Report: VDP use keeps growing

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One-quarter of catalog publishers have implemented some type of customization or variable data printing, according to a recent report from The Industry Measure, a division of Reed Business Publishing Inc.

The Variable Data Printing/1:1 Print Personalization report surveyed graphic arts firms, creatives and publishers in summer and fall 2006 about VDP use.

Use of VDP varies by industry. In contrast to the 25 percent of catalogers who employ it, 47 percent of graphic arts firms said they produced a VDP job in the past 12 months while 27 percent of creatives worked on a VDP job.

Of those involved with VDP, the majority seem still to do simple addressing/mail-merge jobs. This was the top answer, at 62 percent, given by graphic arts firms when asked to classify the types of jobs they have worked on. Half of magazine and catalog publishers also gave this answer.

However, VDP use for full-color variable-image, variable-text jobs with multiple fields is growing. The proportion of graphic arts firms working in full-color VDP with one to 12 fields nearly doubled from 24 percent to 44 percent since The Industry Measure last conducted a similar survey 18 months prior. And 39 percent of respondents saw their volume for these types of jobs increasing "a little" or "a lot," up from 26 percent.

Among magazine and catalog publishers, 32 percent said they were producing full-color variable-image, variable-text jobs, though the figure was higher for magazine publishers than for catalog publishers.

Growth also is occurring in full-color VDP jobs with 13-plus fields. Among graphic arts firms, 10 percent have worked on these types of jobs and 18 percent say volumes are rising.

Only 8 percent of graphic arts firms indicated they used Web-to-print for customized/personalized marketing collateral. This is not the percentage who have Web-to-print sites, but those who offer them as part of their VDP programs.

In the majority of cases, publishers are using VDP for promotional or marketing materials rather than personalized published products, with 68 percent of VDP-producing publishers giving this answer. The next most popular use was magazine cover content at 32 percent, then catalog cover content at 26 percent.

Use of "personalized, customized or variable data printing" among publishers is rising, or so said 62 percent of them. Higher response rates are the biggest force behind this segment's adoption of VDP, cited as the primary benefit by 64 percent. Customer satisfaction was cited by 34 percent, improved corporate image by 27 percent and higher per-order value by 24 percent. Only 18 percent cited "lower total costs."

Cost was seen as the main barrier to VDP adoption by 54 percent of publishers. Lack of marketing savvy was cited by 29 percent, insufficient database quality by 26 percent and no demand by 17 percent, while a lack of binding/finishing capabilities, a lack of technical skills and poor print quality were cited by 14 percent each.

The answers differed greatly for the creative community. Cost was seen as a barrier by only 16 percent of respondents while the need for the technical skills to implement these programs was cited by 24 percent. The Industry Measure suggests this difference may result from the publishing industry being less experienced with VDP than the creative community and not yet understanding how it can lower print marketing costs when the recipient base is chosen carefully.
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