By Jonathan Treble and Rhea Patel
Due to rapid advancements in mobile computing capabilities, the last two decades have witnessed a significant growth in telecommuting practices. Telecommuting most often refers to working at home, but a growing share of telecommuters are conducting work in “third place” environments such as cafés and coffee shops. The “third place” is a term made famous by Starbuck’s CEO Howard Shultz, who is describing his ubiquitous coffee chain’s ambiance. The term connotes a comfortable environment separate from the office and home, enjoyed by a range of guests for purposes as diverse as catching up with a friend, meeting in a large group, studying independently, or working remotely. The latter two use-cases have only recently been made possible by abundant high-speed wifi in coffee houses. Starbucks, for one, invested heavily in upgrading its wifi infrastructure two years ago, when it partnered with Google to bring a faster, more reliable version of its free wifi to its stores. But wifi isn’t the only amenity that arduous guests desire — in a survey conducted by Samsung in 2013, 24% of mobile workers said that they would like to see their café offer printing. Yes, the strong support for printing makes it the second-most desired amenity right behind wifi. It even topped the old-school newspaper stand tucked in the corner. This shift coincides with a shift in decreased printer ownership, as Millennials increasingly scrutinize the value proposition of owning a clunky piece of hardware that’s expensive to purchase and restock.
So should coffee houses really offer this amenity? Does it not make their store feel too much like a “coffice”? At PrintWithMe, we have engaged with scores of independent café owners, conducted our own user surveys, and heard a wide range of perspectives. Our conclusion is that paid-printing is almost always a worthwhile amenity to offer, especially if the shop can efficiently outsource the operation to a third-party provider like PrintWithMe. The simple condition that needs to be met is that of space availability — so long as two square-feet in an accessible part of the store can be allocated to the printer, then offering the amenity handsomely pays for its space through cross-sales. Indeed, the savviest café owners who analyze their traffic trends attribute a significant share of their sales to mobile workers who desire wifi and printing. One veteran coffee-house owner in Chicago recently learned the value of wifi the hard way; after years of offering it, he experimented by disabling his public wifi for 6 months. He quickly did an about-face after he crunched the numbers and saw the significant dip in sales.
PrintWithMe’s turnkey print station directly meets the growing desire for the printing amenity in cafés.