As a declining number of users are printing at home, inkjet manufacturers are working to grow sales of inkjet devices by focusing their efforts on other new segments. While inkjet manufacturers have found an opportunity for growth in the business inkjet AiO segment, vendors are also focusing on the mobile inkjet SFP market to target on-the-go professionals who may benefit from a portable and lightweight mobile inkjet printer.

For more than one decade, Canon and HP have competed head-to-head for sales in the segment. However, competition has grown since Epson this week launched the WorkForce WF-100, the vendor’s first mobile inkjet SFP. Epson’s introduction of its WorkForce WF-100 and Canon’s recent refresh of its popular mobile inkjet SKU (PIXMA iP110), in addition to growth in the mobile workforce, suggests that there is at least steady demand for portable printers that likely appeals to a number of different user types.

While mobile inkjet SFPs may not provide customers with the lowest printing costs or the fastest print speeds, the models do offer A4 printing in a compact design. With their portability and lightweight form factor, the models mostly target customers such as sales professionals, real estate agents, and delivery service people. Although the products may seem like a solution for on-the-go printing, a noteworthy limitation may be the low number of pages that can be printed per charge.

For customers who are looking to purchase a mobile inkjet SFP, models can be found in the retail channel where they maintain a very limited shelf presence, while the majority of purchases are made through B2B channels. Mobile inkjet placements currently account for 30% of the total inkjet SFP assortment at the OSS chains, and it is worth noting that the segment only accounts for 3% of total inkjet placements (SFP and AiO) at those retailers.

While Epson’s entrance into the mobile inkjet SFP market shows that inkjet manufacturers still see an opportunity for growth in the segment, placements of the WorkForce WF-100 will have little effect on retail shelf. If the product gains placements at Office Depot / OfficeMax and Staples, mobile inkjet SFP shelf will grow to 7% of overall inkjet placements.  Looking forward, retailers and vendors may grow demand for the mobile inkjet SFP market through promotional activity. Over the last year, mobile inkjet SFP ads have accounted for roughly 37% of all inkjet SFP advertisements.

The mobile inkjet SFP segment is unique given that inkjet vendors sell these products in a niche market for customers who require on-the-go printing.  In contrast, the majority of inkjet SFP purchases are made based on low acquisition prices, as well as the minimal printing needs of these customers.

Given the growing number of remote and mobile workers, it is certainly possible that the segment may see growth in the near term. With that, inkjet manufacturers are expected to focus their efforts on the niche mobile inkjet SFP segment in a likely attempt to maintain sales in the declining inkjet SFP market.