While inkjet multifunction printers (MFPs) are showing some growth and monochrome MFPs sales are on the rise, it’s the colour MFP that’s seeing the most notable jump in sales these days. As colour’s cost per page comes down, you can not only replace your scanner, fax machine and printer with one, but – if you have the print volume – you may actually be able to make the previously unaffordable jump to a colour laser MFP.

However, it makes sense to first understand some of today’s important buying trends. Here are four trends influencing buyers in the multifunction marketplace:

Do the math
SMB customers must understand the cost equation when they buy MFPs, according to Daniel Reio, manager, product marketing at reseller CDW Canada. “At the end of the day, the device itself may be more costly than other devices that they bought in the past but the reality is it’s a combination of several different devices.” So, while buyers get a machine that is less than the sum cost of those three standalone units, it’s still quite an expensive single-item purchase. “But it can do so much more. That’s the reality that people need to face, that they’re paying a little bit more for a single device but that this machine can now do the work of multiple, different devices.”

Maintenance or replacement?
Most of today’s multifunction printers are pretty reliable, says Reio, because the technology has steadily been evolving and improving. CDW Canada hears “very few” concerns about units being down for repair for long periods of time, he adds. However, even if they do fail, with products hovering down as low as the $200- or $300-range, it’s not necessarily cost-prohibitive to replace them when they get older and less reliable. “If a couple of years go by and it breaks, then SMBs are maybe cost-justified to buy another one,” says Reio. “The costs are not so outrageous that they can’t just buy a replacement, or maybe they just buy two and put one on either side of the office so they have a backup.”

Print plethora
While none of the big MFP players have changed in the last couple of years, they are certainly producing more models, especially on the colour MFP side. More saturation in the market makes the customer buying experience that much tougher.

Vertical interest
Reio has also noticed manufacturers introducing an interesting new feature on their MFPs called ID card copy. It’s getting early attention from doctor’s offices because they may have to scan a new patient’s ID card. Or if a customer wants to take a test drive, instead of leaving his licence, he can now make a good quality copy. “So you’re also starting to see some specialization, and some features in these MFPs that really resonate with certain customers.”

Comment: edit@itworldcanada.com

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