When should you use variable printing?
Deciding to use variable data printing or variable information printing is a personal decision (no pun intended). The decision should be based on your project goals, how much time you have to produce your first variable project and how much you have in your budget.
For instance, is it your goal to get more people to your stores? Is it to sell more per customer visit? Is it to increase year over year, same store revenue? Whatever your goal, it must be supported by the data you have about your customers to have an effective variable information campaign.
An sample goal is a national women’s clothing retailer wants to drive traffic to company-owned stores to boost quarterly revenues and profits. Below is a sample of how variable data printing could be used.
- Industry: Women’s Clothing Retailer
- Target Demographic: Women shoppers, age 35-65 that are members of the “rewards club”
- Goal: entice reward club members to come to the store
- Offer: special sale with 15% off for all reward club members that attend the sale during specific hours
- Known data points about each customer: date of birth, first name, last name, mailing address, last date of purchase in store or online, preferred method of shopping (in store or online), total spend annually, and all store contact information
A 4 page “invitation” (4″ x 6″) on a decent weight text stock (100# matte stock) with variable printing.
- The cover panel features an image of a woman dressed in one of the retailer’s outfits – there are 5 images to pull depending on the age of the recipient so that the model on the mailer is the same age range as recipient.
- The inside left-hand panel contains the store information including hours of operation.
- The inside right-hand panel contains an invitation to the private sale including a variable percentage off depending on total spend at time of purchase (based on last purchase amount) and date/time of the private sale.
- The back features the terms of the sale (in typical small point font).
- The invitation is mailed in an envelope with customer’s address printed and the return address showing the local store where the customer does all of their shopping.
From a production standpoint this piece is produced using:
- Excel file that contains customer last name, first name, date of birth, mailing address, store ID, value of last purchase.
- A second Excel file that contains all store data which includes store ID (linked to customer data), address (street, street 2, city, state, zip code), store hours of operation, phone number, and alternate phone number.
- 5 high quality photo images (in TIFF format) along with instructions as to which image goes with which age group.
- Rules for calculating percentage off offer per customer (e.g., if customer spent $200 at last purchase, percentage is 15% off if total purchase is $250).
- Final art (Adobe InDesign preferred) including locations for variable data – typically flagged with “< >” surrounding the field name and art for the envelope.
- Seed list (this is a list of names, addresses, that should receive all 5 variable pieces in the mail).
Your print partner will review the data and art and then write up the instructions for your review and approval (or they should). The printer will give you a sample set of proofs that show customer with each of the 5 images (totalling 5 proofs). The printer will also process the supplied customer list for NCOA (national change of address), DPV (delivery point validation), and CASS certify the list to get the best postage rates.
Then the printer will produce the project – called a match mailing variable data print project because the envelope must match to the printed invitation (no mistakes). And drop it into the postal stream. Remember postal discounts can also equal postal delivery delays, so you must plan for that accordingly (another topic for this blog on a another day).
Other future topics include: how to find a printer that can do variable data printing and how to evaluate your print supplier (if they can do it well).