Archive for the ‘Transpromo’ Category

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Automated Web-to-Print Solutions

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Want to learn how to keep your print services on top within the fast-paced marketing community? If so, InfoTrends’ Kate Dunn offers insight and recommendations on how to adapt and automate print services for your clients. Sponsored by the PressGo program of Canon Solutions America, this webinar gives you the information needed to bolster your online business.

You might be asking, “What are some of the web-based market models out there?” For starters, there is the standard Ad-hoc Send-and-Print, which most printers already have in place. This allows the customer to upload a single file, receive a cost estimate, and send the file to print. The Catalog and Template based models mainly surround business communications, sales and marketing collateral, and direct mail, which are customizable to certain degrees. The holy grail of models is Process Automation, which integrates an enhanced supply chain with fully customizable print ordering.

OK, let’s apply a model to a real-life scenario. With an automated template process system, a realtor can sign-in online, choose a business card template, select copy that pertains to his property sales pitch, send the card to print, as well as have the business cards packaged, postmarked, and mailed to recipients. Accomplished all in a series of clicks without having to juggle communications with a number of service providers.

Let’s review: why are automated print services so important? Well, InfoTrends predicts that 40% of all printed materials will be procured over the Internet in the coming year. Customers are asking for automation services in order to streamline their supply-chain and maximize profits. In short, web-based automation adds value for both you and your clients. Today’s marketing supply chain consists of multiple, interconnected suppliers that an organization relies on to produce materials (print, promotional, and point-of-sale) to market their products and services. It’s astonishing, however, that 70% of businesses surveyed have no way to track or predict obsolescence within their supply chain. The last thing any client wants is a loss of control over their brand! That’s where a web-based approach is applied to fix the gap. Some of the benefits include: customer access 24/7, increased print accuracy, reduced customer service workloads, and enhanced volume production. Sounds like a nicely packaged offer to me.

If you want the complete list of benefits, the stats, and further insight into web-to-print solutions, view the webinar here:

Convergence to Digital Inkjet Shifts to Hamburg Facility

Monday, December 16th, 2013

This morning we announced the expansion of our digital platform with the installation of an Océ ColorStream® 3900 at our Hamburg, Pa. facility. As the news release referenced, and as Joe Morrison noted in a recent post, the next 12 months will mark a period of aggressive investment in digital inkjet technology. This strategy will capitalize on the convergence to digital that is reshaping the direct mail industry.

Our customers have experienced eye-opening results using highly targeted and personalized campaigns that only digital print technology can produce. In some cases this equates to double or triple-digit lift in response rates. But that’s not the only benefit they’re experiencing. Using the single-stream optimization that digital technology allows also lowers their postage cost. We will expand on how our digital technology impacts postage in an upcoming article. Digital print technology also powers cross-channel campaigns by making it easier for print communication to connect consumers to online channels.

Harnessing the power of digital print technology does require an adjustment from marketers and their design team, however. If you’d like more background on what we mean, please read some of the content we’ve developed that relates specifically to digital printing.

We will be making more investments in the coming months, as we’re intensely focused on having the best digital platform in the direct marketing industry. If you have any questions about our digital capabilities or designing for digital, please feel free to contact our Sales or Creative Services teams.

Post by Jim Anderson of IWCO Direct. Chief Executive Officer and graduate of American University in Washington D.C. Bringing the “we versus me” philosophy to IWCO Direct for nearly 15 years. 2010 Harry V. Quadracci VISION award winner from the Printing Industries of America and 2008 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee. Avid golfer and NY Football Giants fanatic. 

To see more, visit http://www.iwco.com/blog/

10 Trends to Define Marketing for 2014 – 10 Experts Weigh in

Monday, November 4th, 2013

As we approach 2014, and all of the marketing challenges that come with it, SourceLink is rolling out our “Ten Trends to Define Marketing” series again, with a twist. This year, we sat down with ten industry experts and asked them what trends they anticipate in 2014 and the years to come. We will be rolling out these articles over the next six weeks – Here are the experts that we sat down with, and a brief synopsis of what they had to say:

1. Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News – “The Virtuous Cycle of Customer Centricity” – Oct 29

Into 2014, consumers will wield the power to dictate how they are marketing to, and marketers are tasked with creating content that is driven by consumer preference. Understanding customer behaviors and preferences will lead to sophisticated micro-marketing campaigns, and marketers will then be tasked with modeling content creation and communications strategies based on how content is being utilized.

2. Judith Hemmel, Vice President of Customer Intelligence, SourceLink -  “Moving From Creepy to Credible” – Oct 31

An overarching theme through several of the interviews is was the extreme importance of mobile marketing. Consumers now have the ultimate choice of whether to engage with a brand, cultivating an environment of permission. This phenomenon will further strengthen the move from push to pull marketing, and messaging must move from “Creepy to Credible.”

3. Skip Henk, President and CEO, Xplor International – “Sitting on the Sidelines or Taking the Leap of Faith” – Nov 5

Human behavior is the true game changer in 2014, and there is tremendous value in how customers allocate their time to take in new information.  Augmented Reality, a still-emerging technology, very well could lead to a print revival. Marketers will fall into two categories in embracing these new technologies, those taking the leap and those sitting on the sidelines waiting for more proof; which Skip sees as the “winners and the losers” in the fight for customer attention.

4. Bryan Yeager, Financial Services and Mobile Payments Analyst for eMarketer–“Social Media and Mobile Craft a Path to Purchase” – Nov 7

Mobile penetration reached a tipping point in 2013, and looking into 2014, past trends converge because of the smartphone and its ability to enhance the customer experience. Marketers using social media up until now have merely been laying the groundwork for the real opportunities for engagement and conversion. Wearable technologies bring flashy new avenues to truly connect with customers.

5. Roehl Sanchez, VP and Chief Creative Officer, BIMM Direct & Digital - “Data Drives The Creative Process, and the Modular Builder Emerges” - Nov 12

Data begins to drive creative decisions, and creative decisions facilitate the use of data. We are entering age of real time marketing, and the definition of marketing and advertising “Creative” is shifting, especially when it comes to mobile design. Marketers must familiarize themselves withmicrocampaigns and start thinking mobile first. The creative professional must start to be a “modular builder,” and embrace a shift toward strong creative rooted as much in functionality as in design.

6. Rich Brown, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, SourceLink –SOLOMO and the Evolution of Location Based Engagement” – Nov 14

Social plus location plus mobile (SOLOMO) will a gamechanger in 2014, as marketers truly perfect geofencing technologies and make actionable use out of location data using offer-based engines. Data use concerns and privacy legislation gain lots of attention in 2014, and marketing organizations rally to support the responsible use of data. Marketers start to effectively link return on investment between offline transactions and social engagement.

7. John Foley, CEO Grow Socially and CMO InterlinkOne– “The Amazing Powers of Personalization” – Nov 19

2014 will see BIG advancements in mobile technology, which will allow for in-store personalization and other amazing interactions. A surprising amount of companies are still behind the content and social engagement curve in 2013, and will evolve into more social businesses in 2014, with more content being distributed than ever. Personalization sees a surge in the depth and relevancy, paralleling advancements in marketing automation.

8. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs – “Organizing your Company Around Content and the Emergence of Short-form Media” - Nov 21

Marketers have been making content creation a priority, but next year will see a need to allocate resources to dedicated personnel. Next year’s trend will be a wider adoption and need to understand short-form content. Social media engagement leads to emotional connection and a better brand experience. Print remains a crucial part of marketing spend, and continues to claim significant portion of marketing budget.

9. Cindy Randazzo, Vice President Strategy and Insight, SourceLink – “A World Where IT and Marketing make each other Stronger” and  “Multisource Attribution in an Omnichannel world” – Nov 26 and Dec 3

Cindy had so much to say that we will be covering her thoughts over two articles.  First, 2014 brings the realization that IT and Marketing cannot be siloed, as their strengths will make each other stronger and will account for the weaknesses in the other, as the “right and left brain” come together. Big Data becomes relevant for all industries, as it is mined for interests, and used for multiple forms of variable advertising. Consumers start to ask the question “How is it possible that you don’t know who I am?”

10. David Burstein, Fast Company contributor and author, “Fast Future: How Millennials are Shaping our World.” – “The Marketer’s Role to the Millennial” – Dec 5

Companies must make consistent strides towards social responsibility and innovation as core tenets to developing as an organization. “Millennials” (those born in the second baby boom years of 1980 to the early 2000s) have become the most messaged-to generation ever, and marketers embrace emerging technologies and develop new means to stand out. Deep customization stands as central to the communications experience between marketers and Millennials.

To read the entire series, keep checking back to the SourceLink blog here.

Printing in Spook Country

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Spook Country,” the 2007 novel by William Gibson, introduced the concept of “locative art” to the reading public. Gibson’s character Hollis Henry is constantly searching for works of art with her smartphone; art that Gibson describes as akin to techno graffiti.  His descriptions of art tied to a particular GPS location and viewable with a smart phone or VR glasses include a virtual image of  F. Scott Fitzgerald dying at the very spot in Hollywood where he had a fatal heart attack, and Archie – a 90 foot giant squid (Architeuthis for those in the know.) In the book, Archie was designed as a display for a Tokyo department store with “an endless rush of digital imagery along Archie’s distal surface.”

The Museum of Vancouver took a page from Gibson’s book this month by launching their augmented reality museum app “The Visible City.” Truly a work of locative art, Visible City enables a walking tour augmented by your smart device in which the tourist sees the streets of Vancouver as they were in their “neon era.” The application overlays pictures and interviews with local personalities to create an immersive experience.

VisibleCity - Webheaderimage

However, augmented reality today is as much about commerce as it is about art. Like the Tokyo department store in Gibson’s novel, retail is the main early adopter. Major brands realize that the opportunity for consumers to interact with products in retail locations can drive sales. There are many examples of AR used for product marketing including LEGO toys, Heinz Ketchup, Budweiser and Audi. While the first three involve interactions at the point of sale, Audi used Metaio to develop an AR enhanced brochure and a virtual users guide (it’s in German – but it’s so clear it doesn’t matter.) There are also numerous examples of catalogs enhanced with augmented reality apps to deliver 3D product views as the reader directs their smart device at a specific item.

While the early adopters were in retail, other brands are getting on board, most recently PNC bank with their Finder AR-based bank locator app. It’s really not anything that couldn’t be accomplished with a Google search or asking “Siri, where’s the nearest PNC Bank?” Nonetheless, it demonstrates the conservative banking industry’s interest in embracing the new cool thing.

Finder by PNC landing page image

Direct Marketing is a natural fit for augmented reality; just ask Omni Hotels and Resorts. Omni-live, their AR app was released in June and is part of a multi-media campaign tailored to meeting and events planners. It includes print, social media, online video and web advertising in concert with augmented reality. In addition to making the campaign more interesting and interactive, AR also makes the campaign more measurable. As soon as the consumer launches the app, the marketer knows that the campaign is being read and how much time the consumer is interacting with the contents. With a really well done virtually reality application, consumers will return again and again.

There is also potential for AR with transaction printing from mundane explanations to incredibly creative advertising. With AR, a financial institution or wireless/internet/cable provider could virtually welcome new customers on board walking them through their statement or invoice and offering detailed instructions (like the Audi user manual above.)

There are plenty of agencies and AR developers out there ready to partner with you to bring new services to your clients. All it takes is a creative vision of how your current print products can deliver more value. Adding a virtual layer between the reality of print and a virtual world revealed through smart apps is the next step in business communications – are you ready to take that step?

For a nice primer on Augmented Reality (written well before AR was on the tip of people’s tongues) visit Common Craft’s Youtube presentation (sorry, there is advertising on the site.)

Elizabeth Gooding Elizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.

Crystal Ball, Anyone??

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

“It is not the strongest or most intelligent species that survive, but the ones who are most willing to adapt.”  ~Charles Darwin

I like this quote because it removes the idea that survival and success are based on natural selection, but are based on intelligence and strategy and looking at how to adapt for future circumstances – an idea that seems especially relevant for the print industry today. At one time in history, we could have said that “print changed the world” and most would agree. But recent technological innovations, shifts towards digital communications and away from paper communications, have many printers working to keep up with the rapidly transforming industry. I suspect this is where Darwin’s idea of adaptation comes into play. Printers need to anticipate the future and prepare themselves accordingly. The same way of doing business will not stand, but you don’t need me to tell you this.

Lucky for printers, they don’t have to anticipate the future on their own. A group of young, bright, and well-educated students from RIT have already done the heavy lifting. Together they researched, wrote, and published a book entitled “Print changed the world – now the world is changing print.” They imagine the print industry landscape all the way to 2022 and address a number of sectors including books, packaging, signage, technical documents, direct mail, and more.

Here are the cliff notes…

Good News for:

  • Mobile devices which enable digital distribution
  • Packaging
  • Industrial printing
  • Signage

Bad News for:

  • The Postal Service
  • Circulars and inserts
  • Periodicals

Aside from the above, there are a number of categories in which the future is mixed – certain aspects will decline while some will rise. For example, authors suspect that self-publishing and yearbook printing will be the primary mode of book printing while traditional novels and textbooks will decline. The Security sector is another mixed bag.

If you read my last blog post, you’ll see that some predictions and research contradict what is in this report. I suppose no one owns a crystal ball so predicting the future is never easy. But nonetheless, it’s best to be informed and anticipate how expected trends will impact your business. So check out the full booklet here! (Made available by Printing Impressions)

Desperately Seeking… A Utility Bill

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

As a utility consumer, I have needs. I need to be asked how I’m doing. I need to feel needed. I need to be understood. I desire warmth from more than just my HVAC unit.

I want to know where my money is going and why I owe as much as I do. Once I come to terms with the hard fact that I indeed do need to part with my hard-earned money, I want it to be as convenient and easy to decipher as possible. I want to be able to check my bill from my phone or computer and have the option to pay from my mobile phone.

I don’t want to call a customer service line, and I don’t want to navigate through a series of voice prompts. Parting with my hard earned money isn’t an intrinsically fun thing to do, so when I have an experience with my utility company, I’m already on the defensive. I need my utility company to open a communication with me, not just a one-way message. I don’t at all mind the utility company sharing a third-party deal with me, as long as it applies to me, and isn’t a hassle to read through.

What I can’t deal with is poor design that lacks graphics to clarify my statement. I’m a visual learner, so I need to see where my money is going. I want to see the crucial information front and center. If I have to call customer service, I want to easily find my account number and all other pertinent information in one place. I want an e-statement that looks like my bill. I find it helpful to see why I’m using so much energy, and I like to see if I was demonstrated better or worse habits in the prior year (or better than my neighbors!). I want to see actual meter readings and I want to know how to lower my consumption. I also don’t like getting a water bill, a sewer bill and a waste collection bill separately, when all three are paid with the same invoice!

Also, I need reminders. A printed bill in the mail is a great reminder, but for some bills, I prefer e-presentment and mobile solutions. When I use e-statements, it really helps to get a reminder in my email or a text to my phone. If there’s one thing I hate more than having to pay bills, is paying late fees. A simple reminder and an easy to use payment portal help me make late fees a thing of the past. I have some bills on autopay from my bank, some I pay monthly with my credit card and some I send a check for- so I count on my utility provider to make it easy on me with a reminder. The worst is getting hassled by customer service or risking a service interruption from a late payment when literally, “The check is in the mail!” Please track your remittance efforts as well, and save us all some time!

I understand that some providers have an outdated legacy system in place, but that is no excuse to not get with the times. Work with a provider to transform your legacy system into a more modern system, and begin a statement archival system for easy access in the future. Offer me online and offline options for my statement. Offer an electronic bill pay system.

Is that too much to ask?

Insurance and Retail get Married

Monday, April 29th, 2013

About this time last year I posted a release about the new retail sales branch opened by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Horizon was one of the first health insurance companies to take a “retail” approach to selling individual insurance policies under the then newly approved Affordable Care Act.

In May of 212, Forbes reported on the partnership between Aetna and Costco to offer the Costco Personal Health Insurance medical and dental program.  Consumers who buy the Aetna coverage through Costco will get extra discounts when they buy prescriptions through Costco pharmacies. Costo had already developed banking partnerships to allow them to sell mortgages.

This year we are starting to see the life insurance industry, particularly products geared to lower and middle income consumers, pursue retail sales opportunities. MetLife, for example, has set up kiosks in hundreds of Walmart stores. Unlike the Horizon branch which has specially trained staff to answer questions, visitors to a MetLife kiosk pick up their “box of insurance” in the form of a prepaid card and take it to the checkout. They then have to call MetLife’s toll-free number to answer health questions posed by a life agent. If the customer qualifies for coverage, the policy is activated, otherwise the card can be returned for a full refund.

Two key things we can learn from this trend:

1. As more insurance companies start courting retail partners as distribution channels, or opening up direct branches, they will need a new “retail approach” to their communications as well. This opens up new opportunities for graphic arts services like signage, sell sheets, and packaging for direct branches. It should also increase potential for transaction printers to offer statement marketing to highlight approved retail partners. Design services are a potential “foot in the door” as so much new material will need to be developed for the retail audience.

2. Partnerships, particularly distribution partnerships, can be wonderful things. Printers and other business communications professionals may also find value in new distribution channels and regional partnerships. Insurers are able to reach a broader audience that will pay a premium for convenience through retail relationships. Perhaps there are similar opportunities out there for your business.

If retail and insurance are getting married, let’s crash the wedding or at least get some good dating advice.

Elizabeth GoodingElizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes and speaks and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.

 

To Print, or not to Print? That is the Question

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to print

The statements and bills of outrageous usage,

Or to take online against a sea of logins,shakespeare_print

And by accepting digital mailboxes? To print: to email;

Much more!

Ah, Shakespeare and his affinity for transactional documents. Well documented in his masterpieces, such as “A Midsummer Night’s Data” and “Much Ado about Printing,” Shakespeare is not the only one that noticed a shifting landscape from print-only transactional documents to online documents. Well, which one is better? To print or not to print?

As you might have guessed, the answer is not a simple one. I recently read an article in the Digital Nirvana blog describing the online shift for statements. To quote the article: “According to a massive 2011 InfoTrends study, the shift is taking place slower than anticipated. In fact, only 11% of American consumers receive their bills electronically.” Whereas, the perceived shift to electronic communications seemed prevalent (at least to me), consumers still crave printed materials, for reference purposes and for security.

Why print?

First and foremost, consumer preference leans towards the printed piece. In Epsilon’s consumer preference survey, direct mail was the channel of choice for health information, insurance information, and financial services statements. 62% of Americans enjoyed checking the mailbox daily. Print technology is simply making the printed piece even more engaging, and consumers also expressed that printed mail is easier to reference at a later date. Digital Print technology has evolved in such a way to take statements and personalize them to levels never before thought possible. Utility statements can show individualized usage charts and suggestions based on energy consumption. 401k mailing and insurance statements can pair with information databases to show full color representations of distribution and growth, as well as market trends. These personalization options will continue to shift consumer preference towards print, and any business can outsource the data storage, printing and mailing responsibilities to a qualified provider.

Why online?

According to the same Channel Preference study, Mobile device users were 40-50% more likely to prefer email and online communications, respectively, than non-users. This fact is important to note in an increasingly connected and mobile world. Not only are statements shifting to online options, but mobile apps for statements and utilities are surfacing, as well. Younger generations are being raised in an online world, and when they become billpayers and recipients of medical statements and 401k breakouts, they will expect them to be digital communications. The social media component very well might eventually pair with transactional documents in the future, and digital mailboxes will provide a level of security to appease those concerned about online threats.

So to print or not?

Both. The answer lies in determining and exercising your client preferences. Finding out whether your customer prefers electronic presentment is the first step in statement redesign and billing preference. Whereas mobile is convenient, the printed piece offers great levels of personalization, color, and is tactile. For a long time to come, the solution lies in combining the printed world and the online world into an overarching multichannel strategy. Preparing your statements for both online and printed communications will allow the customer to choose how and when they transition between mediums and will help you answer the question “To print or not to print?”

Risky Business

Monday, February 11th, 2013

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image8059703

Property and Casualty (P&C) Insurance carriers are in the business of assessing risk; risk of theft, damage, injury, professional malpractice and catastrophe as well as investment risk. They make their money by laying odds on the likelihood that things will go sideways for their customers and that they will earn enough money by investing the pool of premium dollars to pay out on the bet if things do. Lately it seems that climate change is blowing up all the models for setting the odds of a natural disaster and insurers are dealing with defining and delineating coverage for new threats like cyber-terrorism that have completely changed the game.

The core systems most insurers have in place are woefully inadequate to handle the scope and pace of this new insurance game. In order to keep up, companies have built add-on modules and work-arounds to their core systems, often relying on Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access “Band-Aids” to keep business moving. Many carriers that have upgraded their core systems did it on a “go-forward” basis leaving existing business on the old policy administration or claims system and writing new business on the new platform. At some companies this has happened more than once and there are now several “core” systems in production for different lines of business. All of the Band-Aids, work-arounds and go-forward solutions have left data scattered in multiple repositories just when carriers need data in one place more than ever.

In order to adequately assess risk, insurance carriers need large amounts of policy, claims, fraud and customer demographic data all in one place so that they can use risk modeling and data analytics to determine which types of risk are profitable to insure.  According to Accenture’s  2012 North American Claims Investment Survey, 54% of P&C insurers have core systems that are more than five years old, 66% say their claims systems are not optimized to collect and analyze data and 78% regard their capabilities inadequate to manage new forms and levels of risk, such as those presented by cybercrime, terrorism and increasingly frequent and severe natural catastrophes. So, after years of avoiding the disruption, expense and well – risk of a major core systems upgrade many companies have realized that they just can’t avoid taking the leap. A small study of 37 insurance carriers by Novarica indicated that 25 percent of large P&C insurers and more than 40 percent of midsize carriers were in the middle of converting their policy administration systems or planning to start a conversion at the end of 2011.

Keep in mind that the typical core systems upgrade will take from an incredibly fast eighteen months to a more typical three years plus to complete, depending on the number of undocumented work-arounds that need to be incorporated into the system and the level of data conversion to be completed. This means that a large percentage of the industry is either planning a core system upgrade or in the midst of completing one. And what comes out of these systems you ask? Documents, lots and lots of documents: quotes, policies, premium invoices, notices, claims reports, payments and more.

Opportunities abound for reducing the costs of producing documents in parallel with core systems conversion. Bringing systems together increases the opportunity for postal optimization, targeting analytics and improvements to the design of the documents themselves. The core systems upgrades have a larger implication as well; they enable insurers to develop more segmented and personalized products to appeal to different age, risk, ethnic and geographic groups of consumers. Direct marketing and agency marketing support is becoming more tailored and personalized as well with multi-touch, multi-channel and multi-language campaigns hitting the paper, airwaves and cyberspace simultaneously.

P&C Insurers are expected to spend an average of 17.5 million on Claims System upgrades alone. This seems like a pretty substantial number until you consider that the top 16 P&C insurers spend an average of $315 million on advertising each. GEICO alone spent over $993 million on advertising in 2011. This is not counting direct marketing spend – P&C Affinity Mail alone exceeded 500 million mailings in 2011 according to Mintel Comperemedia.

Savvy service providers are positioning themselves to help insures take advantage of newly upgraded systems and a wealth of new data to improve their customer experience throughout the insurance lifecycle. With their plates full to overflowing with core systems conversion initiatives, insurers need help to ensure that the tangible representation of their value to consumers – namely insurance documents – are not put at risk by the very projects intended to reduce risk. Now is the time to show insurers how to redirect some of those advertising dollars toward investments in customer experience and cross-sell using low-risk, high-reward solutions like direct mail, statement marketing and personalized collateral in tandem with QR codes and other calls to action that drive social media engagement and leverage consumers interest in mobile insurance applications. If your company isn’t positioned to help them, maybe you should be looking at some core systems upgrades too.

 

Elizabeth GoodingElizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and the Editor of InsightForums.com. She covers business communications trends in highly regulated industries such as insurance, financial services, healthcare and telecommunications.

High Speed Inkjet: Can You Build a Reliable Business Case?

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Since the advent of high speed color inkjet presses that approach the quality of offset, printers and data centers have begun struggling with the decision of integrating this new technology into their operation.

The decision to move print volume to high speed inkjet is complex and one that does not always have a clear ROI.  Since inkjet brings new and different ways of thinking about everything, you have to implement the system and related changes into your existing operation.

In small-to-midsize printers, this decision will impact nearly every facet of the organization’s processes, including the markets you pursue, how you estimate and price your product, production flow, quality, materials and warehousing, and personnel skills. In many cases, precise navigation these decisions can determine the very survival of the establishment.

But before you get to any of that, first you have to decide if the move to color or monochrome inkjet printing is right for you.  In some cases, modification of your current printing environment is all that is necessary to keep you competitive.  For instance, if you print offset now and have only long runs and little or no variable printing, switching to inkjet most likely will not provided any benefits.  Your efforts should probably be focused on tuning your current production processes.

If you have some of the factors that often make going to inkjet a decent return on investment, that is, you have short runs, need to print variable data, or are overprinting on preprinted material, actually calculating that ROI can be elusive.  Every business case that I have built has been has been completely unique.  Little of any previous analysis was usable. This is mostly because every shop I worked with has accounted for their usage and cost so differently, and each have their own business processes.  Because of that, a single model to capture all of the possible permutations would be so complex that it would lose its value as a template.

And each shop has a different starting point:  Some are all digital already, leveraging the best of the toner technologies, some are all offset, some print variable information on preprinted shells, some carry finished product and some don’t, and some need to meet incredibly tight SLAs.  Some are sheetfed and some are web shops.

Yes, there are common components that remain the same. This includes all the things you may normally think about:  Skilled prepress, press, and finishing labor; Press maintenance and cost of downtime; Plates chemicals and other consumables costs; Toner and click charges; Paper waste and energy costs.  You need to look at ink, paper cost differences, throughput and uptimes, waste, time to produce, cost of shells, and inventory obsolescence. I like to look at some things that you may not consider, like the efficiency gained by consolidating your longer runs to an offset press (if you use offset) and being able to capture business you could not reach in your current state. And if your customers are somewhat flexible, you can add to the business case by demonstrating the efficiencies that minor changes in format or color might give them a marketing advantage or you a cost advantage.

Although you probably have a great handle on your current costs, capturing which of those costs could be eliminated by inkjet, and most importantly, understanding what your new costs REALLY will be, is even more of a challenge. Often, the use of an outside expert could be a very valuable investment. They can help you understand exactly what your new costs will be as you transition to inkjet, model your production with real world data that will give you uptimes for both the printing and finishing environments, help you select and value the new kind of operator labor, and more.

The Online Shift… for Statements.

Monday, December 31st, 2012

It should come as no surprise that more and more people are shifting their once offline activities to online activities. This is true for things like shopping, reading newspapers, keeping in touch with friends and family. In fact, you are even reading you are even checking on your industry virtually by reading this online blog. This trend has numerous meanings for the printing industry which affects book printing, magazine printing, creating marketing communications, and… printed bills and statements. Scary stuff for the printing industry! But, is this shift actually as prevalent as we think it is?

According to a massive 2011 InfoTrends study, the shift is taking place slower than anticipated. In fact, only 11% of American consumers receive their bills electronically. While there is a push on the part of billers to move billing and payments online, the vast majority of customers still prefer a printed statement. That is the good news for printers. However, younger generations between the ages of 18-24 seem to have adapted most to online billing and payments, which may suggest that future generations will do the same.

What does this mean for printers? It means that they don’t need to panic yet. But they do need to keep an eye on the future and whether or not this trend of online activity continues to shift. In all likeliness, it will. Unless printers can come up with creative reasons why the printed piece is more powerful. With the increases in variable data printing capabilities, printed statements can act as a personal and impactful touch point with customers that the online experience may not fully provide.  A printed statement can be an opportunity to inform, educate, and promote. This is especially important when considering that, according to InfoTrends, printed statements are still the best way to cut through the clutter of communications.

So don’t give up on the printed statement! Think of it as a challenge to capture emerging generations. Could this be a new resolution for 2013??

Smart Bills Lead To Even Smarter Consumers

Monday, November 5th, 2012

This post provided by Evan Childs, SourceLink blog contributor. 

When it comes to electronics (the newest gadgets on the market), I definitely put myself in the laggard category for adoption. I’m usually never the first guy on my block to have the newest electronic gadgets. I’m the slow and steady guy who likes to think that I can do without many of these gadgets, as I’ve done for my entire life prior to owning one. So suffice it to say that I was a bit shocked to learn that I’m apparently one of the early adopters for a technology that helps me to understand my energy consumption and make smarter energy choices. I am the proud owner of a Nest®.

I first learned of Nest while attending a utility conference in Dallas, TX. It sounded pretty cool, but why would I need that “thing”? I’ve lived without it all these years, so my programmable thermostat is just fine (I thought to myself). Shortly after returning from that conference, my wife had mentioned that our utility bill seemed to be unnecessarily higher than the past. So we did a little investigation…

Our utility bill provides some useful charts and consumption history detail, so identifying the spike in usage was relatively easy. It was clear that the oppressive and seemingly never-ending heat wave of the summer of 2012 had taken its toll on our wallets, via our utility bill. I swear my AC ran non-stop for a week.

A quick review of our spiking electric usage confirmed that we were using more electricity than any prior month this year, and significantly more than the same period last year. So I bit the proverbial bullet and bought a Nest. If you’re not familiar with this little trinket, it’s a very intelligent thermostat to control your AC and heat. What makes this device simply amazing is the fact that it learns your behaviors. It’s a plug-and-go thermostat that literally helps you to make better energy choices. Nest (somehow) knows when you’re not home.

Nest somehow knows when I walk in the door, as it immediately kicks on my AC unit the split second I enter the house. (Still can’t figure out how it knows when I get home… a little creepy, but very awesome). Not to mention that I can control Nest from my iPad (Screenshot above) and have it prepare for my arrivals or vacations!

Utility companies are under increasing pressure from regulators to reduce grid demand for electricity, particularly in peak season (summer in the North East) when demand is at its highest. This becomes critical to many utility companies when excessive heat strikes a region. Demand must be regulated (or in some cases reduced) to avoid stressing the system and causing a blackout. Reducing the demand can happen by force (the utility has to temporarily shut down select customers for short period of time) or by a more preferred method all around – by the utility’s customers voluntarily reducing their demand by making slight adjustments to their usage behaviors.

Technology has made smarter energy consumption choices much easier than in the past. But beyond the technology that is now available, better billing statements are equally critical to this end result of smarter energy consumption and usage.

Had it not been for the usage history charts on my utility’s billing statements, I would have assumed that the rate increase for peak usage periods was the primary cause of the spike in my bill. Thus, from this consumer’s perspective, smarter bills lead to smarter consumers, which leads to smarter energy choices, which leads to a decrease on the demand for energy during peak energy consumption periods.

My wife and I now enjoy receiving our utility bill and watching as the usage charts decrease from month to month as compared to the same period last year. We especially enjoy watching our bill shrink. It has become somewhat of a game in our household. But for the record, it all started with an easy to read utility statement.

As utility companies evaluate the benefits of statement redesign, and making bills easier to read, I propose that they include reduction in demand as a likely outcome to a bill redesign. Had my bill been an old legacy-system generated bill with no usage charts or valuable consumption visuals, I never would have purchased my Nest and my usage behavior probably never would have changed either.

The technology is amazing. But just as amazing to me how important, effective and easy to understand a utility bill can be in driving customers to make smarter choices.

Opportunity in TransPromo

Monday, September 17th, 2012

In today’s business environment, marketing budgets are constantly under scrutiny while being challenged to demonstrate a clear ROI. Luckily, new technology and developments in the world of high-speed inkjet printing are helping to make this challenging task a bit easier through TransPromo communications. In its 2010 Household Diary Study, the U.S. Postal Service reported that U.S. households received more than 34 billion bills, statements, confirmations, requests for donations, and bills/confirmations for charitable organizations – in other words, transaction documents. That’s a lot of opportunities for companies to share their messages with the right crowd.

According to recent research from market research and consulting firm InfoTrends, as published in this newsletter article, TransPromo communications offer companies the opportunity to improve their customer communications by:

  • Being personal and relevant – TransPromo software and printing technologies allows companies to individually target consumers which is proven to increase response rates.
  • Channeling customer data into lifecycle marketing – TransPromo combined data with personalized message to target specific consumers based on past purchases or responses to previous offers.
  • Allowing for multi-channel engagement – TransPromo direct mail campaigns can be easily incorporated into a cross-media strategy that weaves together customer communications on print, Web, e-mail, and mobile platforms.
  • Providing a new revenue stream – Companies can now use TransPromo to sell the white space on statements and documents.

So when you think about your next marketing campaign… think about TransPromo.

What’s Your “Critical Turning Point” 1:1 Technology?

Friday, September 14th, 2012

It’s hard to believe that I’m finally at the age when I can say, “I remember when. . .” Just like those “old codgers” who used to remember technologies and processes so foreign to me back in the early 90s as a young twenty-four-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears editor of Printing News for whom digital printing technology was no big deal because, well, didn’t we always have computers?

On the cover of one of my first issues of Printing News was my first disaster. It was back when (then) Indigo E-Prints were only sold in packs — I mean pairs — and the first pair was being installed at a facility in Manhattan. There in the headline, in 36-point type or whatever we were using at the time, I called them MAN Rolands.

Anyway, let’s not talk about that. I began covering digital production technologies that day and spent a lot of time interviewing printers and listening to accolades and complaints and walking trade shows in shoes that were comfortable but didn’t match my clothes.

It’s funny how certain things stand out to you, and after covering digital production for however many years, there was one product — a simple product — that stood out to me and still does today.

It was at a time when the quality of toner-based production was still rapidly evolving and graphic designers were still suspicious and critical, and rightfully so. It was a scoring machine designed specifically for toner-based presses. By scoring the folds first, it vastly minimized the classic issue at the time, cracking across the fold. I don’t know why it sticks out to me as being so important, but for some reason, of all the technologies I covered in those Printing News years, it does.

So here’s my Friday question, and I’d really like some input on this from Digital Nirvana readers. Is there a technology like that for 1:1 printing? Something that, to you, stands out as being a “critical turning point” in the area of workflow, productivity, inspection, data management, cross-channel integration, or anything else?

Tell me a story, give me a memory. If you had to pick one critical, turning point technology that you feel fundamentally changed (or is changing) this market, I want to know what stands out to you.

After all, I told you about the “MAN Rolands.” You owe it to me.

Trans-promotional documents – what are they?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Is the concept of combining a transaction-based document with a promotional document realistic?  In theory AND in reality! When I first entered this industry in 1985 as a programmer and attended Xerox’s training programs, Xerox was lauding transpromo THEN, as the wave of the future. Here we are 27 years later and transpromo is still being promoted.  What does it take to make transpromo work? The answer is simple – DATA and INTEGRATION!

Let’s tackle the first aspect, DATA.  For the longest time, the print industry has struggled to track, capture and manage consumers or investors tendencies.  In the 80’s, databases were in their infancies and to build one, manage the intricacies, intra or inter-record relationships and extract the data practically took a mainframe computer or at least a mini-computer. Not to mention understanding the complexities of and INTEGRATING all that data into the print stream.

There’s the second aspect – INTEGRATION.  Frankly, integrating, not to mention building and extracting the data, was beyond the scope of printing an invoice or statement.  Third party outsourcers or even the largest processors were having trouble developing and launching the transpromotional document.  Instead, variable messaging was launched as a step in a forward direction.  Simply stated, variable messaging involved keying on data elements within the print stream and changing the message content to the targeted audience – the end recipient.  It didn’t go far enough and transpromo lingered.

Fast track to the present.  The PC or personal computer has been in existence for over 20 years, software integrators have become more sophisticated making databases prevalent in every aspect of our life and third party processors are beginning to understand the power of data.  Data is at everyone’s fingertips and solution providers are working with their clients in building analytic models of their consumers, their buying trends and overall demographics. But transpromo still lingers, why?  In the biller space, the solution could be as simple as getting the marketing department to work with the accounts receivable department.  The complex answer is most likely, determining what message to integrate into the transactional document.  While data is prevalent in everyday life, billers are still struggling with what message fits best within their image and specifically which message targets the end user.

Transpromo is a real achievable target and integrators are working behind the scenes to implement sound solutions.  But in looking at the third party landscape, I think it’s important (at least from an old programmer’s point of view) to identify those firms that understand both sides of the equation – the marketer and the biller.  Integrating a sound solution will most likely drive revenue, increase your consumer’s product awareness and promote social awareness, but a failed solution will end up being just a fancy way of launching variable messaging.  Is it worth it? I think so.  In today’s competitive landscape, I think it’s important for firms to build consumers or customers for life and with transpromo and variable message you have a chance to effectively achieve that goal.

This post was generously provided by SourceLink and written by Tim Furr. If you are looking for another marketing services provider blog… check out SourceLink