Chris Van Houtte, VP-IT, IWCO Direct
The digital age is presenting a large challenge to physical media vendors. Online marketing is turning to the cloud and big data for automated advertising tailored to individual interests. By leveraging some of these same tech strategies and combining them with the latest in digital printing technology, IWCO Direct is bridging the gap between new digital production methods and the tangible quality of print. Our success as an industry leader in direct mail production is a result of overcoming the physical limitations of print hardware, automating and standardizing the marketing throughput with tech savvy, and creating a scalable workflow and client-centric service model.
"'Good enough' is no longer sufficient in the printing industry"
Translating content from the digital world to the physical print of direct mail comes with many challenges. The direct mail industry has traditionally relied on the mechanics of physical printing plates to imprint rolls of paper with generic marketing content to be mass mailed and blanket the country. While traditional printing hardware hasn’t changed much over the years –marketers are breaking away from reproducing static content to digitally creating unique messages and imagery on each page.
The printing industry has a long history of introducing what is referred to as “good enough” technology to improve speed or automate processing to reduce manual labor or introduce new capabilities. When offset printing was introduced, many said it would never replace letterpress printing because the quality was not “good enough.” Similar arguments were made when digital printing was introduced to the market. Some argued the color quality of digital printing is not as robust and vivid, the output speed does not keep pace, and the high cost is not worth an output that is not comparable to traditional methods. After researching these challenges, IWCO Direct developed a strategic partnership with Canon Solutions America to identify new papers and ink sets that produce brilliantly colored content from printers that could swiftly ingest blank rolls of paper and output dynamic messaging that is unique for each letter.
While physical limitations are being removed, digital challenges are also being solved. Marketing teams create effective and engaging content in a wide variety of formats. This talent and determination results in a myriad of input formats to be sorted, validated, and processed. IWCO Direct works directly with clients to educate them on best practices for creating marketing content formatted for optimal digital print quality. The digital assets supporting this content are programmatically converted into massive functional data sets of marketing content and imagery to be managed and output via cloud computing. Now messaging can be selected and compiled based on the large stores of demographic and behavioral data using robust business logic. The result is an automation workflow that uses big data to process direct mail content through cloud computing and enables our clients to print an array of custom messaging to specific populations in enormous volumes.
IWCO Direct’s client pool, which consists of Fortune 50 and 500 companies, reaps more than just the benefits of making a more personalized connection with target markets. Human error is removed through automation, eliminating quality issues and regulatory compliance failures. Clients also enjoy the cost savings from reducing what would have taken several separate traditional presses and extensive human work-hours to complete. We work closely with our clients to continually optimize process and throughput for a lean, efficient direct marketing campaign while building a stronger business relationship.
“Good enough” is no longer sufficient in the printing industry. As technology continues to evolve, companies are working around-the-clock to develop solutions that allow printed communication to keep pace with the digital age and create truly 1-to-1 offers.