Today, brands play a larger role in our lives than ever before. They are texting us, tweeting us, and occasionally even insulting us. The ways brands interact with consumers has evolved, and so have shoppers’ expectations. Consumers have come to expect a higher level of personalized content during the buyer’s journey. Direct mail marketing is no different. Smart direct marketers are rising to meet (and surpass) those expectations with the help of variable data printing. Want to learn more about variable printing? You’ve come to the right place.


What Is Variable Data Printing?

Marketers refer to variable data printing using a few different terms. You may have heard it called VDP (an abbreviation of variable data printing). You may be more familiar with the term variable imaging (VI) or variable information printing (VIP). No matter how you say it, variable data printing is a central tool for direct mail marketers.


What exactly is variable data printing? In short, it’s a form of digital print production that allows for mass customization. While “mass customization” might seem like an oxymoron, the concept is quite simple. Instead of sending say, 5,000 completely identical brochures to customers, marketers can use variable printing to create 5,000 customized brochures in the same amount of time. Sending customized direct mail advertising to each recipient raises conversion rates.


Software and printers used to execute variable data printing are often cutting edge. However, the idea of VDP itself isn’t new. Experts like Frank Romano trace its use back to as early as 1969. Of course, a lot has changed since 1969. Today variable data printing can accomplish more than ever before.


Variable Data Printing and 1:1 Marketing Campaigns

Today, variable printing can do far more than simply print unique address labels. Marketing collateral can be fully customized for each individual contact. This includes customization for salutations (names), body text, special offers, and even images. Combine these capabilities with customer engagement analytics, and 1:1 direct marketing campaigns can be executed on a mass scale.


Here are a few of examples of 1:1 variable data printing campaigns in action:


A nonprofit is mailing previous donors for a holiday giving campaign, one of the most common nonprofit challenges. Variable data postcards feature an image of a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or winter coat drive based on which initiative the donor-supported in the past. The accompanying text highlights the number of dinners, beds, or coats provided for a $50 or $100 donation. By leveraging past donation behavior and appealing to the causes that donors feel most passionate about, the campaign sees a 40% increase in holiday giving.

Related: 5 Holiday Direct Mail Marketing Ideas

A business consulting firm develops new features for their reporting software. To promote the new capabilities, they send brochures to marketing directors working in bank marketing, B2B, and B2C services. Each brochure features a case study from a client in the target’s field as well as industry-specific images and language. This targeted approach results in twice as many leads as a previous campaign with no industry targeting.
variable printing direct mail digitalA fashion retailer sends a 20% off coupon to all members of its loyalty program.
Members with children receive additional info about a back to school sale. Other shoppers see highlighted items from the women’s or men’s department. Language and images are even customized by location. Warmer weather wardrobe options are advertised for southern shoppers while northerners see coats and jackets for fall. The company tracks redemption and notices a 30% increase in online sales.

These are just three examples of variable data printing at work. No matter how marketers leverage the power of variable printing, one thing is for sure—the list of benefits is certainly impressive!


The Benefits of Variable Data Printing

Marketers are utilizing variable printing technology more than ever before. It’s easy to understand why when you consider the benefits:


Leveraging Data

Why collect customer data if you aren’t going to use it? Variable data printing makes the most of reporting software, redemption rates, and other analytics. It uses this information to create tailored campaigns with greater impact and engagement.

Endless Customization

Variable data printing goes beyond marketing segmentation to create hundreds or thousands of completely unique pieces for a single campaign.

Automated Integration

Variable data printing can be used by marketers to execute automated marketing campaigns which are triggered by specific customer actions and events. Discover how MSP works with BlueSky ETO to deliver fully automated marketing campaigns.

Quick Turnaround

Variable printing doesn’t require each variation to be ordered, printed, and shipped separately. Instead, thousands of unique printed pieces are executed at mass production rates, making personalized marketing not just simple, but fast!

Increased ROI

PODi and DMA data report that while response rates for non-personalized mail pieces average 2%, personalized pieces have response rates of 6%—an increase of 300%!

Maybe these benefits aren’t enough to convince you of the potential of variable printing. Consider some of these surprising statistics on the power of personalized marketing:


The Power of Personalized Marketing: 12 Surprising Variable Data Printing Statistics

  1. variable data printing statisticsThe vast majority of shoppers (86%) say that personalized marketing impacts their likelihood of making a purchase.
  2. 94% of marketing professionals across industries said personalized content is “important,” “very important,” or “extremely important” for meeting current marketing objectives.
  3. Nearly a third of shoppers (31%) wish their shopping experience was more personalized.
  4. 67% of shoppers who’ve experienced personalized marketing are highly in favor of personalized offers based on past experiences.
  5. 96% of retailers believe that personalized content influences what consumers buy.
  6. Only 39% of retailers currently send personalized product suggestions via email.
  7. Most brands claim that personalized content is a part of their current marketing strategy. 85% agree that they base their efforts on broad segmentation.
  8. Though personalized messages deliver six times higher transaction rates, only 30% of brands are sending them.
  9. 60% of marketers say they struggle to personalize content in real time, though 77% believe real-time personalized content is crucial to marketing efforts.
  10. 73% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands that use personal information to create more relevant shopping experiences.
  11. 45% of online shoppers are more likely to patronize sites that make personalized suggestions.
  12. 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize their shopping experience across all marketing channels.

These variable data printing statistics tell a clear story: when it comes to direct mail marketing, it pays to personalize. Raise engagement rates and boost ROI by making variable printing a central part of your marketing strategy. Not sure where to start? MSP is happy to help!

How Effective is Direct Mail Marketing?

How Effective is Direct Mail Marketing?

As a smart marketing professional, you know that direct mail is a wise choice to include in your multichannel arsenal. But exactly how effective is direct mail marketing? We're here to answer that question for you.   Direct Mail Marketing Continues to Grow  ...

read more
How to Optimize Your Direct Mail Postcards

How to Optimize Your Direct Mail Postcards

Marketers from every industry love direct mail postcards because they're affordable and effective ways to advertise their products and services. So we applied our 65+ years of knowledge and came up with a few tricks you can use to boost your results. Here's how to...

read more
Direct Mail Advertising Costs: Here’s What to Look For

Direct Mail Advertising Costs: Here’s What to Look For

Marketers want to know how to get the best return for their advertising dollars. So we assembled the typical direct mail costs to show you what's involved and what options you'll have when it's time to plan your next direct mail campaign.   Direct Mail...

read more