Image courtesy of Phenomenal Vinyl

The Wraps Report

​Ryan N. Fugler is a former editor of WRAPS magazine. 
 

On the road, out the window, and in the air; visual communications can be found nearly everywhere. The outdoor environment serves as an expansive promotional plane, allowing out-of-home advertising spending to increase to $6.9 billion in 2013 according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).

The fact that a specific brand or message can be placed on a vehicle and deployed as a mobile marketing agent gives vehicle wraps an edge over stationary outdoor options. Additionally, a wrapped vehicle can reach any desired geographic area at a time when traffic flow is at its highest—the media is literally delivered to the audience.

Wraps professionals—be they shop owners, installers or print professionals—must consider an array of elements to realize his or her own business success.

For this report, 60 wrap shops from across the country were surveyed to determine what they value most in their materials, equipment, training, and overall services. Additionally, results were compiled to address the following topics:

  • What projects do shops pursue?
  • What are some current challenges?
  • Which industry resources/activities are most helpful?
  • What are the trends in today’s market?

The following report will provide insight into these areas.   

Projects and Pursuits
There is not always a clear picture of what defines a wrap shop—many shops have additional interests in related markets such as sign making, print services, window tinting or paint protection films. In this research study, 100 percent of those interviewed dedicate some portion of their business to wraps. In other words, all can be viewed as a “wrap shop” for the purposes of this study.

From that total group, 23 percent specified that they engage exclusively in wraps work with no other secondary business involvement (identified by the solid red bar in CHART A). The fact that almost one-quarter of shops perform no other operations outside of wraps indicates that this business is not only healthy and growing, but is also serving as a stand-alone revenue generator for some owners. Consider that many wrap shops grew from other related practices: printing, designing, marketing and more.

Of course, there is a large population of shops that conduct business in one or more other areas of work. CHART A shows the breakdown of all the other types of business functions also performed in a wrap shop. There is quite a cluster of activities represented, from automobile-specific work to apparel décor. 

Not surprising is that nearly three-quarters of wrap shops also make signs; many consider wrapping an extension of sign and digital graphics production. Historically there is a great overlap with sign and wrap professionals, a mix that is typically noticeable at any number of industry events. Though, as we noted earlier, it appears that a good sample of wrap shops are beginning to focus solely on wrapping as a business function.

CHART A

It was also not unexpected to learn that a fair amount of wrappers cross into auto body repair, pinstriping, and window tinting—vehicles tend to be the most popular surfaces to wrap.

Diagram 1 gives a rough representation of this study’s findings pertaining to industry overlap. It shows the mix of practices among wrap shops, including those also involved in automotive work, window tinting, pinstriping, signmaking, apparel graphics, and brand marketing. Respondents also provided some insight into how much of their overall work is dedicated to wraps, with answers ranging from 30 to 100 percent.

DIAGRAM 1

With regard to wraps projects, it is important to identify the types of jobs being completed. Figure 1 shows that there is still a healthy blend of full-scale vehicle wraps, partial wraps, and cut-vinyl installations being performed in wrap shops. Of those interviewed, only one shop had not completed a full wrap over the past 12 months, and the same results were returned when asked about partial wraps completed in the past year.

Cut vinyl and decal installation still has a strong place in the industry as 58 of 60 shops responded that they are engaged in those types of projects. Cut vinyl can be used in tandem with a full wrap, or it can be used as the primary message as seen on emergency vehicles or taxi cabs. With such an assortment of vinyl film being used on a regular basis, it is important for wrap shops to keep their inventory up-to-date for whatever job arises. 

Specialty film is another that certainly has a place in the market. Every shop in this report has used some kind of specialty film. Shown in Figure 2 are the specific materials that have been used by a shop at any point during a wrap project. With carbon film, for example, becoming more popular over the past few years it is encouraging to see 88 percent of wrap shops using it. It is important to consider these films for wrapping because:

  • They can generate more revenue for your shop as an add-on service.
  • They can lend to the style and uniqueness of your customer’s vehicle.

It is important that shops regularly highlight the benefits of specialty films. Without mentioning the availability of specialty films to a customer, shops will not only miss out on a chance to increase profits but they also fail to capitalize on enhancing a customer’s experience. 

Facing the Challenge
Always an element of discussion, pricing is important to wrap shops and their customers. Shops must be cognizant of their expenditures when adding up labor, facilities, equipment and material costs. They must also realize that they don’t only compete against other wrap shops but also against other forms of media such as billboards and banners.

However, wrappers demand the very best out of their work. They value quality and, in turn, rely on their products to provide them with superior results. As shown in CHART B, price is not the top determinant when wrap shops make a new purchase. Dependability of the product is king.

When asked about the most important influential factor when making a decision to purchase a product, a resounding two-thirds of wrap shops answered with “product dependability.” Perhaps even more revealing is that only five percent of shops pointed to price as the major reason for buying a product.

Other factors such as product warranty, technological advancements, and manufacturer/dealer service all outranked price as the main motive to make a purchase. 

CHART B

Wrap professionals say they trust in the products they use and want to pass along the value of those products to their customers. Also note that all of these shops use different printers, materials, and other equipment/supplies during a project; still, price is the least popular determining factor when buying products for their shops.

Turning the tables and placing these wrappers in their clients’ shoes, the question was asked, “What’s the biggest challenge you face with your customers?” In this instance, 70 percent of wraps professionals believed that price was the biggest obstacle, with design and install problems a very distant second (as shown in CHART C). So, why is it that wrap shops seem to place little emphasis on the price of their products while customers are strongly fixed on price when considering a job? 

When digging deeper into the issue and finding out exactly what is communicated between a wrap shop and the customer, it appears there is more of a breakdown in communication between expectations versus price. Many times, clients think wraps are “cool” and want to promote their businesses in different ways so they turn to wrappers with no awareness of cost, life of the graphics or time of install.  

CHART C

 

Value and Expectations
So here’s the question: What are wrap shops doing to ensure they are fully communicating the value and expectations of a wrap job upfront? Below are some suggestions to properly educate a customer:

  • Explain that vehicle wraps reach a wider audience and have more longevity than traditional ads
  • Clarify that wraps are an investment that will pay off through time
  • Position your shop as a partner with your customer (don’t treat it as a one-time transaction)
  • Stress the professionalism of your shop and the detail/attention that is involved
  • Walk through a checklist of what’s included, explaining the timeframe of each step (i.e. consulting, design, print, install, inspection, follow-up, etc.)
  • Stay involved with your customers and confirm their satisfaction level is high

If wrap shops are able to discuss everything that goes into a project, then the amount of surprises will be limited as will any unnecessary, spur-of-the-moment negotiating during the process. While wraps become more popular, it’s important for those in the industry to properly communicate the elements of price versus value.

Analysis of Resources
In large part, shops, manufacturers and suppliers alike have been very open to helping one another to advance the wraps market. Training, for example, has been ever-present in the wraps community for years, available in a number of different forms. Whether a new installer has been hired or an existing professional simply wishes to better his or her skills, shops are regularly seeking out educational opportunities. Many product manufacturers already have their own structured training programs that may include bestowing a certification title upon the installer at the end of training. There are other options that are more “on-the-fly” types of educational experiences such as trade show demonstrations or website/newsletter videos.

In CHART D, you will notice where wrap shops find the most value in their training from a logistical standpoint. The question was posed, “How do you prefer to receive your wraps training?” And over half of the respondents chose a local supplier’s class.  

Wrappers want to improve in any way possible—note that only two percent have no interest in training programs. They constantly seek progression because ultimately that extra installation trick, or product cost-saver, or other significant advantage will add to their bottom lines. From a cost- and time-trimming perspective, results show that videos also work well for 22 percent of shops as a means to further their wraps education. Video resources can be found on sites such as www.sdgmag.com

Traditionally, training programs have united wrappers of all backgrounds in an effort to gain more comfort and insight into the design, print and installation practices. Formal training also allows those with less industry know-how to experiment with multiple products and determine which produces the best results for them. 

CHART D

 

As wrappers become more advanced, they may look at other ways of getting involved in the industry. This includes practicing alternative approaches in their own shops, having in-depth conversations and meetings with colleagues, or sharing their work though media outlets. Along those lines, when asked to choose everything that is important to their shops, four options were given and the results were recorded in CHART E.

A decisive 93 percent of respondents said they value “trying new techniques and products.” This reveals that wraps professionals are eager to learn about becoming more successful and efficient, but that they also place emphasis on product performance and the new technologies that arise. They want to be on the forefront of the industry and are constantly looking to hone their craft.

How do they gain an edge? By implementing new products—whether that is a quicker printer, more manageable vinyl, or more accurate ink color—wrap shops can stay ahead of the curve and offer services that the competition may not.

While trying new techniques and products is obviously very important, wrap contests—as seen throughout the industry at trade shows and on websites – are viewed as less important. 

Only 13 percent of shops list “competing in wrap contests” as an area of importance. Wrappers are busy people and must find ways to capitalize on their resources and build their businesses in the most effective way. So, though it might be a nice achievement to win a wraps contest—and it could provide some exposure for the shop to participate—there are other activities of more importance according to this study.

For example, over 40 percent more respondents value installer certification over wrap contest competitions. Similarly, networking in the industry was viewed as important to 65 percent of those interviewed – there are numerous ways for wraps professionals to interact in the wraps community, whether it be at a trade show such as WRAPSCON, at a local training class, or through an industry website. 

CHART E

Product Usage Trends
While technology continues to advance, and wrap shops incorporate new manufacturer-suggested products and practices into their businesses, more opportunities begin to arise. Taking into consideration that vehicle wraps are not just being used for brand identification these days, individuals are looking for ways to restyle their automobiles for a more visually-stimulating appearance that also provides adequate outer-body protection.

Paint protection films (PPF) are on the rise as more customized looks can be realized. Auto dealers are providing wrap services to provide an alternative to traditional paint; some vehicle repair shops are expanding into wraps too. This report’s findings show that almost every wrap shop has completed a full wrap with a branded design, and over 60 percent of shops have fully wrapped a vehicle with PPF (see Figure 3). 

Growth is being realized not only on the materials and products end but with the medium as well. Shifting away from the automobile side of wrapping; there are a number of other objects that offer “wrapable” surfaces. Today, everything from buildings and walls to helmets, refrigerators, skateboards and even appendage prostheses are being adorned with graphics.

Looking at Figure 4, you will see that more than 80 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative when asked if they have performed a building or non-traditional wrap over the past year. Only 18 percent answered “No.”

Wrap shops are becoming more open to—and getting more creative with—projects that come through their doors. Wrappers are testing the limits of technology to ensure that media conformity with tough surfaces, proper color matching (especially when exposed to light/heat), and general product quality remain reliable. 

A final question was posed to wrap shops, specific to their level of comfort regarding printer size. Wrap shops employ any size of printer depending on what types of jobs they undertake, whether it is wraps, signage or other digitally printed projects. Some shops own several printers, dedicating one or more to wraps work. Whatever the case, they must be comfortable with the printer’s output and properly handle the size of the printed graphics when installing them. When asked: “What is the widest printer you’d feel comfortable using,” Figure 5 shows that a 64-inch-wide printer was far and away the most popular answer. There is give and take with using wider printers: wrappers would rather work with the fewest amount of seams as possible, however, they need to be sure that the media output is not so large and cumbersome that it impinges upon the quality of the install. Again, this goes back to the comfort level and experience of each particular wrapper.  

Conclusions
The information and statistics presented in this report can help wraps professionals better understand the market while continuing to provide the best services to their customers. In summary, below are the three most significant findings of this research project.

  • Wrap shops are surfacing all over the place and it is not an exact science of how they are conceived. Some shops have printing and installation experience, and some do not. There is a relatively untapped market extending into the auto and apparel industries—one in 10 wrappers also provide window tinting services; one in five wrap professionals say they are also apparel decorators. And general marketing/branding businesses and design professionals could feasibly add wraps services to their offerings with some assistance. As shops mature, they may have the ability to grow significantly and increase their wrap production—sometimes moving exclusively into wraps work (like the 23 percent in this study).
  • Wraps professionals want to know what’s next. They use specialty materials (100 percent of respondents in this report have used at least one), they are willing to try wider printers (more than 75 percent are comfortable using a 56” to 64” wide printer), and they are keeping printing and installation services in-house (only one interviewee is outsources printing). And 93 percent of wraps professionals eagerly anticipate the chance to try new techniques and products.
  • Wrappers should take advantage of training classes with supply partners, use time at trade shows to learn about new concepts, and review all resources available in the industry. Anything that can be used to his or her advantage will help to build success. And as wrap shops form a loyal customer base, they need to communicate effectively and develop great working relationships. Discuss price versus value. This will establish trust and the proper expectations with clients moving forward. 

* From the 2015 issue of WRAPS magazine.