Key Takeaways and Trends from the Inkjet Summit Advisory Board Members
Inkjet Summit Advisory Board members Marco Boer, IT Strategies; Barbara Pellow, InfoTrends; Elizabeth Gooding, Gooding Communications Group; Mary Schilling, Schilling Inkjet Consulting; and Roger Gimbel, Gimbel & Associates, provide key takeaway points from the Inkjet Summit 2015:
Marco Boer on Why Highly Relevant/Variable Direct Mail Fits Inkjet Perfectly
- Direct mail continues to account for about 20 to 25 percent of all advertising expenditures in the United States, a testament to the power of its return-on-investment (ROI).
Production inkjet technologies allow direct mail to offer: predictable and proven return-on-investment; greater content relevancy/personalization, in order to get even better returns as total cost per piece rises due to postage cost increases; and highly relevant direct mail within reach of mass markets, due to the capability of production inkjet printers to provide productivity/cost benefits, color print quality and personalization.
- There are some hurdles to implementing high relevancy/personalized content, as the specifier has to be able to provide relevant, balanced data (to prevent “Creep out” or knowing too much about the recipient), and the production printer’s RIP has to be able to process the variable data and graphics at speeds matching the print engine. The bigger hurdle, however, may be habit change among the stakeholders of direct mail.
- Creative agencies (with some exceptions) typically tend to be more interested in the development of Internet and social media content than in direct mail. There is less revenue in direct mail design for creative agencies, and agencies often have a lack of understanding of what highly relevant/personalized direct mail could do for their customers.
Print providers and creative agencies also tend to speak in different languages: variable data printing has no meaning to a creative agency, but CRM (customer relationship marketing) does.
- The other stakeholders in direct mail—the print providers, printer equipment and supplies manufacturers, and the U.S. Postal Service—need to do a better job of creating awareness about the power of highly relevant/personalized direct mail.
There may be reluctance to do so, in part, because if highly relevant/personalized mail does what it should, far fewer direct mail pieces will be needed to reach targeted marketing campaign goals to satisfy demand. This will reduce the economies of scale for the low-relevancy, mostly static direct mail, which is bound to diminish in volume.
- Regardless of the challenges, those who are able to overcome the legacy habits, and adopt and leverage the power of production inkjet towards the creation of highly relevant/personalized direct mail, will be handsomely rewarded.
Production inkjet direct mail page volumes continue to grow in the mid-20 percent range year after year—in a market segment that is effectively flat. It is far easier to grow in a rising market than in static or declining ones. To obtain compelling direct mail volumes, production inkjet is a key requirement.
Barbara Pellow on How Inkjet Delivers for Books and Publications
- Technologies have changed how content is created, formatted, designed, stored, printed, digitized, distributed and sold. As a result, new channels are emerging and revenues are shifting among formats.
These changes have touched virtually all participants in the publishing industry—authors, publishers, publishing service providers, printers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, e-tailers and consumers.
At the 2015 Inkjet Summit, a number of early inkjet adopters shared how they were addressing publishers’ requirements with the use of high-speed production inkjet. Some applications include:
- Risk reduction: Demand is difficult to forecast, but high-speed production inkjet technologies are enabling the economical production of books in small quantities. The key for publishers is that they can monitor the demand and order only what is required to eliminate warehousing and return costs.
- Cycle time for on-demand: A number of highly sophisticated on-demand printers who participated in the Inkjet Summit discussed how they are able to turn orders around within 24 hours. This means that the publishers they serve can quickly react to market demands for printed books.
- Specialty books and fresh content: Everyone has a story to tell. Digital printing eliminates the minimum quantity requirements and is enabling the printing of books in very low quantities. Furthermore, every page that is digitally printed can be unique. Digital printing has opened up creative opportunities for online customization, personalization and real-time marketing activities such as cross-selling or promotional material inclusion.
Based in Secaucus, N.J., Strategic Content Imaging (SCI) is a printing company that offers configured programs to support some of the biggest communication challenges in a variety of industries. Senior Vice President Kevin McVea shared how inkjet was helping deliver custom content in the Book/Publication breakout session at the Inkjet Summit.
He stated, “One business vertical that we are focused on is advertising for Hearst Magazines. We are producing highly personalized advertising applications on inkjet technology. We also produced beauty advertisements for Amore Pacific for the April 2015 issue of Town and Country magazine. This ad has three different creative versions, and it provides the subscriber with the location of the nearest Neiman Marcus store so they can purchase the advertiser’s product.”
- Perhaps most importantly, service providers are delivering bottom-line business results with production inkjet. By following the demand curve more closely and minimizing warehousing and returns costs, service providers are delivering solutions for publishers that improve inventory turnover and ultimately increase overall profitability.
Elizabeth Gooding on Key Inkjet Printing Trends for Transactional Work
- Transaction printing continues to lead other print market segments in terms of annual inkjet pages printed. This is not surprising since early adopters in this segment tended to be very large players looking for the efficiency of driving many millions of pages per month through a “white-paper factory.” Mid-tier players have been key adopters of inkjet during the past two to three years, and many of those companies are now shopping for additional devices.
- To date, reaching an economic volume threshold to justify inkjet has been the biggest barrier to adoption. Without sufficient volume to drive high-productivity devices, many smaller transaction printing enterprises and in-plant operations could not make the business case for investment.
In 2015, new offerings from Canon, Memjet and Xerox came to market specifically targeted for lower volume customers. These machines may also serve as “risk mitigation” for customers hesitant to invest in two high-volume machines, yet concerned about the potential service level exposure of operating with a single inkjet device.
- Risk assessment plays a major factor for all companies looking to invest in inkjet. For example, the time horizon in which an operation is expected to break-even with their inkjet investment is pivotal in delivering a compelling business case. An in-plant operation within a large, for-profit company may be given a two- or three-year break-even window, while a smaller commercial company may need to break-even in six months to justify investment.
- A critical factor in achieving break-even volumes quickly, according to many existing users, is the implementation and optimization of MIS software in advance of, or at least in parallel with, inkjet implementation. The ability to consolidate disparate jobs into large, efficient production runs with detailed reporting and quality controls can accelerate the process of achieving economical production volumes and avoid costly downtime on inkjet devices and related finishing equipment.
- Transaction printing will soon reach a tipping point where inkjet efficiency will become “table stakes” for most commercial enterprises. That means inkjet-ready organizations should already be looking at surround services that will layer value onto the offer of full-color personalization and faster time-to-market.
Companies with a portfolio of inkjet applications, data management and analytics services will have a leg up on the competition as inkjet becomes more widely adopted across the transaction printing marketplace.
Mary Schilling on How Inkjet Is Reinventing Book Manufacturing
- It is certainly changing times for book manufacturers. Books, which are roughly a $24 billion market, are requiring smaller run lengths with individual titles growing and reduced turnaround times. Before, production runs might have been a 3,000- to 5,000-copy run of the same title with a three-week production deadline. Now, a 5,000 print run can contain 100 to 500 different titles, as well as one-offs—with production turnaround times in days, not weeks.
- The demands of Internet-based publishing, as well as one-off and small runs of multiple titles, are requiring printers to review their current workflows and product handling. Printers need to become more electronically streamlined and automated without extra setup times and consumables.
- Book printers are currently evaluating their processes to create more value-added services and options to increase revenue. With the addition of high-speed inkjet, printed books no longer need to be a static message produced in mass quantities and warehoused. With the addition of variable content, they can be ever-changing and customized entities.
- With lower run quantities and more specialty customized or self-published content on the rise, high-speed inkjet is providing a more cost-effective way in comparison to offset and toner-based digital to produce printed content.
Production inkjet provides small run lengths (one-offs); minimal setup times; a reduction of consumables; versioning; faster time to market; and easier processing of millions of titles.
- Some book publishers have been reluctant to print certain titles on inkjet presses for print quality reasons. But, the advancements from machine developers with smaller drop sizes and higher print resolutions have raised the print quality bar. And, when printed on new compatible papers, books that require higher print quality can now become a strong candidate for inkjet production.
Roger Gimbel, EDP, on Commercial Printing Adoption Considerations
- At the recent Inkjet Summit, I spoke with several commercial printers who expressed that they see many opportunities with production inkjet platforms, and they still have a few concerns to address as they evaluate new investments in inkjet. There were several themes I heard in different variations, in conversations with multiple attendees.
The first being a concern that the new cut-sheet inkjet printers will have a very limited media capability. If this limitation proves true, several printers indicated it would be a show stopper before moving forward with new investments in this category, even if the running cost presented savings compared to their digital toner devices. Many commercial printers believe that the inkjet manufacturers and the paper companies will eventually resolve this limitation for media—the same way it was resolved in the ’90s with the launch of digital toner printers.
- The second topic shared by many commercial printers is the feeling that the manufacturers who sold them production digital toner devices must put some skin in the game. Printers are expecting some type of financial support for the transition to the new inkjet platforms now being sold.
- The third topic of many conversations was around the need for additional workflow and finishing information to support the transition to inkjet platforms. Several commercial printers were looking for more detailed information about the changes needed for workflow and the impact on their finishing equipment to support and connect to new inkjet platforms. They want to further understand the additional investments needed to be successful with inkjet platforms. PI