Earlier this year, HP announced an expansion to its Instant Ink program with Instant Ink Professional. The professional leg of the program is for the company’s Officejet Pro X printer line, which was originally announced in February 2013. Instant Ink has been a huge area of focus for the OEM since its September 2013 launch nationwide at Best Buy stores and expansion to all major office supply stores, Walmart, and Micro Center. While the idea of changing the way that people purchase ink was initially viewed as aggressive and an upward battle, HP has proven that it is committed to the program and looks to expand it further. The result of that is Instant Ink Professional.
Like its counterpart, Instant Ink Pro offers customers three subscription options depending on their monthly page volume. The savings on the Professional program is touted as up to 25% compared with HP’s claim of up to 50% savings on the traditional Instant Ink program. Despite the lowered potential savings, customers gain a significant amount of convenience with the program, which will speak highly to SOHO customers. The program is currently compatible with the Officejet Pro X476dn ($649), Officejet Pro X476dw ($699), and Officejet Pro X576dw ($799).
The overall program works very similarly to the traditional Instant Ink offering, with the printer notifying HP when the ink is low and the company sending out new tanks. Customers are required to send back the empty cartridges in the provided postage-paid recycling envelopes. HP claims that all returned cartridges will be recycled by its HP Planet Partners program. Billing does not start until 30 days after a customer has installed a HP Instant Ink Professional tank into the enrolled printer. Similar to the traditional Instant Ink service, there is no long term commitment or obligation to remain with the Instant Ink Professional program beyond the first month. Customers can change their plan at any time at hpinstantinkpro.com.
Under the Instant Ink Professional program, users are billed based on the number of pages printed regardless of the number of monochrome or color pages, a feature that will likely be very attractive to customers. For small businesses, this billing model will be important as they do not have to choose to print black and white pages in an effort to cut costs.
HP’s efforts with Instant Ink clearly demonstrate the vendor’s commitment to the program by moving it upmarket. The OEM’s program also shows its evolving efforts to combat third party competition in both its consumer and SOHO product lines. While HP’s PageWide technology was touted as very difficult to duplicate, there are several sources stating that refills or other options besides genuine HP ink are becoming available for the hp970/971 line. HP is leading the way in terms of offering new inkjet technology and is positioning itself as a serious force to be reckoned with, bringing concern, at the very least, to several laser device manufacturers. By offering an easier way to replenish supplies, HP is addressing and anticipating areas that can be improved in the overall user experience.
Also demonstrating its commitment to the business model, HP recently expanded the original Instant Ink program to the UK where it has been under beta testing. The program will resonate best with customer bases that are familiar with monthly subscription plans. In today’s age, there are several items that consumers obtain with monthly subscriptions, for example, Netflix or Amazon services. With that, the UK was identified as the next place to go with Instant Ink and has thus far proven successful as HP announced the official launch this week within the country.
HP’s efforts for evolving its inkjet printer business have included both technological advancements as well as customer-facing sales strategies. The company relies heavily on supplies revenues and is seeking ways to capture more prints overall. While the exact details of how HP makes its money on the Instant Ink program are undisclosed, the company does state that its cartridges for the program are larger than the extra-large versions sold in stores, giving HP the opportunity to save on manufacturing costs overall. It is unknown if HP will sell its enrollment kits within resellers for its Pro program as it has done with the original Instant Ink program. At this time, online reseller CDW is the only outlet currently listing the Instant Ink Professional enrollment kit. It is likely that other online resellers will follow suit in the near term.
While HP is currently the only major inkjet manufacturer to offer this type of service, it remains to be seen if the company can move enough of its business to the program for it to uphold in the long term. Other players in the industry are continuing to rely on traditional sales channels for the current time, but may eventually seek alternatives as purchasing habits continue to evolve.