Attractive opportunities for growth and profit exist in transactional printing. Taking advantage of them requires a knowledge of the key trends impacting the business, and an understanding of what it takes to get started in this niche.
From the end product perspective, inkjet color is probably the number one trend, reports Mark Hunt, Director of Marketing for Standard Finishing Systems (Booth 617). Transactional printing is a broad term that includes all variable data intensive work, including statement printing, utility invoices, and financial printing.
In the high-volume space, it was once common to preprint rolls with PMS-matched color logos and image black-only and variable data on a continuous-feed printer, Hunt says. But a new wave of toner-based and inkjet digital color presses now lets transactional printers image static color and variable black-only information in one pass, and also add other variable color messaging to the sheet.
Savvy firms recognize transaction pages present great target marketing and cross-selling opportunities that transition bill presentment from a cost center to a profit center. “The invoice or statement needs to be mailed anyway, so the marketing message gets an effectively free ride,” he says.
Lee Gallagher, Director of Precision Marketing and Enablement, Ricoh Production Print Solutions (Booth 2600), reports there’s a growing desire among companies to incorporate precision marketing techniques into mission critical documents. One example is using transpromo tools and methods that enable companies to incorporate relevant, customized content for clients.
“We are seeing this expand beyond marketing into customer education as well, particularly in verticals such as the utilities industry,” Gallagher says, noting they are leveraging transactional documents like monthly statements to provide patrons with information about energy conservation and green initiatives.
Greater utilization of printing assets is another trend. Transaction printers once had a shark-fin production cycle, in which print volume soared during the billing cycle, then dropped off precipitously. “In most cases, the wall between data centers and the print room has disappeared,” Hunt says. “So printers look to utilize the print capacity that’s available outside the billing cycle.”
Traditional print service providers are eager to get out of the commodity business and move into higher value, marketing server provider roles, according to Gallagher.
Offering transactional printing along with their core services can potentially help make them more of a one-stop shop for their customers, while keeping utilization rates high on assets and minimizing overcapacity.
For his part, Hunt believes there’s a barrier to entry for print service providers who are not already serving this market.
Transactional printing is a competitive space, with large service bureaus handling higher volume accounts. But a properly equipped, well managed transaction print center can be a strong profit center. “Data security and integrity are mission critical, requiring different systems and mind set,” Hunt says. “Every page is unique, and there can be significant penalties for sending confidential information to the wrong party, so operations need high level integrity checking from imaging right through insertion. A tightly integrated workflow is essential.”
Where to begin
To get started in this market, Gallagher reports print service providers must first understand the needs of transactional customers and ensure they have the technology and workflow solutions required to meet those needs. They must invest in the right hardware and software to ensure success.
Gallagher also believes they should consider how they can extend their relationships with these clients, future-proofing their role as provider to the market, and working to understand what they’ll need to both drive output now and improve it for their customers down the road.