By Elizabeth Quirk
Advancements in digital print technology, including the availability and lower costs of color, drive innovation in transactional print. Similarly, advancements in finishing and software evolve the production of bills, statements, checks, insurance policies, and other critical informational documents.
In response to growing demand for high-quality printed information, digital print production is quick and efficient with reduced errors. Offering the ability to print variable and personal data, digital print is the preferred method for printing transactional and TransPromo communications. The addition of cost-effective, full color is a game changer.
There’s no question that full color has greater impact. The latest digital print technologies enable marketers to utilize white space found on statements and fill them with colorful marketing messages.
“With effective data mining/customer profiling combined with document composition software and data handling capabilities, marketers find this use of transactional space as a means of capturing the reader’s attention with recipient-driven personal messages while encouraging a specified reader response. The end result is improved response rates and better customer relationships. In fact, using transactional applications to promote marketing-driven activities change what had been a cost factor into a revenue producing stream,” explains Neal Swanson, director, marketing communications, Standard Finishing Systems.
Mark Schlimme, director of marketing/product manager, Screen Americas, says the opportunity to offer fully variable content and add value to a static document with advertising or cross-promotional communications has never been greater. The cost of producing transactional print pieces is offset with several factors, like higher response rates and closed-loop engagement campaigns. “Data mining and tracking creates innovative tools for print providers to focus their unique skills and implement a call to action through transactional print,” he explains.
Digital print technologies provide enormous opportunities for transactional mailings, most notably around physical and digital message integration. Grant Miller, COO, Document Messaging Technologies, Pitney Bowes, says a digital component to a physical mail piece—such as mobile-, web-, or video-based communication—creates a greater opportunity for meaningful customer engagement.
Innovations in production print, mail finishing equipment, and data analytics make it easier and more affordable to produce dynamic, personalized, and omni-channel mail pieces.
Sheri Jammallo, segment marketing manager, Canon Solutions America, says customers demand shorter lead times with aggressive go-to-market strategies for increased competitiveness. They want last-minute changes to be implemented within quick time frames and minimal waste. Print providers often find that one inkjet press replaces multiple toner-based engines.
“With speeds about ten-times faster than a cutsheet toner machine as well as consumables as much as one tenth the cost, jobs are produced at higher profit margins. The ability to eliminate preprinted shells and move from a two-step production process to a single-step white-paper in and finished product out workflow adds cost savings, faster turnaround times, and additional revenue opportunities,” says Jammallo.
Digital print technologies are at the crux of producing transactional documents. Without digital printing, companies would be left with only manual/labor intensive processes to coordinate and produce invoices and statements. According to Ed Wong, product marketing, Production Printing Business Group, Ricoh, digital print empowers variable data, which makes the customization of transactional documents possible.
The Role of Inkjet
Whether it is changing customized marketing messages on invoice and billing statements from monochrome to color, offering highly personalized direct mail in small or large volumes, producing cost and time efficient high-volume jobs in color, or realizing an explosion in the demand for digital color coupled with increasing personalization and time-to-market demands, production inkjet helps reinvent transactional communications.
According to David Murphy, director of marketing and business development, HP Inc., continuous-feed production inkjet enables high-volume variable data to be produced at high speeds in a single pass. A decade ago, much of transactional print was comprised of a two-step imprinting process. The shells or templates of high-volume invoices and statements were typically printed on offset presses. These printed sheets were then generally fed through a monochrome toner or inkjet printer, which applied the variable data. Color-enabled continuous-feed inkjet printers made this imprinting process largely obsolete.
Scott Peterson, product marketing manager, Tecnau, suggests finishing technologies, like dynamic perforating, further enable the move to full color inkjet. “These finishing technologies can even allow new capabilities, such as using a dynamic perforator to add a coupon page to a bill in a quintessential TransPromo application,” adds Peterson.
Advancements in inkjet technology include increased resolution, running speed, improved ink, and smaller drop sizes. These benefits lead to a wider use of stocks from plain paper to machine coated offset paper stocks. Swanson states that inkjet printing becomes more affordable with a broader range of products available, making them an ideal catalyst for producing high-volume transactional or TransPromo materials.
“Those who produce large monthly runs consider the operational efficiencies of inkjet printing—quality output, fast, and economical. Advancements eliminated the need for inventory of pre-printed rolls. Like toner-based digital presses, inkjet also offers an ideal solution for multiple messages via one vehicle. It can meet the customer needs with color and personalized data, stretching a customer’s marketing dollars and promotional effectiveness,” says Swanson.
Inkjet has come so far so fast in terms of output quality in recent years, that it’s really empowering transactional printers to more fully embrace TransPromo. Like all printing technologies, inkjet continues to evolve.
Modern inkjet produces transactional documents with eye-catching aspects that may have previously required a hybrid digital/offset workflow and a lot of extra work on the part of operators to produce. “These attractive TransPromo options help drive better audience engagement and customer relationships,” adds Wong.
Not only have inkjet solutions made significant strides in high-speed, low-cost and high-quality production, they have also increased productivity, throughput, and substrate performance. Gone is the old adage that inkjet is just a forms replacement opportunity.
Schlimme argues that today’s transactional printers implement a true white paper factory and enable bills, statements, and other documents to pay for themselves by introducing print recipients to new products, divisions of the featured company, and services specifically tailored to the recipient.
“In the coming year, the number of impressions produced on digital color printers will only increase,” says Miller.
“Over the next five years, digital production print shipments and services are projected to grow by over ten percent, especially within the transactional space as more digital printers come online and consumers continue to value the peace of mind associated with paper,” he continues.
Electronic mail delivery methods are continually pushed on consumers and will likely continue to erode the volume of commonplace statements or bills. Schlimme believes that ever-increasing volumes of transactional documents are moving online, and won’t likely return. The transactional print experience needs to be valuable, offer information, and reduce clutter for consumers.
As transactional print providers add new technology to meet the growing requirements of their customer, these new capabilities allow print providers to enter new markets.
“Because these providers already have the relationships with customers, as well as security and workflow processes in place to meet demanding SLAs, they are in a good position to help customers leverage data in new applications. So, while e-distribution channels threaten traditional printed statements, the requirement for print providers is to offer innovative solutions that ultimately open markets and provide new opportunities,” adds Schlimme.
As companies move towards smartphone applications and other digital delivery methods for invoicing and statement distribution, there will be some impact on the volume of printed transactional pages. However, paper transactional and TransPromo documents aren’t going away anytime soon. Wong says many customers prefer the simplicity of paper-based documents for both archival and retrieval purposes.
Miller believes the complementary multi-channel environment enhances the value of the physical distribution channel. Since the advent of digital models, mail volumes have not declined in the transactional market to the degree that many predicted. Surveys show that people still prefer to receive sensitive financial statements and invoices by mail in order to keep hard copies of their statements.
“However, as physical and digital communications continue to converge, bills, statements, and direct mailings must be part of an omni-channel customer engagement solution,” says Miller.
Jammallo adds that print emerged as an important part of the multi-channel mix. Digital color print presents opportunities to engage in new and exciting ways. Incorporating data-driven content and technologies like mobile barcodes into documents—often in full color—drives interaction in other channels.
“TransPromo has the ability to transform printed statements into an interactive medium with the addition of personalized URLs, augmented reality, or quick response codes, enabling consumers to quickly and easily connect to additional content. The ability to drive traffic across multiple channels makes TransPromo a vital component of integrated marketing campaigns,” explains Jammallo. This strategy is effective in its ability to bolster the bottom line, but also by eliminating the need for a separate promotional mailing and associated costs.
Murphy says printed transaction document volume is declining in the low single-digit range of negative growth rates. While many financial and investment portfolio statements must still legally be presentable in paper format, other transactional applications are in decline as more consumers opt out of paper receipts.
“Many banks today only offer electronic statements to new customers as a default with customers needing to opt in or request paper statements. Further aggravating this decline are ‘green’ initiatives that inaccurately promote the idea of paper reduction as environmentally responsible,” says Murphy
Changes from the USPS
Changes in the United States Postal Service (USPS) affect transactional mailers. According to Schlimme, following the 2006 postal legislation, which pegged rates to shape rather than weight, mailers have had to migrate to letter-size mail. In 2009 the volume of first class flats decreased over 15 percent. Outsourcing is also commonplace in an effort to cut costs. USPS sees more of the work they used to do being done in big, combined sorting houses, which further reduces the revenue streams the USPS once dominated.
“Starting January 22, 2017, first class mail affected a price increase of two cents for the price of one ounce Single-Piece Machinable Stamped Letter by two to 49 cents. The Postal Service is also decreasing the price for a Single-Piece Machinable Metered Letter by one-half cent, making that now 46 cents. For high-volume mailers these changes in postage cost can force a shift in applications and more effort in reworking their current workflow,” explains Schlimme.
Jammallo states that since 2011, the USPS has promoted awareness of innovative uses of mail by offering a two percent discount on mail pieces that encourage customers to adopt and invest in technologies that enhance how customers interact and engage with mail. Such promotions provide discounts for personalized color with TransPromo messages and use of emerging/advanced technologies such as NFC and video.
“Inkjet production technology enables efficient and effective workflows to produce incentivized applications. By levering the technologies, print providers take advantage of these two percent discounted mail rates,” adds Jammallo.
The TransPromo space is experiencing a near industry-wide race to improve digit print quality. Those advancements include high-resolution printing and technological advancements in printheads, ink, and paper, allowing more content to be printed digitally with variable content.
“In addition,” says Wong, “productivity improvements and faster makereadies allowed for meeting tighter deadlines and responding to last-minute changes, which is often crucial for the kinds of business transactional customers do. The end result is a higher value statement, which should drive higher rates of engagement and responses.”
Ryan Manieri, marketing manager, MBO America, notes given that online systems are commonplace in the transactional/TransPromo world, especially when dealing with secure items; the fewer the better. “Features like automation, camera inspection, and print mark readers are key in improving job integrity.”
Many established features of production presses and finishing systems for transactional print have been in place in one form or another for 20 years or more. New developments are in the inkjet printing area, allowing for the production of visually appealing color documents. Peterson explains that dynamic perforators surged in popularity over the past several years. “Today’s dynamic perforators take it a step further, as they allow unique perforation patterns on each page of each statement throughout a job run,” he adds.
The Inkjet Effect
Transactional printing involves the printing and distribution of general financial documents like checks, invoices, statements, and privacy notices. Inkjet technology benefits transactional applications through the elimination of preprinted forms. Advancements in digital print technology, including the availability and lower costs of color, drive innovation in this marketing segment.
Mar2017, DPS Magazine