Deliver: Printing for One: From Online to Offline

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The Internet has raised awareness of the value of individual customer communications. Companies are including individualized content on their Web sites and in their e-mails with great success. This has led to rising demand to develop more ways to reach customers on an individual basis.


Marketers have come full circle with the continued evolution of variable digital printing. Introduced decades ago, digital printing has suffered from high cost and a lack of understanding of how to develop individualized content. As a result, digital printing never reached significant penetration in the marketplace. However, things are changing.


Manufacturers such as Xerox (iGen) and Kodak (NexPress) have developed printers and software capable of handling extremely complex input. Also, new software functionality has entered the market from companies like Xtreme and XMPie. These developments have made personalized printing a reality. With improved speed and better economics, marketers are looking at it again.


Potential Applications


The challenge now moves to the marketers to determine the best applications for print personalization. When considering applications for personalized printing, again the Internet can give direction. Event-based communications lead the way.


· Sending reminders to customers to come back to buy consumable products. This might work for obvious products like printer cartridges, vacuum bags or filters. It also might work to remind a customer who bought last year's blouse to check out this year's colors.


· Postcards suggesting accessories for products recently purchased. For example, recommend related software or peripherals to a recent computer buyer.


· Print personalization to add value to traditional mailings. Add a personalized cover to your catalog reminding a customer to buy items related to previous purchases. For a customer who already bought sheets, suggest matching comforters or curtains. An office products company might create a personalized cover showing items related to the customer's most recent purchase.


Another example might be a marketer of collectibles who sends a postcard identifying the latest releases for the specific collection from which each customer has purchased.


Building the Rules


Once you decide that print personalization might have value for your business, you need to develop rules that match the right products to each customer. Online marketers have tested hundreds of rules that have potential for print applications.


These rules have three common elements. First is a method for segmenting customers; i.e., brand, sub-category, product affinity. Second, criteria for classifying customers; i.e., latest product purchased, average order value. Finally, selecting appropriate products to be used with the rule - best sellers, new products.


Examples of rules that might work for personalized printing:


· Product affinity: Include products in your printed piece with the highest affinity to each customer's most recently purchased SKU.


· Multi-category segmentation: Send the best-selling products for each category from which a customer has purchased.


· Replenishment: Identify consumable products in your mix and send a reminder to customers who purchased one or more of these products.


· Liquidation: Identify products with excess inventory and send appropriate products to customers who bought products with high affinity to these products.


Printing Economics


The challenge in determining whether personalized printing will work for your marketing program is, as always, economic. The cost of printing personalized communications can range from 20 cents to 40 cents for a 12-by-18-inch sheet. This could be one catalog cover or four 6-by-9-inch postcards.


For example, a 50-page catalog may cost 50 cents each in rollout volumes. Add 22 cents for postage, and the total to send a nonpersonalized catalog would be 72 cents. If a personalized cover would cost 20 cents each in rollout volumes, the cost would total 92 cents per catalog. Personalization in this case raises cost per catalog 28 percent.


Though a 28 percent lift for a print catalog can be a hurdle, increases in sales of more than 50 percent are common when applying the rules described above to e-mail applications. When testing print it would be wise to start with your best customers where the return on a personalized investment should be the highest. You also may want to use higher-priced or higher-margin items to populate the personalized cover to increase the return.


Business-to-business catalogs are more likely to see ROI in personalization because of overall higher average orders and lifetime values.


For postcard applications, event-driven personalization should provide the best return. A thank-you card offering accessories to the product purchased is a good place to start. Replenishment campaigns with reminders for consumable items like filters, vacuum bags, toner cartridges or the latest book release from your favorite author all would offer good opportunities for testing personalized print.


These applications have shown strong returns in online applications, often generating twice the sales-per-thousand of a blast campaign. Again, start with your best customers and expand from there.


Channel Integration


Adding print to the personalization mix can improve the opportunity to send consistent messaging across multiple channels. The same rule or rules in e-mail, on the Web site and in print campaigns can improve program results.


Also, digital printing can bring the benefits of personalized campaigns that work online to those customers who don't log on or have not opted in to your e-mail program.


Marketing already is a multichannel world. It has been proven that multichannel buyers spend more than single-channel buyers. By adopting the same rules across channels, marketers can provide a more consistent customer experience. This makes it easier to encourage customers to communicate with your company through more channels. The result will be a stronger customer relationship and higher sales.


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