What is Variable Data Printing?

Variable data printing is when you have data that needs to be printed differently on each piece. Mailing addresses are the most common type of variable information, but we can also apply individualized images, messages and other data. To oversimplify it: it’s like doing a mail merge in Word, but you can customize so much more.

How does Variable Data Printing work?

Utilizing information from databases to create personalized materials for individual recipients sounds complicated. The images and text of an individual piece can be changed without ever having to stop or slow the printing process, and it’s all set up during the design process. The most common version of this we do is mailings, where the letter is carries specific information for the recipient and we print matching addresses on thousands of envelopes. But that’s just the beginning.

For example, a set of personalized postcards, each with the same basic layout, can be printed with a different name and image on each postcard based on the recipient's geographical region or buying history. A direct mail piece can be printed with someone’s name, photo and even a customized URL.

With variable data printing you can produce printed pieces that are targeted towards individual consumers, increasing response rate and overall return on investment.

If you’re starting with a list of your current customers or buying a targeted list from a broker, businesses can target their recipients by a number of factors; this is where recording data like geographic location, income, recent purchases, age, gender and more becomes important. This makes it easy for a company to send out materials to customers that tailor the message for the specific recipient.

When you’re building your piece, keep these things in mind. Do you have enough data about your customers? Do you have the *right* data about your customers? We’ll run things like addresses through the National Change of Address database (NCOA) to confirm that information is up to date, but that won’t check other data you have about everyone.

Types of Variable Printing

There are 4 categories of variable printing:

  • Version printing — Common design and layout with some unique content and language changes.
  • Personalized printing — Seamlessly integrate the recipient’s name and/or address into the copy, producing a unique document for each recipient.
  • Customized printing — Personalized application that also contains image changes to make the message more relevant.
  • Fully customized printing — complex, personalized and customized print pieces that incorporate variable images, text, graphics and layouts.

Why use Variable Printing

Targeted advertising is consistently shown to be more effective than static methods. With the increasing amount of data points available, it is easier than ever for marketers to reach their ideal customers. Variable printing combined with targeted mailing lists, can make your marketing dollars go further.

Variable printing is a more effective direct mailing tool than the general postal mailers that we all receive. When consumers see their name and images that they can relate to on a direct mail piece, they are more engaged, and much more likely to act.

Used in combination with online tools such as email subscriptions and customer surveys, variable printing becomes an even more powerful asset to your business because of the valuable information you are learning about your customers.