One-to-one printing evangelists

The Print on Demand Initiative (PODi), a nonprofit group involving some 40 high-tech production technology developers and manufacturers, including Adobe, Scitex, Apple, Agfa, and Xerox, think marketers could use some education when it comes to digital color printing technology. Catalogers in particular, PODi asserts, could benefit from digital printing technology, such as variable data printing (catalogs tailored to the recipients’ demographics and past buying behavior) and print on demand (printing a select number of customized catalogs at any given time).

In fact, several members of PODi claim that their clients have seen response rates as high as 8%-20% on variable-printed catalog mailings. But while the technology to produce variable data printing and print on demand is available, most catalogers have yet to maximize its potential. (In fact, the 1998 Catalog Age Print and Production Benchmark Report showed that 75% of respondents had never even tried selective binding technology.)

“Catalogers may be putting their books on digital formats, but they are not then interfacing with their customer databases to do any customization,” says Jack Hansen, PODi’s director of member services.

The stumbling block is most likely the expense of the technology, Hansen admits. “True, digital printing is a bit more expensive in the beginning,” he says. (He declines to provide any numbers.) “But in the long run, you’ll have a more targeted customer and, hopefully, higher response.”

West Henrietta, NY-based PODi is currently focusing its research efforts on variable data printing in an effort to quantify the value of the technology as a means of improving customer acceptance and behavior. Participants include Minolta, Xiekon, and the U.S. Postal Service. The research results will be released this summer.

PODi is also actively looking for test cases to explore any new uses of digital color printing technology, Hansen says.-SO