Archive for the ‘Variable Data Printing’ Category

Why Your Clients Should Be Offering Email Couponing

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

If you’re a printer, you want clients to spend more money on print. So why should you encourage them to offer email coupons? Because email coupons are trackable, and they tell your clients what their customers are buying. That tells your clients a lot about those customers they can use for higher value print personalization later.

Experian Marketing Services’ 2013 4th Quarter email trends and analysis found a 50% year-over-year increase in the number of email campaigns offering coupons. As reported by MediaPost, whether the coupons were redeemable in-store, online, or both, email blasts with coupons outperformed other promotional mailings on open, click, and transaction rates. They also had 48% higher revenue per email ($0.10 for coupon mailings compared to $0.07 for other promotional mailings) in Q4 2013.

That’s a very active, engaged audience that can feed you a lot of information. Let’s say your customer is a specialty retailer offering a variety of pet products. It doesn’t have a loyalty program and isn’t large enough to track data at the point of sale. But you start sending email campaigns with coupons. The coupons that get printed, clicked through, or downloaded tell that customer which households have what types of pets. This allows you to help the store craft targeted campaigns directed at their specific pet needs.

Over time, it can alert the store to changes in pet ownership, too. Suddenly, the Smith, Jones, and Gordon families are downloading coupons for puppy chow. It’s a pretty good bet they just purchased a puppy. This can prompt mailings for grooming services, puppy beds, crates, and a variety of other products they are likely to need. In six to eight months, puppies grow into nearly full sized dogs, and those families will need larger beds, larger crates, training classes, flea and tick control for larger dogs, and so on.

One of the big hurdles to detailed targeting for small and mid-sized businesses is the lack of tracking at the point of sale. It’s great to talk about targeting and personalizing based on past purchase behavior, but most small and mid-sized marketers don’t know what their customers are buying. Email couponing gives insight into those behaviors in a way that’s realistic and affordable even for small businesses.

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.

CVS: Don’t Tease Me Like That

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

This morning, my heartbeat skipped a little when I read the headline: “CVS Unveils Personalized Circulars.”

Anything I read that reflects growth in print personalization is exciting to me, but especially outside direct mail, transpromotional, and marketing collateral. Could it be that CVS is going to start mailing coupon books the way my grocery store does, except personalized to my shopping habits gleaned from my loyalty card?

What would it look like? Stapled with the three perforated coupons per page? I get one from the grocery store, and I love it. Even though it’s not personalized, I use it too. What would it be like to get one that is user-friendly and personalized? I couldn’t wait.

But alas, CVS was to disappoint me. When they said “circular,” what they meant was circulated via email and mobile. I don’t love that.

I belong to the company’s loyalty program, but it hasn’t provided me with any benefits so far. I either get coupons on the bottom of my receipts that expire too quickly for them to be of any use or I get rewards by email that send me onto a wild goose chase and require me to input information I don’t want to input to download an email-back coupon. If I’m a rewards member, why can’t they just send me the coupon outright?

You know what I want? I want hard copy coupons from CVS the way I get them from the grocery store. But personalized. Not like the email offers. No, no tricks. No gimmicks. No online switcheroos. Just value in perforated form in my mailbox.

The value of coupons is well documented. The value of personalization is, too. When are retailers going to begin to combine them on a regular basis?

 

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?

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?”

Pellow Predicts: 2013 Top 10 Trends for the Printing Industry

Monday, February 18th, 2013

At a Canon Oce webinar on January 23, InfoTrends Group Director Barbara Pellow presented “2013 Top 10 Trends for the Printing Industry.”

1. Digital Color is King. All bets are on digital color printing. InfoTrends research forecasts an increase from $29.6 to $39.5 billion in the retail value of  U.S. digital color from 2011 through 2016.

2. Digital Wide Format Goes Mainstream. Digital wide format printing evolves into an key component of companies’ marketing strategies, and will continue its 7% CAGR from 2011 through 2016.

3. Inkjet Accelerates Migration from Offset to Digital. New inkjet solutions offer greater speed, quality, substrate flexibility, and finishing –  as well as more  competitive pricing. Major inkjet growth expected from books, direct mail, transpromo and brochure printing.

4. Enhanced Substrates Drive Digital. Digital presses support new, high margin substrates: rugged synthetics; pressure sensitive stocks; specialty media; pre-scored, ready-to-print dimensional stock; new photobook media, and others.

5. Web-to-Print Manages Marketing Supply Chains. Companies spend billions for producing, shipping, storing, and handling literature. PSPs will optimize the marketing supply chain  – offering online print-on-demand collateral catalogues.

6. Content Reigns. Fifty-four percent of B2B firms increase spending on content marketing. PSP’s cultivate “thought leadership” offering content that educates, entertains and motivates.

7. Hyper-Personalization Drives Digital Print. 2013 is the “Year of Hyper-Personalization” – when marketing materials address more relevant, compelling needs of the consumer. Examples: mailers with personalized map directions and printed materials with PURLs linked to pre-approved applications.

8. Trigger-Based Marketing Meets Customer Preferences. Consumers expect real-time, two-way communications, through mobile devices, websites, and social media. PSPs customers will adopt marketing automation technology, e.g., from Market Sprocket, Hubspot, Orange Soda and Hootsuite.

9. Mobile Marketing Changes Communications. PSPs add mobile marketing solutions to the portfolio: mobile codes printed on packaging, POS, and brochures;  “opt-in mobile messaging” to mobile devices; Augmented Reality – digital graphics coded onto physical objects – revealing information or entertainment via mobile devices.

10. Direct Mail and Social Media Converge. PSPs support customers with social media marketing tools from Ducky, Hootsuite, SpreadFast, and others. Campaigns integrating direct mail with social media lift responses for both.

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.

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??

LIVE from Graph Expo 2012!

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Graph Expo 2012 has officially begun. Months of preparation on the part of exhibitors has paid off to create a lively and stimulating environment. I’m always amazed at how exhibitors transform an enormous hall into a series of inviting showcases. As usual, exhibitors compete with each other to drive traffic to their booths.

Stages are big this year. I remember two years ago when Xerox had the biggest stage. But this year, Océ /Canon and HP clearly take the prize. HP has an impressive stage set up that delivers engaging sales pitches on steroids. But if you are looking for a more enlightening experience, be sure to stop by the Canon Live Theater where Canon and Océ partnered with WhatTheyThink to host informative sessions throughout the show. Topics will include: Affordable Sustainability, Supply Chain Optimization, the Changing Face of Publishing, and What to look for in a business partner. I caught today’s first session on Digital Packaging Trends which featured a real customer speaking about his operations and how digital printing and print-on-demand allowed him to keep up with industry change and manage his printed inventories better. The list of live sessions can be found here including a link to watch everything streaming live. Xerox does have a new idea this year – improv session. I’ll have to check one out Monday. As I walked around the show floor more, I noticed numerous other presentations and mini-stages set up… so it certainly is a popular way to reach show attendees!

Like every other year, posters are also quite popular this year, as evidenced by the crowds of people walking around with poster bags. The leading poster providers seem to be Komori, KBA, and Scodix. Gunther smartly realized that so many people walk around carrying their loot and decided to brand wheeling storage units that people can cart with them. Free stuff galore!

Judging from Day 1, there are a few hot topics this year that numerous exhibitors are demonstrating their capabilities in. Inkjet Printing is big this year and is being covered by live sessions on both the Océ/Canon stage and on the HP stage. Automation and software seem to also be a popular topics as print providers today are striving for more streamlined end-to-end solutions. We’re talking automation at the beginning (with feeders) and automation at the end (like envelope inserting). Print-on-demand is yet another key topic. In-RoomPlus described today in the Digital Packaging Trends session at Canon Live Theater how they are able to quickly reprint catalogs as their prices change and how they can print small batches of product mock-ups to use as aids with customers during the sales process. Print-on-demand is so big now in the publishing world that Océ will help launch Daydream Alchemy Press – a publisher inspired by bringing projects to life using today’s print technologies – during Graph Expo.

All in all, there is a lot to see and do at Graph Expo 2012. It will surely be a busy, yet exciting, few days!

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.

Why should we care so much about data security?

Monday, August 1st, 2011

As I regularly share with employees there are two main ways I think about this question. First is being a good corporate citizen and recognize that we have a responsibility to secure the data we are entrusted with to protect the privacy of individuals. According to ITRC more than 35 million data records were compromised in corporate and government data breaches in 2008. Considering that number is 3 years old I’m sure it’s growing so our focus needs to be “do no harm.” Each of us wants those that have our personal data to protect it and we need to give others that same respect. The second consideration is core in building a strong, healthy business in today’s information based world. It’s a matter of “Trust”. We work hard every day to continue to earn our customers’ trust and in this, as well as many industries, our ability to keep our customers’ data secure is one of those “make it or break it” triggers. So it can’t be an annoyance, overhead, or an afterthought…it must be part of the business as much as quality control, hitting mail dates, or even invoicing.

So what’s the point of this blog…it’s important that we all keep the ‘why’ in mind as it’s the ‘why’ that ensures all the procedures, hardware, and people come together to achieve the goal of protecting data.

Special thanks to Sourcelink for this post. Check out their blog here.