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Business Opportunities

Personalised Print

With new technology driving personalised print and its potential forwards, the notion that print is dead is an outdated view. Carys Evans explores why.

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The resurrection of print

With research by Technavio showing that the global market for personalised gifts is set to rise to $38bn (£30bn) by next year, the demand for personalised print and the latest technology to drive this has never been greater.

The main contributors to this growth are a boost in gift culture and seasonal decorations, innovative gifting solutions and advancements in technology, and expanding online retail and distribution channels.

As the popularity of personalised print for a whole hoard of applications such as direct mail, gifts, promotions and marketing campaigns grows, so does the use of variable data printing (VDP) technology.

O Factoid: According to Forbes, 66% of direct mail marketing is opened and 82% of this is read  O

VDP gives printers the opportunity to create personal and engaging messages and content quickly and efficiently through marketing databases and templates. It allows printers to customise and personalise each item without affecting productivity or causing downtime.

Personalised print also offers the chance to adapt to changing trends and consumer demands without too many other investments or changes.

As a result, some describe VDP and personalised print as going hand in hand, with the personalisation factor causing applications such as direct mail to remain strong and steady as print battles with a digital storm.

Print of the future

Older than the trusty light bulb, Dornans has been around for over 170 years and offers a range of print services from lithographic print and digital printing to CNC CAD cutting and direct mail.

There is a common phase that more and more people keep saying nowadays: print is not dead

Ian Bryan, managing director of the firm explains how variable data printing allows for the mass distribution of print to still have that ‘one-on-one’ feel, and describes this technique as an effective tool for increasing return on investment on direct mail marketing campaigns.

Bryan confirms that there are lots of creative ways that this technology can be put to use. He notes personalised URLS, which can be printed and tracked via online analytics platforms, and QR codes, which can be added to send recipients to a specific landing page as just a couple of options.

Direct mail campaigns remain steady in popularity and as a result so does the need for variable data printing technologies

In addition to VDP, Bryan predicts augmented reality to have a big part to play in print going forward, creating a better link to digital activity. Describing how, he says: “If you send out a new catalogue, augmented reality in a print campaign lets readers sit in the driver’s seat of its new car and explore every angle of its interior in 360º, straight from scanning the print ad.

“Now imagine if that came from some personalised print material. This type of augmented reality experience is particularly effective in fashion and beauty where many consumers rely on trying a product on before making a purchase.”

Reap the rewards

Chris Matthews, digital equipment business manager for Heidelberg, describes the ability to produce content that is timely and relevant to the receiver as something we all take for granted now. He says: “In the early years, print and its ability to adjust to this changing demand was slow to take off.

Ian Bryan, director of Dornans predicts augmented reality will be used to boost print

“The demand for VDP from the customers of print-service-providers [PSPs] began to challenge our industry in general with many uninterested or ignoring what was to become one of the greatest opportunities to capture business that was to have an audience of one. With an audience of one comes the opportunity to increase the value of the printed piece.”

Matthews highlights the personalised greeting card as somewhere that the buyer is prepared to spend more than they would for a standard greeting card from the local shop. This is due to the fact that the personalised card is relevant to the receiver and shows the increase in value of personalised products.

Those that were slow to adopt are losing out and perhaps now beginning to realise that the time for change is now

“Photobooks and their meteoric rise in popularity were another form of print industry that nobody would have predicted being viable before the birth of the internet but are now big business with enviable margins in terms of cost to produce versus actual sale value.”

Whilst initially slow to adopt this technology, according to Matthews, people are now beginning to realise its potential.

Variable data printing makes mass distribution with a personal feel possible

He adds: “The net result for our industry in this age with VDP now the norm is higher margins. Those PSPs that have changed their business models, that have invested in the talent required to take on this opportunity from a technical perspective, and let’s not forget invested in equipment to capitalise in this area are the ones that are benefitting.

“Those that were slow to adopt are losing out and perhaps now beginning to realise that the time for change is now.”

Shaking up the system

Vistaprint offers a range of customisable small business marketing products, from marketing materials and digital marketing to graphic design services. Tom Gubbels, principal engineer of Vistaprint describes how the firm leverages workflow and production management software to automate the end-to-end fulfilment process in order to deal with variable data on a “massive scale”.

Gubbels says: “The interface between the software and production equipment is defined by many dynamic and static touchpoints, most of which are not visible and are in daily use at the plants. This software benefits personalised print by enabling automated workstreams from input to creation: including drawing, ripping, printing and finishing processes.”

Chris Matthews, digital equipment business manager for Heidelberg says that the time to adopt new technologies is now

Vistaprint also works closely with its main vendors to optimise current and new technologies for personalised print. Describing a recent example, Gubbels notes the worldwide release of HP’s Colorful metal driven by the Kurz DM liner.

He says: “Ever since the original launch of digital foiling technology, there’s been a significant gap in the process where colour printing over the foil is not registered correctly. It took fortune and faith to ensure that the colours would register with the foil image.

“Vistaprint collaborated with HP’s research and development team to deliver a highly capable new process with up to perfect colour registration capabilities – a step change for the printing industry. Vistaprint intends to launch many new products using this technology.”

No limitations

For Steve Andrew, group production director of Xeretec, the more imaginative personalised print is, the greater the opportunity to convert marketing budget into carefully targeted sale.

Andrew elaborates: “The higher the value of the product often determines the level of variable data print complexity that is used. That’s logical given that the ultimate goal is to drive sales and promote response whether they are high volume or high profit.

“The great thing about marketing campaigns today, is that their success can be measured by detailed analytics, which can quantify the effectiveness of marketing spend. A response – or lack of it – can trigger multi-channel responses, so the customer can be influenced over multiple channels, making the marketing spend more effective and infinitely measurable.”

Print becomes an even more valuable part of a comprehensive and tailored strategy that combines digital and physical assets

Thanks to technology such as variable data printing, Andrew is confident there will always remain room for print. He says: “Print becomes an even more valuable part of a comprehensive and tailored strategy that combines digital and physical assets to facilitate high-growth areas within specific target markets.

“Print is still the one form of marketing that is visible and can be touched by a wider reached audience than an email inbox.”

Rather than technology holding back the possibilities of print, Andrews notes that often it is our own lack of knowledge or inspiration that holds us back. He adds: “It tends to be our own inability to grasp the full scope of what technology can do for our businesses that tends to be overlooked. Addressing this, however, requires education and time, training and development.

Companies can combine print and digital assets to reach a wider audience

“In today’s hyper-busy, always-connected world, those are limited commodities. However, once the light goes on, the possibilities are endless.”

In agreement with Andrews, Bryan concludes: “There is a common phase that more and more people keep saying nowadays: print is not dead. Innovations like variable data printing really help hammer that home. There is a lot of noise online, ads in customers’ Facebook feeds, inboxes full of offers, it’s easy to get buried and go unseen.

“Having something physical that is addressed and tailored to you makes a business’s message more personal and could be seen as being more caring and empathic. Naturally, using your customer’s name will build strong bonds that are hard to break. If you were to see a personalised Facebook ad with your name on, you would probably think that’s very weird.”

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