The Retail Promotional opportunity – thinking outside the box

PeacockIt’s no secret that there is huge growth digital packaging.  According to the latest study by Smithers Pira h it is forecast to grow 31% to 2016.

However there are also opportunities in other markets closely related to digital packaging.  The versatility of digital printing technology is now creating a demand for three dimensional printed objects – whether they are used for packaging or labels, or for Point of Sale / Point of Purchase and Direct Mail.

At Ricoh, we describe this broader opportunity as ‘retail promotional’ – rather than limiting it to digital packaging.

So why is there such interest in retail promotional and digital packaging? And, more importantly, how can Print Service Providers (PSPs) take advantage?

Growth drivers

As with general offset to digital transitions, print runs are getting shorter. According to InfoTrends(*2) nearly 38% of all jobs are now suited to digital.

This is partly attributed to the general trend in marketing communications to be more targeted, and share information with clients that is specific to their interests.

Caslon(*3)  also identifies a number of factors behind the increase in shorter runs in packaging as follows:

  • Decreases the cost of short run packaging for Stock Keeping Units (SKUs)
  • Environmental benefits as waste in make-ready and waste from obsolescence is dramatically reduced.
  • Micro marketing or regional marketing promotions
  • And the “ultimate in customer communications” – personalised packaging.

These factors also apply to Point of Sale and general promotional activities, as more and more marketing departments are seeing the benefits of using highly targeted print as part of their promotional activities.

High impact direct mail pieces using three dimensional printing techniques can make marketing campaigns really stand out. “3D or dimensional mailings, whether they take the form of a box with a teaser on the outside or a tube, for example, outperform standard formats by 250%, according to the DMA, but increase the cost per lead by only 50%” – Laurie Beasley (*4).

The interesting thing about this statistic is that it shows that, by using innovative new digital print technologies, brands can achieve significantly better response rates, which outweigh the additional printing costs.

From Product launches to Production jobs

Digital has been widely used for product launches and prototypes. Digital printing makes it cost-effective to produce very small runs, even sometimes runs of one. Hence this allows PSPs to deliver multiple designs and variants that can be tested prior to launch.

However it used to be the case that PSPs were reluctant to use digital print for full scale production runs – largely due to concerns about colour consistency and media support.  This view is increasingly being challenged. First, the latest production cut sheet systems also feature more and more sophisticated colour management such that, in many cases, it is difficult for end users to identify what has been printed on digital equipment, and what has been printed on offset.

Second, the latest innovations in media – heavier stocks, coated media, specialised stocks – mean that an ever wider range of real production jobs can be produced on this technology.

PIN Sp. z o.o.  in Poland is a good example of a PSP using digital cut sheet for full production runs. PIN specialises in offset printing on CDRs andDVDRs. Increasingly they are offering other printing techniques, including digital for short to medium runs CD/DVD/BD disks and packaging. Ricoh worked with PIN to test and approve the use of 150 g/m2 coated paper to 220 or 280 g/m2 Incada multilayered boxboard, which is a key requirement of the solution.

New opportunities to get personal

A key advantage of digital printing is its ability to manage variable data applications – almost every element of every item printed can be personalised. This opens up a number of opportunities for brand owners and marketers to communicate with their customers in new ways, and also to implement strategies for tracking individual products.

As Infotrends states: “The ability to create digital, end-to-end workflows to produce personalised labels will help brand owners to develop new packaging innovations, segment their products better, increase security, and give them the ability to better track and trace products”.

An example is Coca-Cola’s summer 2013 worldwide campaign – “Share a Coke”. As stated in the case study(*5):  “Our bottles are featuring 250 of the most popular names in Great Britain and you’ll find them on shelves far and wide across the country throughout the summer”. This allows Coca-Cola to increase the interaction between its product and its customers as part of a worldwide brand awareness campaign.

Another example is Simpson Group, a major provider of Point of Purchase print to the British and European retail sector.  Simpson has now invested in Ricoh digital print technology to enable them to offer print on demand Point of Sale and Advertising solutions to smaller businesses who are looking for high quality promotional materials with highly targeted messages, printed in small quantities. Simpson Group can now provide same-day production of a range of Point of Sale and Advertising – printed on a variety of substrates including board and self-adhesive – all tailored to small businesses’ needs.

Getting started

This market isn’t just for top of the range digital presses.  Today the technology traditionally considered the domain of high-volume digital printing is accessible for short and lighter volume print runs.  For example the latest developments in digital printing technology and especially in media make it viable to print on production print cut sheet technology such as the Ricoh colour Pro C range. This provides a much more affordable alternative for PSPs.

New media can now make printing on production digital cut sheet printers viable. For instance, with lightweight boards and Hydroprint from Kernow Coatings, “the combination of toner printing and film makes medium term (say six months) outdoor signage possible without lamination. ….. And the possibilities at Point of Sales are almost limitless!”

And this means that PSPs with Ricoh digital printing technology can now address this growing market.

Example Ricoh test certificate

Example Ricoh test certificate

Workflow – building a full workflow for production packaging can be complex. However PSPs can start small with Imposition software tools (such as TotalFlow Prep) which allow them to manage smaller jobs before investing in a complete packaging workflow.

Printing technology – Ricoh is constantly testing new media to support its customers’ needs. As the PIN customer example above shows, the media / substrate is always a critical component of the print application.

Finishing is a key component of retail promotional work. There are now a wide range of cutters, folders and other similar devices which will work with digital production cut sheet – providing a highly cost-effective solution.

Another alternative for PSPs who have lighter volume requirements but don’t want to invest in finishing yet is to consider the growing range of “off-the-shelf” templates from companies like Relyco (DigiPOP), Creazy and HeyPressGo.

For example, America Online (USA) wanted a small quantity of promotional items to support special “Knowledge Experience” events for employees. Its Print Room used DigiPOP substrates to create two promotional items branded for this event: a “goodie bag”, and a folder.  In this way these items could be printed in-house – without the need for cutters, folders or other finishing equipment.

Graham Moore -business development director for Ricoh Europe

Graham Moore -Director Business Development, Ricoh Europe


It’s time to think outside the box and embrace the opportunities in retail promotional.  There are many opportunities for PSPs to introduce innovative new products and services to take advantage of the growing demand for personalised/versioned production packaging jobs, Point of Sale and high impact marketing materials.

The good news is that it is now viable to produce these applications on Ricoh digital cut sheet production printers, supported by workflow and finishing solutions.

For more insights from Ricoh see:


*1 Smithers Pira– AMR Analysis, 2012
*2 InfoTrends – Packaging and the Brand Owner: Europe
*3 Caslon – Making sense of the opportunities in digital printing and innovation in packaging
*4 Laurie Beasley – “Why Direct Mail Still Yields the Lowest Cost-Per-Lead and Highest Conversion Rate”, June 2013
*5 CocaCola – Share a coke campaign

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