It’s always fun to open your mailbox and see what’s inside. But today was even more fantastic because of an awesome postcard you received. No, it wasn’t a note from a friend traveling across a faraway land. Instead, it was a glossy card from your favorite online store.

So what made this postcard so extraordinary? Well, it included photos of clothes you like and offered a discount on the exact pair of shoes you had been eyeing. Plus, the text was in your favorite shade of purple. In other words, it looked like it was made especially for you — and chances are, it was.

With the appropriate data, variable printing can create memorable customer experiences in direct marketing and across a wide range of printed materials. Not only that, variable data printing offers companies several strategic advantages to help grow the bottom line. Read on to learn about variable data printing, other benefits of personalization, and how to get started. 

What Does Variable Data Mean in Printing?

Variable printing is a process used with
digital printing technology to change the content of a print job as it’s run on the press. Through the process, you can achieve one-to-one personalization, meaning that each piece is unique for a recipient. 

What Can you Change in Variable Printing?

So, what can you change in a variable printing job? It turns out it’s a lot. In more complicated variable print jobs, there may be changes to the text, colors and images on every single printed piece within a print run.

In a recent interview with WhatTheyThink, Joe Avery, the owner of Point B Solutions, discussed how food industry clients use highly variable direct mail. He said that often “every photo of every box and every message of every mailing panel is changing with every single contact that’s on that sheet.” 

Changeable Elements Include:

  1. Content – Changing the name and addresses is just the beginning. You can change every word on the piece — and even the language.
  2. Colors – You can change the color of every headline or every letter. You can also modify the hue of any color block. 
  3. Images – Photographs, logos, illustrations and even QR codes can be swapped out from piece to piece. 
  4. Design – You can even use multiple designs in a variable print job — assuming that the files are the same size and the variable data fields are in the same place.

How Common is Variable Printing?  

Variable data printing is actually pretty common — it’s used whenever a recipient’s address is changed on an invoice, self-mailer, brochure or postcard. But there’s so much more you can do with variable printing to improve the customer journey and provide your company with a strategic advantage. 

What are the Benefits of Variable Data Printing?

Variable printing is cool. But more than that, it’s super effective. Here are just a few of the reasons to use variable printing for your business:

Boosts Response Rates

Data shows that variable printing can drive superior outcomes. In fact, having three points of personalization can boost response rates by over 1000%. It makes sense. By changing a printed piece, you can deliver a unique, engaging experience specifically tailored to a customer’s needs and preferences.

Creates a Better Customer Experience

Each of your customers is unique. Variable data printing allows you to communicate with them in the way that makes the most sense based on their preferences, gender, history with the company, geographic location, and even language.

While most people across the world speak English, most prefer to receive communications in their first language. In fact, data shows that people will pay more if you communicate with them in their own language. So if you have appropriate customer data — and the translations — swapping out the print language can help you forge stronger customer relationships and profit.

Alignment with Business Priorities

If you’re running a national business, you undoubtedly have different objectives for different regions of the country. Let’s say you’re a shoe company, and your goal for winter promotions is to increase sandal sales in warm-weather states and mukluk sales in cold-weather states. Not only that but there are also new competitive threats in Minnesota, Mississippi and Maine that you’d like to address by offering more substantial discounting. While figuring out the sales strategy might be a little complex, printing the sales flyers can be easy if you use variable data.  

Optimizes Testing

Variable print is an excellent way to test campaign messaging, product and positioning, and more. The marvelous thing is that you’re not just limited to two variables. 

Saves Money

Suppose you need multiple versions of a printed brochure with only slight variations in the content. It can be more cost-effective to run them as a single variable print job rather than as multiple separate projects. 

Personalized Marketing Examples

Nearly anything that you print can be personalized. Here are some of the top uses: 

Mail Personalization

One of the most popular options for variable data printing is direct mail. For example, personalized postcards are very popular with realty and insurance companies since it’s easy to swap out broker photos.

Variable Print Packaging

Variable printing is vital to many different types of packaging — labels, pouches, bottles, and customized die-cut packaging

Here Are Some Popular Uses:

  • Serial numbers – This can help identify when problems occur in the manufacturing process and limit company risk if there needs to be a product recall. 
  • Similar product lines – Variable printing can be beneficial if you sell similar product lines. Perhaps the packaging of your lemon cookies and chocolate chip cookies look very similar. If so, you may be able to run the packaging variable job — even if you need to swap out the nutrition information, product name, photo and background color.  
  • Language – If you need instruction booklets for a product you’re selling in France, Korea and Italy, you don’t need to run a job for each language. Nor do you need to create a fat booklet that includes all languages. You can use variable printing to swap out the language and print the required quantity of each.
  • Personalization – You may remember a time when you could pick up a Coca-Cola with a label printed with “Share a Coke with…” followed by one of 250 names. This campaign was not just innovative but also fueled by variable data printing. 

Customer Engagement Tools

You can also use variable printing to create something unique for loyal customers. Personalized memo pads are something that customers always appreciate. Another fun option is personalized playing cards with the client’s name and other relevant details. 

For example, a veterinary clinic might create decks of cards with puppies or kitties featuring the breed that their client favors. For a bonus, they may ship the cards in customized packaging that shows a picture of their client’s pet.

This direct mail package from Point B Solutions leverages variable print on both the outer packaging and inserts.

Using Variable Printing Within Your Larger Marketing Strategy

Know what goes great with personalized printing? Personalization in digital marketing, including personalized email marketing and web content personalization. 

Here’s why you should consider a combination of print and digital: it further amplifies the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. According to a United States Postal System report, combining print and digital increased conversion rates by 40%. Additionally, 68% of marketers said that a combined strategy increased web visits, and 60% said the approach increased return on investment. 

Point B can help integrate your digital and print tactics for a seamless customer experience that increases the number of touchpoints while effectively moving them down the customer journey.

Let’s Get Personal

Variable printing can strengthen the customer experience and allow you to make marketing choices in the best interest of your bottom line. And, if you think variable printing is too complicated or would take too much work to set up, don’t worry. We’re here to help — whether it’s personalizing one element or twenty.

Are you ready to get started?