Modern printing technologies have made the promise of one-to-one — or more appropriately, one-to-some — marketing a reality.
Indeed, today’s catalogers can select from a wide range of personalization printing techniques, such as inkjetting customers’ names on catalog covers or inserts, crafting special offers for small customer segments, or even printing four-color customized catalogs with products, imagery and copy hand-selected for each recipient. It’s a dizzying array of new catalog production and marketing possibilities.
And catalogers are taking advantage of them. Just in the past few years, for example, catalog printer Quebecor World recorded a 15-percent annual growth rate in personalized catalogs among its clients.
That said, however, the challenges of versioned printing can be formidable. Costs are higher than for non-versioned catalogs, and the data used to engineer such campaigns must be managed to maximize postal discounts.
“Catalogers must maintain their lists via all of the usual maintenance standards,” advises John Patneau, senior vice president of catalog sales at printer Quebecor World. Yet Patneau notes that versioning can be a crucial differentiating factor in cataloging today.
“Mailboxes are like newsstands,” he says. “You have four or five seconds to get customers’ attention, to get them to open your catalog and browse through your product offerings. That’s where personalization comes in.”
Standing out in a mail pile can translate into increased response rates and other goodies. According to a study done by the Print-On-Demand initiative (PODi; www.podi.org), response rates for personalized printings were 26 percent greater than for their traditional offset printing counterparts. Other PODi findings:
>average order sizes were 25 percent higher;
>the number of repeat orders was 48 percent higher;
>overall revenues for those companies doing personalized printing were 32 percent greater; and
>average response times decreased by 34 percent.
As noted, the costs for such printing and production methods generally are higher and dependent on the degree of complexity. Says Patneau: “The basic costs start at inkjetting names on a cover, and go up from there.”
And you must make more than a financial investment to reap personalization’s rewards. You’ll need expert data-mining practices and marketing smarts to discern what to do with the data you find. For example, say you discover that your most-valuable customer segment is comprised of gift-buyers. The trick is to use that information in your print personalization efforts directed at those particular customers, as well as prospects that match that segment profile.
“Catalogers have become very good at data-mining,” says Patneau. “The key, however, is understanding the data they’ve discovered, not necessarily how to apply the technology, and how to do real-time or near real-time data analysis to positively impact sales on the next mailing.”
Such undertakings require more up-front work than a traditional, non-versioned catalog, as well as a greater degree of cooperation between your IT and creative staffs. Their combined goal is to craft the personalization elements (e.g., offers, pictures, copy) expected to have the most relevance for the intended recipients.
In short, personalized printing can help improve your metrics, but it requires an investment in time, money and effort.