In nearly every area, the digital printing press
is overtaking traditional printing methods in delivering high quality printed material at competitive rates. The question everyone is asking is simple: is it worth it to changeover to digital printing, or should we continue on using traditional printing methods?
To ascertain whether or not upgrading to digital printing is right for you organization, there are three things to consider.
Digital Printing vs. Traditional Printing
The essence of traditional printing is as follows:
First, plates or stamps must be crafted or assembled that will contain all the information to be printed.
Second, ink is applied to the surface of these plates.
Third, the plates are put in contact with a paper medium.
Voila – the printed page.
The crucial difference between digital and traditional printing is that digital print jobs are set up in a software environment – there are no mechanical plates or stamps that must be crafted, assembled, or rearranged. This translates into an exponentially shorter set up time, as well as less time from the initiation of the print job to the delivery of the printed product.
Further, in digital printing, because all information being conveyed to the page is software form and the machinery that performs the printing is not limited by a pre-arranged mechanical plate, changes to the information being printed can be made on the fly without stopping a print run. These changes can be arranged ahead of time – such as customizing a location in a pamphlet, inserting a customer name in a bill, or pulling information from a database to insert in a piece of direct mailing – and do not affect the production speed of the print run.
The ability of digital printing to introduce changes during the course of a print run makes it far more versatile than traditional printing, and reduces the overall time that must be spent on the printing process. Changing print content on the fly in this way is known as variable data printing.
Variable Data Printing as a Marketing Tool
This unique ability of the digital printing process to alter data during a print run has been put to great use over the last several years by companies looking for a marketing edge.
With a never-ending swirl of advertising surrounding consumers in the marketplace, most of us have become blind and deaf to traditional methods of customer acquisition. The effectiveness of newspaper advertisements in general have plummeted along with newspaper subscription levels nationwide – most people now prefer to get their news online, and in so doing have obsoleted newspaper advertising. Similarly, with the birth of TiVo and other telecast recording devices, television commercials are losing the imprinting capabilities they once enjoyed.
In every marketing scenario, customers are choosing to ignore or remove advertisements from their field of vision, cleaning up the marketing clutter that surrounds them. Not surprising.
Variable data printing has introduced a customer acquisition technique known as transpromotional advertising. Transpromotional efforts piggyback marketing or advertising on other forms of customer communication, such as bills, mailers, support emails, and the like.
An example of a transpromotional effort might be a cellular phone bill that includes a directed advertisement to the customer – perhaps a notification that the customer is eligible for a new phone at a discounted price, or the suggestion that the customer upgrade their service plan to better suit their needs. Since bills are often closely scrutinized, attaching an advertisement to a bill will pierce the marketing malaise of the average consumer, leading to more attention and a more favorable reaction.
Transpromotional marketing has enjoyed massive success over the last decade. Print industry leader Adobe reports that transpromotional marketing efforts are having a profound effect on marketing world, and organizations that implement transpromotional efforts have experienced, on average:
- A 36% increase in response rates
- An increase in order values of 24.5%
- Repetitive orders and retention rate increases of 47.6%
- Overall revenue increases of 31.6%
- Customer response times accelerated 33.9%
Clearly, the directed marketing efforts of transpromotional offerings – powered by the variable data capability of digital printing – are changing the way products are sold in today’s marketplace.
Cost Analysis of Printing on Demand
The most important thing to note in performing a cost analysis of switching to digital printing is where your cost shift takes place. Presently, the largest expense of traditional printing comes from the setup process – crafting plates and assembling blocks or mechanisms to produce a final output takes time and expertise. Once this setup is performed, however, total cost per page printed is relatively low.
With digital printing, the expenses are inverted. Overall setup takes a very small amount of time, since the data assembly takes place in software. Moving or editing data in virtual space takes seconds, and does not require altering print plates or press hardware.
However, digital printing generally costs more per page printed than traditional printing, largely due to the newer printing hardware and ink that must be used for digital media output.
So, to determine whether or not digital printing is a cost saving measure for your operation requires comparing the savings generated from a software print setup vs. the increased expenses of large print outputs.
If your print runs are, as a rule, small-to-medium in output, the savings that come from incorporating digital printing techniques will reduce your expenditures overall, even if costs per page printed are slightly increased. However, if most of your print runs are extremely large, it may be best to stick with traditional printing for a few more years, and wait until digital output devices come down in price.