Web-Fed Inkjet: A New Horizon for Print and Communication Service Providers
Print and communication service providers specializing in direct mail and transactional applications have come a long way in the last decade. To keep pace in our digital world, they have continuously evolved their services to meet the demands for shorter runs, upselling, and personalization. Thanks to the introduction of, and advances in, inkjet, these printers are now able to offer single-pass printing, making way for higher margins, less inventory and shorter turnaround times. Let’s take a closer look at the evolution of this market and how Canon’s ColorStream web-fed inkjet technology is enabling print and communication service providers to enhance their product offering and increase profit margins.
Today’s consumer is demanding. Surrounded by always-on digital devices and bombarded by constant alerts, offers and messages, they expect instantaneous interactions with brands. Just as other forms of marketing have become more personalized and sophisticated, even the humble invoice or bank statement is expected to carry a personalized element that goes above and beyond just name and address.
While it’s true to say that transactional and direct mail can be more impactful than their electronic alternatives, indiscriminate bulk mailings to unsegmented audiences will not give marketers the return on investment they seek. To achieve maximum impact from print campaigns, personalization and precise targeting are required. And with 72% of consumers saying that they only engage with personalized messaging, it’s clear that it is a key driver for the market.
So how does this affect the print landscape? Historically, print and communication service providers (PSP) have relied on two processes to deliver personalized applications. First, static color content was printed on offset presses to create “offset shells”, a printed asset that includes all content apart from the variable data, before re-running them through a digital toner press to add the personalized element. In many cases, however, PSPs and mailing houses only had offset technology in place so the “offset shells” then had to be shipped to a data specialist to digitally print the variable data.
For many years, this two-step print process was the most efficient way to deliver personalized applications, but there were downsides to this approach for all parties concerned. It was on these frustrations that the demand for a “white paper solution” was built—to eliminate warehousing costs and wastage, cut turnaround times and enable single pass, personalized printing.
To meet this market demand, Canon launched its full-color inkjet web-fed press series in 2011, the ColorStream 3000. With the ability to print both mono and color volume requirements, the ColorStream series enables print and communication service providers to print a wide range of applications. From direct mail and customer communications to books, magazines and catalogues, PSPs can expand their application possibilities and add value for their customers.
Offering vibrant colors with an expanded digital run-length flexibility and giving PSPs the option for monochrome-only or full color, variable applications, this technology has been recognized as an alternative to the outdated two-step process. A highly responsive print technique, it enables brands to reach their target customers more swiftly and to strike while the iron is still hot. Take cart abandonment for example. If a customer is shopping online but doesn’t actually complete the transaction, brands can send a cost-effective direct mail within 24 hours to engage and nudge the consumer to the end of the customer journey and convert their actions to a purchase. This strategy has been shown to be more effective in helping customers complete their purchase when compared directly to the same tactic via email.
Taking the next step into personalization with inkjet technology
One of Canon’s customers, InfoIMAGE, Inc., is truly reaping the benefits of the ColorStream. Now one of the industry’s leading “full service” mailing houses producing direct and transactional mail, InfoIMAGE, Inc., based in Brisbane, CA, has grown in leaps and bounds since its start in 1984.
The main benefit of inkjet for InfoIMAGE, Inc. is the ability to be a one-stop-shop for customers, as well as efficiently printing customized transactional documents, direct mail and paper wraps in one pass. Whereas historically, as a data specialist with a fleet of digital cutsheet toner presses, InfoIMAGE, Inc. would receive the pre-printed offset shells and complete the digital overprint, they can now print the full application, from start to finish. Investing in a ColorStream 6900 in 2018 enabled the company to migrate away from digital toner cutsheet devices to inkjet, providing productivity efficiencies and expanding their product offering. This investment also allowed InfoIMAGE, Inc. to offset additional costs for inserter upgrades. Because print work was available in greater volumes with near perfect accuracy, they were able to continue running older inserter hardware for three years longer than anticipated.
The ColorStream was initially installed at InfoIMAGE, Inc. to migrate transactional monochrome work from cutsheet toner to inkjet for applications that needed to be produced quickly. InfoIMAGE, Inc. saw a significant time saving increase when compared to production on toner.
“With the advent of inkjet, and the adoption of this technology, we’re hoping to be a one-stop-shop for our customers,” said Christina Esparza, vice president of operations, InfoIMAGE, Inc. “We’ve had the ColorStream 6900 for a few years now and it’s a wonderful piece of equipment for us. It has replaced quite a few older toner-based devices. The web-fed device has really worked for our operation exceptionally well.”
New possibilities with inkjet technology
For a number of reasons, inkjet technology is particularly well-suited to help print service providers adapt their offering to meet the demands of today’s print buyers. Enabling them to take on work that previously may have been out of reach, inkjet opens up a host of new creative opportunities. And with many industry projections pointing towards inkjet being the print technology of the future—offering a reliable, high-level of quality at fasters speeds—it’s up to us as print experts to demonstrate its value to customers and highlight all the opportunities that are now available with print.
- Canon Solutions America