Electronic bill presentment and payment is nothing new. After a decade of begging, online banking’s “go paperless” pleas finally are being heard, as tens of millions of bill-payers no longer write checks or affix stamps on return envelopes, to the USPS’s chagrin. That many customers still...
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Despite being flat in 2008 to 2009 and some decline in volume over the past two years, the worldwide transaction and financial document market still is estimated at approximately $4 billion, according to market researcher PRIMIR, a unit of NPES. When done right, transactional marketing is among the so-called “unavoidable media.” It captures more mindshare than mass-media alternatives (billboards, TV, radio, and magazines), its advocates contend. Television commercials, already far less potent thanks to ad-skipping TiVo and DVR systems, have been rendered nearly moot (and mute) by on-demand/online streaming viewing services like Netflix, whose global membership now exceeds 25 million. However, more in-your-face media venues — such as signage and displays in elevators, at gas pumps and checkout lines, and also printed on billing statements sent to mailboxes — force themselves into audience attention.
“Transpromo marketing messages, by their very nature, command more attention than traditional communications,” InfoTrends analyst Barb Pellow told Graphic Arts Monthly in 2009. The same is true three years later. “While the average consumer may get as many as 3,000 advertising messages per day, they receive less than 12 transaction documents monthly,” Pellow continued. These come “from known and trusted sources, so they are more likely to draw the customer’s attention.” Myriad statistics showing transpromo’s much higher response rates confirm this.
Art Plus Technology, Salem, NH, a subsidiary of printing firm NEPS, spearheaded a project for a financial services firm to increase 401K participation by including promotional messages on participant statements. The 10.5 percent response rate was shockingly high for such a campaign. In another project, consulting firm Prinova created a health benefits promotion for Humana that resulted in a 42 percent switch from more expensive, brand-name prescription drugs to cheaper generics. Ordinary mailers had netted just 10 percent.
Relevant offers can increase response rates by up to 300 percent compared to those that are simply personalized, according to research conducted by the PODi Digital Printing Initiative. Similar studies from RIT indicated that personalization alone can boost responses by 44 percent over static communications, while personalization plus color can spike responses up another 135 percent. When campaigns are personal and relevant (defined as one-to-one content) and produced in color, rates increased by 500 percent over static. The takeaway is that relevance provides a bump of 365 percent over personalization and color alone.
There’s ample room for growth, especially in the color space: Only about one-third (21.7 billion impressions) of North America’s transaction document volume is printed in full color, reported InfoTrends.
While there is little doubt that transpromo print works for customers, can it fit in your operation? The answer probably is “no.” Even more so than adding value-added mailing services expertise, high-volume transactional output (HVTO) is a highly specialized offering.
“Mailing is only one component,” pointed out Sweeney of Xerox. Whether outputting on production-class, continuous-feed digital presses from Kodak, HP, Oce, Ricoh, or Xerox, all the other “systems needed [for transpromo] are significantly different,” Sweeney noted, citing security requirements first and foremost. In addition, variable-data application development can involve thousands or even millions of unique pages, requiring proper planning and access to clean, up-to-date data. Software must be robust, as transpromo statements feed on information from CRM, ERP, and other external databases. GMC’s Inspire software, for example, centralizes data from different enterprise “silos” to build personalized communications with relevant content. Inspire “muscles” through jobs involving large input files, multiple data sources, and print volumes in the millions, said its developer.
In general, transpromo print services are reserved for in-house data centers within the financial/insurance and medical vertical markets and large print-for-pay service bureaus, such as Crawford Technologies, DST Output, and O’Neil Data Systems, the latter of which boasts a trio of HP inkjet web presses: a 20-inch-wide T200 model, a 30-inch T350, and a 42-inch T400 installed last year. For transaction/direct mail printers, the ability to place four 8.5x11 inch images across the T400’s 42-inch web significantly increases throughput. For shops with 20-inch finishing equipment, the digital press can be equipped with a slitter that allows two 20-inch jobs to be imposed in parallel, and then slit at rewind for feeding into the respective postpress operations.