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Today, brands play a bigger role in our lives than ever before. They’re 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 personalization during the buyer’s journey. Direct mail marketing is no exception. Smart direct marketers are rising to meet (and surpass) those expectations with the help of variable data printing.


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 an invaluable 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 data printing to create 5,000 customized brochures in the same amount of time. Sending customized direct mail to each recipient raises conversion rates.


While the software and printers used to execute variable data printing are often cutting edge, the concept of VDP itself isn’t new. Its use can be traced back to as early as 1969, according to Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus of the School of Print Media at the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. Of course, a lot has changed since 1969, and today variable data printing can be used to 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 mail 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. Postcards feature an image of a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or winter coat drive based on which initiative the donor-supported in the past. Accompanying text highlights the number of dinners, beds, or coats which could be 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.
A business consulting firm develops new features for their reporting software. To promote the new capabilities, they send brochures to marketing directors working in finance, 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.
A 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, while 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 sweaters 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 by using that 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 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 data 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%!

If 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 Statistics

  1. variable data printingThe vast majority of shoppers (86%) say that personalized marketing impacts their likelihood of making a purchase.
  2. 94% of marketing professionals across industries said personalization 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 personalization influences what consumers buy.
  6. Only 39% of retailers currently send personalized product recommendations via email.
  7. Most brands claim that personalization is a part of their current marketing strategy, with 85% agreeing that their efforts are based 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 personalization 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 recommendations.
  12. 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize their shopping experience across all marketing channels.

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

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