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Variable Opportunities

VDP Technology Becomes an Increasingly Attractive Option

By Mike Antoniak

Variable data printing (VDP), is now a viable solution for anyone with a marketing message and a database. Innovation and advances in digital print systems, especially the software which drives their VDP capabilities, delivers solutions more versatile, affordable, and user-friendly than those available a few years ago. Whether one wants to cater the message and attendant images to the recipient’s unique profile and interests, implement a cross-media personalized marketing campaign, or establish a Web portal for customized communications and marketing materials, VDP may have the answer.

"What’s changed, dramatically, on the print side is that the combination of quality, speed, and the price-per-page of today’s print engines have gotten to the sweet spot," points out Jacob Aizikowitz, founder and chief technical officer, XMPie, Inc. "More people are using VDP and the feedback they are getting is that it works."

As a premiere supplier of VDP software solutions, XMPie sales climbed more than 270 percent last year as the company released products for all tiers of the market. Their offerings include uDirect Professional, a midrange solution for creating variable data campaigns within Adobe InDesign CS2; the uStore e-commerce solution; uImage, a variable imaging plug-in for Adobe Photoshop; and the XLIM Composition Engine for VDP business documents.

The combination of current tools push beyond the personalized bills and letters which caught recipients’ attention a few years back. "We’re seeing more and more [marketers] adapt VDP and integrate it into cross media campaigns," Aizikowitz observes.

"One thing we see catching on very quickly is integrated mail and email campaigns which drive the respondent to a Web site or microsite with a unique URL," he offers as an example. "By incorporating response URL into marketing material you build in a way to measure its effectiveness."

Introducing clients to ways they could implement a VDP strategy could help secure the future for printers with VDP capability. "The minute the print services provider becomes a marketing solutions provider it becomes much harder for that client to ever think about leaving," Aizikowitz points out.

Moving VDP to the Desktop
One emerging trend is the arrival of VDP for desktop PCs. For example, Printable Technologies now offers its FusionPro Desktop software for $399. With the software, Mac or PC users can create their own VDP document templates, incorporating variable text, data, and images, for use in any PDF workflow.

"We’re just about at the point of mass adoption of VDP," suggests Mark Hilger, marketing product manager, Printable. "Early adopters have already been using VDP for years. We think there’s been a lot of people who have been sitting on the fence, waiting until it is affordable and practical for them."

As new users have discovered the software, they’ve started adapting VDP to a range of needs. "The whole concept of what is VDP seems open to interpretation," offers Hilger. "It’s no longer just about doing large VDP mailings with targeted data."

Hilger is continually amazed at how buyers are using the software. "It started with business cards, letterheads, and personalized post cards—things you’d expect. But it has grown to include things like ID badges, event attendee packets, personalized bingo cards, point of sale materials, and Web-to-print products."

Any of these print products can mean opportunities for those who promote them. "Maintaining your customer base has a lot to do with offering them something new they can’t get from someone else," Hilger explains.

"But succeeding with VDP requires more than a software tool and a digital press. You also have to know something about your customer’s business, their goals, and how VDP can help get them there."

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