Ed #8 Digital Variables

Digital Goes Personal

Digital printing found its perfect match in the sophisticated databases that allow companies to collect, manipulate and apply increasingly detailed information about their customers. Communicators now have the ability to target messages more precisely than ever before, and they’re going to town with it.

The growth of variable data printing has spawned new terminology. Conventional printing with no variable data is now sometimes referred to as “static” printing. “Personalized” variable data printing means that the name and address is changed, but nothing else. Although examples are fairly rare, the ultimate in VDP is full customization, where virtually every major element of the publication can be varied in multiple combinations.

“Versioning” is what most people think of when they think of VDP. A number of different versions of documents are prepared to appeal to different groups, determined by demographics, income, location, interests or some other characteristic.

The applications are growing by the day. An auto manufacturer sends out personalized newsletters to new owners, with the images determined by the specific model the customer bought. Real estate agents’ mailings include pictures of the houses sold within a few blocks of yours. Mailings from resorts include photos of the activities you’re most interested in. Catalogs feature clothing that’s suited to the weather your area is having this week.

In the future we’re sure to see more such targeted publications, because they work. Like hearing your name across a crowded room, personalized communications cut through the clutter and help establish a different relationship—you’re not just selling, you’re speaking with prospects person-to-person. And while some claims seem inflated, research and experience indicate that personalized communications increase customer retention, the size of the order and response rates—six times over, some sources say. So even with higher per-page costs, variable data printing can make for a lower cost per response—and higher returns from your communications investment.

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