 years old, told us that after they get access to wireless printers they printed more than they did before, a number that was about 50 percent higher than consumers 55 and older. So while overall the availability of wireless printing doesn’t move consumers to print more it does send Gen X scurrying to their digital cameras and cell phones. More than 50 percent of them set up their printer to print to multiple devices, a number considerably higher than almost all other demographics.

At HP’s Innovation event they talked about enabling ePrint technology across their entire line of printers. This initiative is making email addresses available to every printer in their line-up and is focused on extending the wireless experience beyond just Wi-fi device connectivity but to product-to-product connectivity. Given that wireless printer set-up is still hard as according to our survey (more than 20 percent of wireless printer owners said connecting their wireless printer was too difficult), HP’s intention to make communicating with the printer easier, is a welcome step.

There are lots of consumers who want to print, and ones that are extremely mobile find the lack of access to the device to be a major inhibitor. Putting that email connectivity on the printer should help those mobile young people, who are increasingly adopting wireless printing, to have better access and opportunity to a printing device and our data shows that can lead to increased printing. While there are still concerns about connecting the printer to a Wi-fi network, (especially among older consumers who were three times as likely than 18-34 year olds to find connecting their wireless printer to be difficult), HP’s ePrint initiative which focused on access to the device could help negate the need for us to deliver bad paraphrasing of classic Shakespeare quotes in the future. Maybe in the future that will be a question we never have to ask.

Stephen Baker, The NPD Group’s Vice President, Industry Analysis
To read all of NPD’s blogs please click here.

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