Hot Off the Press: Full-color Variable

Speed, personalization or cost savings? Not long ago, large-volume direct mail businesses had to choose one. But in the past two years, in-line printers have worked diligently to perfect imaging technology and make affordable four-color (4c) personalization at high speed a reality.

Just as dynamic content on a webpage builds based on your clicks and browsing habits, direct mail can be programmed to produce custom images and copy based on purchase history and available data. Using inkjet technology, millions of 4c variable-printed pieces can now be produced in a day for less than the cost of their fully digital competitors.

In essence, direct-mail printers have developed a hybrid solution: in-line presses equipped with 4c inkjet image heads. Static graphics and copy are litho-printed and variable areas are inkjetted. This reduces the cost and increases the speed of manufacturing. The only drawback has been the quality of the variable graphics, which are sometimes produced at 240 dpi. However, many manufacturers now offer 300 dpi and 600 dpi inkjet heads as options to combat quality issues.

In-line presses have always provided the benefit of printing, personalizing and finishing direct mail in one phase. Die-cuts, perfs, personalized tip-on cards and multi piece mailers all come off the press ready to mail or insert into an envelope. This saves time and money on large runs. Now, with 4c variable, it’s easier to combine preprint versions to achieve higher volumes and still target the messages and graphics to each recipient.

Postage savings are the icing on the cake. Combining those versions with 4c variable printing is an excellent way of driving down postal costs.

Postage is usually the most expensive part of producing in-line direct mail. For a quantity of 200M on a national mailing, it typically costs approximately $0.225 per piece. If you have five cells of 200M, your postage bill could run as high as $225,000. Add freight and tracking to that, and you’re looking at some large delivery expenditures.

Now let’s say you take those five cells and merge them into one, using in-line 4c variable printing. Postage for 1 million averages around $0.207, that’s around $18,000 in savings just from merging the files into one version.

While 4c variable printing is slightly more expensive, overall, the net savings usually outweigh the print increase. Plus, by working with experts in sophisticated direct-mail production, such as KERN, you will be able to find more ways to save on production.

When you have the customer data that influences response behavior, high mail volumes and winning formats that can utilize in-line technology with 4c variable, your mail will be more engaging and valuable to consumers. Then, higher responses and ROI fall right in line.

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