By Olivia Cahoon
Digital marketing service providers depend on finishing equipment including folders, inserting equipment, and mailing systems. Finishing for direct mail includes required functions like cutting, document printing, and folding. However, optional features like coatings and UV varnishes gain a reputation for eye-catching details.
“Personalization and high-quality finishes are a great way to attract attention,” comments Grant Miller, president, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies.
It’s also important for print providers to consider tools that support high-volume direct mail providers for overall efficiency, productivity, and postage discounts to optimize the value of each mail piece.
Above: VITS International’s VITS Express digital finishing line.
Direct Mail Must Haves
Specific requirements for direct mail include data management, as well as finishing functions like cutting, document printing, insering, and folding.
Data cleansing is a critical component for all direct mail campaigns. Brian Euclide, president, TEC Mailing Solutions, believes that all the best designs and manufacturing in the world will do nothing for a poorly or incorrectly addressed mail piece. Basic functions for standardization and change of address are integral for correct mailing information.
According to Miller, companies also use personalization to improve alignment across digital and print communications by targeting each recipient with messaging specific to their needs.
Nick Gerovac, director of sales and marketing, VITS International, agrees and says the inclusion of customer-specific information, personalization, and personalized offers is effective to increase response rates when compared to a shot-gun approach of sending the same piece of mail to all the recipients with the hopes of triggering a response.
Aside from personalization, Greg Padowitz, director, technical sales support, BOWE SYSTEC North America Inc., says inserting platforms must have extremely flexible enclosure material handling capabilities and a wide tolerance of material variations. “The method of insertion must also be gentle on the material to prevent marring the finish of the inserts,” he notes.
Additionally, functions in the manufacturing process, like sortation software, improve automation compatibility for lowering postage costs. Euclide believes lowering the overall postage is dependent upon the manufacturer’s use of a third party to provide greater saturation discounts. Without a third-party function, he says the manufacturer must maintain and utilize quality sortation software to create the best possible groupings of saturation for the mail—achieving the lowest possible postage rates.
Optional functions allow print providers to offer value-added features that drive more attention towards the direct mail piece. These include effects like full-color envelope printing, perforated die cutting, personalization, scratch offs, and loyalty cards.
Andrew Schipke, VP of sales and marketing, W+D North America Inc., says he has seen an increase in the demand for photopolymer embossing technology, which is an alternative to engraved steel embossing cylinders.
However, Miller believes that while optional functions do drive more attention and help messages pop on paper, the additional cost of these technologies tends to make it less essential.
Many of the optional functions for direct mail finishing equipment are also found in the tools high-volume direct mail providers use.
High Vs. Low Volume
Companies with high volumes of direct mail equip their lineups with machines that reflect the quantity of mail output. To ensure the communication streams run smoothly, high-volume direct mail providers use numerous tools.
This includes tools to automatically change the envelope and material formats without extended periods of mechanical fine tuning. In addition, Padowitz believes production-level tracking anticipates disruption for efficient scheduling and meeting service-level agreement requirements.
High-volume environments also benefit from extended feeding capabilities, full-color printing on envelopes, heavier inserts, and tracking capabilities.
High-volume equipment requires a more robust design and is meant to be run at higher speeds. “The mail room solutions from years ago are okay for lower volume environments, but when you increase your production requirement you need reliable equipment that can run uninterrupted,” says Gerovac.
According to Miller this can begin with digital elements like file composition and creation to the data quality aspect of direct mail. He explains that production equipment’s capabilities are often tailor made from both a size and scale prospective.
Steve Jarvis, sales manager, KAS Paper Systems Ltd., stresses the importance of achieving quick setup and quick changeover from one mailing job to the next. He suggests the use of insert feeders that are not dedicated to run one type of document, like booklets or folded documents, which have a certain type of fold.
Because of the lower volume and demand, Gerovac says that lower-end segments can work with older, less sophisticated and less robust equipment to complete direct mail jobs. These environments tend to rely on larger labor forces and manual processes.
Euclide argues that the introduction of cloud-based address/data cleansing and sortation tools has leveled the playing field. “Today, virtually any level of provider can achieve the same exact level of address quality and USPS sortation levels as the largest of the mailers,” he shares. By engaging cloud-based technology with digital press equipment, direct mail tools can be achieved without purchasing large amounts of hardware or software—eliminating software maintenance.
Digital print providers that offer direct mail must be aware of the latest USPS discounts and regulations to save costs and eliminate bottlenecks. USPS discount structures tend to be offered for limited times, a difficult task for direct mail marketers to individually adjust to and take full advantage of.
“USPS is becoming more competitive by changing their rate structures around packages and parcels and negotiating service agreements,” says Miller. He suggests marketers work with a vendor knowledgeable of the market to consolidate mail through the workflow system and stay up to date on the changes in regulation and pricing. “Direct mail equipment needs to be adaptable to the changing price of structures to ensure that marketers are optimizing the value of each mail piece and reaping the benefits of cost savings on postage wherever possible,” he adds.
Padowitz agrees and says that discounts that center around TransPromo, tactile, and full-color features require direct mailers to update technology in order to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Direct mail is a successful marketing tool that is becoming more targeted to the individual with higher quality. “Personal shopping history, the car you drive, or the music you listen to—it’s all being captured so that marketers know what products to place in front of you,” says Gerovac. The more specific direct mail becomes, the higher the return on investment is for marketers.
As a result of higher quality print, Miller believes marketers are now more inclined to print on glossier stocks and embrace embossment for unique finishing—all to grab the attention of the audience. Other expanding technologies include specific cutting technology to create uniquely cut and folded pieces.
Bill Papp, product manager, Document Data Solutions, LLC. (DDS), notices clients of direct mail houses demanding increased integrity and proof of mailing. He believes HIPPA requirements and tougher postal regulations are contributing to this trend. To solve this problem, vision integrity systems help ensure all items within a mail piece are correct and that each piece of mail is processed.
Papp adds that read-and-print systems are also used to print variable information like the recipient’s name and address, specific marketing information, and full color on a closed face envelope with total percent accuracy.
Schipke sees increased interest in NFC tags since Apple opened its iPhone to the technology. NFC tags store large amounts of information like text, web addresses, and contact details that link to applications. NFC tags are a flexible alternative to barcodes and quick response (QR) codes because the information can be edited at any time without creating a new NFC tag. “They eliminate a secondary and labor intensive slow manual inserting process,” he says.
Multichannel information impacts the engagement of direct mail. Euclide believes the combination of physical mail, USPS tracking data, and email have created a closed-loop system to actively engage the consumer before, during, and after the mail piece is received—driving greater attention to the piece and the offer.
The direct mailers also seek reduced workflow, simpler machinery to operate, and reduced costs to produce finished envelopes that offer new sensory features. Schipke says high-valued features include shape cutting, patch foiling, UV coating, QR codes, digital watermarking, and inkjet printing for personalization.
Direct Mail Equipment
A range of finishing equipment is available for direct mail applications.
BOWE SYSTEC North America Inc. offers Fusion Cross, a single machine type strategy that allows high-speed processing of #7 envelopes to jumbo flat sized envelopes. Padowitz says it provides a fully automatic changeover and flexibility for enclosure material types and thicknesses. Fusion Cross is intended for medium- to high-volume users with up to 22,000 folded formats per hour to 16,000 flats per hour.
DDS offers the iDataManager, iDataScan, and iDataRepair. “DDS provides vision integrity systems capable of ensuring that all items within a given mail piece are correct and each piece of mail in a mailing has been processed,” says Papp. iDataManager is an enterprise-wide software solution with built-in tools that manage information across multiple systems.
KAS Paper Systems Ltd. features the KAS Mailmaster Eclipse. It performs feeding, folding, and barcode reading of multiple page prime documents and letters. It includes an over-track feeder for feeding smaller items. The Mailmaster Eclipse inserts C4/C5/DL envelopes up to 8,000 packs per hour with data logging on all documents and envelopes.
The Kirk-Rudy KR545T tabbing system applies tabs to three sides of a mail piece at the same time. “This patented machine was invented by our team of engineers to meet the change in USPS tabbing regulations a few years ago that required all sides of a folded booklet be closed with a tab or wafer seal,” says Jim Williams, director of marketing, Kirk-Rudy. The KR545T handles 18-inch diameter rolls.
Pitney Bowes offers the FlowMaster RS inserting system. It delivers letters up to 16,000 per hour and flats up to 12,000 per hour. The FlowMaster RS is intended for production sizes between one and two million per month. The solution provides mailers with the ability to expand services and reduce labor.
Rollem International’s Mailstream combines multiple processes in one system to reduce labor costs. It handles digital or offset sheets and converts press sheets to finished direct mail in one process. The sheets are edge trimmed, slit, scored, and perforated in both directions. Susan Corwin, marketing manager, Rollem International, says T and L perfs are applied for reply cards, coupons, cart tip-on, re-moist glue, folding and three dot glue closure—with all processes completed in one pass.
VITS International offers the VITS Express digital finishing line, which includes functions like folding, perforating, die cut, letter insert, glue, fold, and cut. It includes the VITS Express Rotary Cutter, designed for dynamic cut length and chip size. Gerovac says it is inkjet web compatible from 20- to 42-inch wide webs at 1,000 feet per minute.
W+D North America markets the W+D Halm iJET envelope over print press and W+D 410 Easy Enveloper to direct mail finishing. The Halm iJET produces 32,000 #10 envelopers per hour. The 410 Easy Enveloper converts short-run offset or digitally printed rectangular sheets into finished direct mail envelopes. Depending on configuration, it produces up to 30,000 finished #10 envelopes with a window per hour.
Software is increasingly important as mailings become more complex. Many software solutions target direct mail environments and offer functions for better data quality and deliverability for mailings.
“You printed it, why not mail it too?” asks Corry Casler, director of sales, PressWise by SmartSoft. “With the right software you can simply integrate mailing services right into your existing digital print workflow, capture additional revenue, and make it more convenient and cost effective for your customers to do business with you.”
Melissa’s software solutions address data quality. The company’s MAILERS+4 Postal Automation Software targets professional mailers that need data verification, postal presorts, and postal reporting capabilities. It saves users money through postal discounts, brings ZIP+4 accuracy to databases with Delivery Point Validation, and lowers undeliverable mail. For lower volume mailers, Melissa offers a Standard Version of MAILERS+4.
Quadient’s Bulk Mailer helps users ensure mail deliverability, navigate complex postal regulations, and achieve the lowest postage rates. Productivity features include wizard-based processes, reusable task templates, comprehensive data exchange, and a mailpiece designer.
Smartsoft—the developers of the PressWise workflow platform—offer the SmartAddresser 5. The all-in-one mailing software solution provides a range of features from CASS Certified address verification and advanced deduplication technology, to PAVE Certified Presorting and Job Scripting capabilities. Innovations such as the Print Layout Assistant are designed to ease envelope and label design, and its reporting tool generates postal reports as well as provides the ability to create own custom reports.
TEC Mailing Solutions’ MailPreparer.com is a web-based alternative to desktop mailing software. It is a USPS certified cloud-based solution for address data cleansing and presort that includes functionality for every-door direct mail and all mail classes while providing data appending, geo-coding, and USPS tracking services.
Direct Mail Ready
Direct mail embraces the possibility of digital print with optional finishing functions like full-color envelope printing, foiling, as well as personalization. High-volume direct mail providers must equip themselves with productive and efficient finishing equipment for longer run lengths and smooth communication streams.
Nov/Dec 2017, DPS Magazine