Variable Data Printing Promises Personalization

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NEW YORK -- Personalization was the dominant theme and variable data printing and remote document production were the primary solutions that vendors presented at the On Demand Digital Printing and Publishing Conference here May 5-7.

Variable data printing provides personalization by changing the mail piece's name and the design piece-by-piece. Traditional offset presses are set up to handle one document at a time, but variable data printing systems such as the AGFA Chromapress can produce as many as 70 different four-color documents a minute. Black and white digital systems such as the Océ DemandStream are even faster.

Studies by conference organizer Cap Ventures Inc., Norwell, MA, found that personalized mail increased response rates 34 percent, repeat orders by 48 percent and overall revenue by 30 percent. According to IBM, personalized direct marketing campaigns produced response rates of 28 percent for car manufacturers, insurance companies, retailers and financial institutions.

Turnaround and delivery time of mail pieces can be significantly reduced by taking digital images and transferring them electronically to a printer in the geographical market to be targeted. IKON Office Solutions' Digital Express, for example, allows users to deliver documents to its 48 U.S. print locations over the Internet ( and contains a template to educate users on document preparation for delivery. Images can be sent to multiple sites for simultaneous production.

To meet the need for personalization and quick delivery, more than 80 percent of corporations are outsourcing the printing and production of marketing materials. Because of the technology and cost associated with on-demand digital printing, outsourcing is expected to grow as the capability becomes more accepted. CAP Ventures expects the document outsourcing industry to double in revenue by 2001. Specialty printers such as Kinko's are expanding their offerings to become full-service digital providers.

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