Three Ways Inkjet Has Evolved

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” -Alan Kay, American computer scientist.

This is a great time to be a brand owner or a publisher. The latest innovations in digital print technology have created new opportunities to re-evaluate the role of print in customer communications, marketing and publishing.

Once focused on forms replacement for transactional documents, production inkjet has blossomed into a versatile and powerful tool that companies like yours are using to take advantage of cutting-edge applications – and even create new ones. The marketing landscape’s shift to digital is spurring new demands from brand owners, making it imperative for the industry to shape the future of print, rather than simply responding to the status quo. Here are three ways that production inkjet – and the printers who use it – are innovating print applications and technologies:

White paper in, full colour out

In today’s world of immediacy, companies are expecting what they want, when they want it, no questions asked. For a print shop, this requires digital technologies that are nimble enough to deliver a transactional production run just before one for direct mail, with minimal downtime.

Throughout the past ten years, production inkjet has evolved into an affordable and effective route to white paper in, full colour out applications. Whether it’s a full colour transactional document, glossy direct mail piece or graphics book, inkjet technology can meet the needs of each demand with precision and high quality.

Short runs

Being able to produce short runs of varied output is also a key advantage of inkjet. In the case of books for example, while offset is still the go-to technology for producing high quantity runs of books, inkjet is enabling book printers and publishers to produce shorter runs that are just the right amount for a given purpose. Review copies used during the editing process and marketing copies distributed during the promotional phase of a book launch are two such applications where low quantities are needed. What’s more, inkjet is enabling books to never truly go “out of print” by making it easier for printers and publishers to meet one-off demands for old and rare books from consumers. In the educational market, class-customised booklets that might be used only by one or a handful of professors, and versioned textbooks are yet other opportunities to put inkjet’s short run capabilities to use.

For example, we will be showing at the Hunkeler Innovationdays show this month in Lucerne a full colour book, The Cult of Porsche: In the Beginning. This is digitally printed on offset stock, delivering the impact and quality that, until now, has been associated only with offset printing. Originally produced in short runs and shown at last year’s London Book Fair, it will be inkjet printed for the first time for Hunkeler Innovationdays.

Personalisation /variable data

The opportunity to customise direct marketing output has never been greater. As more transactional communications transition to intangible, digital forms such as email and mobile apps, the value of printed communications is increasing. The clients of printers are demanding high quality output that grabs attention with relevant content and interactive elements such as QR codes and interactive print solutions like Ricoh’s Clickable Paper. By virtue of the sheer amount of customer data available to agencies and their brand clients, items like coupons can be customised with items that go beyond the usual name and gender information. Deeper demographic and psychographic information can be incorporated and reference the recipient’s recent purchases, buying habits, and other information that ensures the direct marketing content is being received at the right time, by the right people with the right message. Inkjet’s heritage in variable data, coupled with its continued evolution as a graphic communications tool that rivals the colours and print quality of offset, further empowers marketing agencies and brand owners to take advantage of this opportunity. Have a look out for the The Bianchi catalogue on our stand. With its challenging brand colours and high quality bike imagery it will demonstrate the results inkjet is capable of such as readily reproducing work previously the preserve of offset.

Graham Moore -business development director for Ricoh Europe

Graham Moore -Director Business Development, Ricoh Europe

All of these innovations will be on display in the Ricoh booth at Hunkeler Innovation Days. Stop by to learn more. We look forward to seeing you at the show.

This article is from European Printing Industry Coverage from WhatTheyThink


CXM and Document-driven processes… the perfect storm for rebooting the transactional print opportunity ?

For years transactional output – bills, statements, letters, policy documents and so on – has been seen as a poor relation of marketing communications – if indeed it has any relationship at all. However, a perfect storm could be brewing as recent developments in marketing thinking, combined with the latest digital printing technologies may just be about to propel this sector of the printing industry to the forefront.

Customer Experience Management – the next big thing for marketers?

More and more organisations are now focused on the need to provide a better total customer experience (sometimes called the customer journey) – as a means not only to secure customer loyalty in difficult economic times, but also to create competitive advantage. In fact, in the ultra-competitive industries such as Insurance , Energy and Financial Services the quality of the customer experience may well be one of the only ways of differentiating from your competition: –

“Over the last few decades, we have seen competitive advantage moving from the manufacturing and distribution sectors (think Ford or Tesco) to controlling or using information (Google or MBNA). Yet the future may see customer experience become the differentiating source of success and dominance.” Marketing Week*

The latest research from IDC, sponsored by Ricoh (Organizational Blind Spot: The Role of Document-Driven Business Processes in Driving Top-Line Growth, IDC Sept 2012) identifies how Customer-facing document processes have a major impact on the bottom line. In particular:

• Among consumers who are dissatisfied with companies’ document processes, 60.1% would switch to another provider and 56.8% would likely tell others about their dissatisfaction.

Source: Organizational Blind Spot: The Role of Document-Driven Business Processes in Driving Top-Line Growth, IDC Sept 2012

Where Transactional comes in

So what has this to do with transactional output? Customer documents – the bills, statements, letters, formal communications – are a key element of document processes. Therefore Transactional documents have a key but often overlooked role in customer experience.

The iceberg effect: Transactional documents are “below” the waterline and out of sight of Marketing Departments

In some industries like Utilities, of all the many forms of customer communications, it’s the bills, statements, letters and so on that the customer sees most and therefore these have a key role to play in the customer experience. Major organisations like Retail Banks send out hundreds of millions of customer documents a year. This number of touches far exceeds customer touches that could be achieved cost-effectively via direct marketing activities.

That’s why some people talk of the iceberg effect. Whereas – in the mind of marketers – websites, ad campaigns, social media, and such are above the waterline, transactional documents are out of their line of sight, and so can be described as below the waterline.

In fact in Marketing Week Magazine**, June 2012, Ian Peters, Managing Director of Energy at British Gas is quoted as saying

“For most customers, energy bills are the single most important communication they receive from British Gas. They are the key to understanding exactly what’s been used, and what it’s costing.”

And of course, it’s these types of document that customers will pay more attention to. According to Matt Swain, associate director of document outsourcing at InfoTrends***:

• On average, consumers spend up to four minutes reading and reviewing these documents
• recipients open and read 95% of transactional documents, substantially more than any other type of mail.

Therefore Transactional documents are significant “moments of truth” between the brand and their clients: in this way they provide literally millions of opportunities for brand awareness and quality conversations.

However transactional output does not get the same organisational attention as other forms of customer communications. Web sites, mobile, social media, direct mail and advertising, communications are managed by marketing teams, whereas, too often, perhaps, transactional output is managed by the IT department with a focus on meeting internal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and driving down cost – rather than enhancing the customer experience.

Therefore perhaps it is little surprise that transactional documents can often lack the creative flair of corporate web sites / adverts / direct mail. As stated in an article in Marketing Week July 2012****, “Such information, however, is rarely presented with a great deal of élan. Instead information is presented in prosaic manner, seemingly designed to have the bare minimum of impact.”

Of course, there is a trend for organisations to try to move away from printed transactional documents – mainly on the basis of cost-reduction. However in practice few organisations have actually gone completely paperless for their transactional documents. This is mainly due to:

• consumer resistance
• lack of good alternatives.

According to InfoTrends**, despite many years of pressure on consumers to go paperless, printed transactional statements still account for 85% of all statements in 2011, and paper-based delivery of transactional documents in the US is forecast to decline by only 5.2 % from 2010 to 2015. Interestingly the total volume of transactional communications is forecast to rise in this period by over 3%.

Source: InfoTrends The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services: Moving Beyond Online Bill Consolidation in the U.S. 2011

There are signs that the marketing world is beginning to wake up to the opportunities. According to Marketing Week****

“There is a canvas available that is being criminally under-utilised. The same care and attention – tone, creativity and message – needs to be adopted for all communication opportunities and not just those that are traditionally labelled marketing.”

So how can marketers take advantage of this opportunity and start to use this canvas as part of the total customer experience?

The perfect storm – using the latest technologies to enhance customer experience through transactional documents

First, don’t think transactional document. Think customer communications. Transactional does not have to mean printed. Increasingly, documents are becoming multichannel. With the latest workflows and document creation technologies customer documents can be electronic, mobile and printed. And offline can be integrated with online for a consistent and enhanced customer experience.

Second, transaction document production should be seen as a way to generate new business opportunities and not just as a cost centre.

Third, consider consolidating and merging messages. Marketing departments already use transactional mailings to get across key offers and messages but this is usually a separate activity, where transactional documents are often delivered with unpersonalised inserts and flyers. Sometimes this is even a separate mailing.

Fourth, harness the latest digital technologies. Traditionally transactional documents are printed in mono on headed paper. However this restricts flexibility and makes it difficult to use colour effectively in documents. Using the very latest workflows and colour digital printing it is now cost-effective to personalise every part of every document. This means that messages can be consolidated which not only reduces cost but also creates a more concise, personalised communication.

A good example of this is DocaPost, a subsidiary of La Poste Group in France. The company supports businesses and government agencies by optimising customer related communication processes. Docapost is using Ricoh technology to add value to customer communications through design improvements, such as incorporating colour and personal messaging in documents, and minimising production costs by introducing more efficient, automated processes.

The company champions the transformation of statements and other seemingly humdrum transactional documents into high-impact communication tools. Working on behalf of its clients, Docapost-DPS produces millions of transpromotional documents every week.

Another great example is Multi-Post, a leading provider of mailing solutions in the Netherlands. Using colour variable data printing technology within its automated production process, Multi-Post integrates plastic cards with eye-catching one-to-one mailing pieces.

The approach adds value, presenting businesses with the opportunity to incorporate powerful promotional messages that drive loyalty and help sell associated services. One leading health insurer uses Multi-Post’s service to distribute 1.3 million health cards every year. The cards are integrated with a personalised policy document and a cover letter promoting additional services.

Finally using the latest Precision Marketing techniques, organisations can introduce better targeting which not only reduces waste but also can increase response rates and, above all, ROI. For example, an organisation could send out a document with a different look and feel for VIP clients than for low-value clients.

Maybe the time is right for organisations to exploit the conditions of the perfect storm to reinvent transactional documents into a more powerful, more effective customer communications vehicle, no longer the poor relation but central to the business strategy.

Benoit Chaterlard

Benoit Chatelard General Manager Solutions, Production Printing Group, EMEA

Benoit Chatelard
General Manager Solutions, Ricoh Production Printing Group, EMEA

For more Insights from Ricoh see:


*Marketing Week,September 2012 “ I see no reason why CMOs shouldn’t also take customer experience under their wing”
**Marketing Week, June 2012, “British Gas launches billing for ‘dummies’”
***Response Magazine, October 2012 “Transpromo — marketing via transactional customer communications — gains new life with new technology and some good, old-fashioned know-how.”
****InfoTends, December 2011, “The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services: Moving Beyond Online Bill Consolidation in the U.S.”
****Marketing Week, July 2012, “A bill is too valuable an opportunity to be left with anyone but a marketer”

In demand at drupa – Books and Publishing

Luc Van Damme, Team Leader and Continuous Feed Specialist, Ricoh Germany

Luc Van Damme, Team Leader and Continuous Feed Specialist, Ricoh Germany

For Luc Van Damme the drupa experience will be much longer than most. He arrived on April 20 and will stay until a couple of days after the show.

However, as we near the end of the 14 day event his energy and enthusiasm for his role are still infectious. And what a role he has – heavily involved with the build, day to day running and eventual break down, of Ricoh’s Infoprint 5000VP, the high speed (220 metres per minute) continuous feed system, which arrived straight from Ricoh’s Boulder technology centre for its European unveiling.

The InfoPrint 5000VP is part of the Publishing Zone on the Ricoh stand where you can see the latest Books on Demand applications, which combine high quality personalised digital printing with finishing and web to print to expand your services and create new market opportunities.

He appreciates all the clients he meets, and explains the technology to, are left with a lot to consider from the impact of moving from black and white to full colour production or stepping up to continuous feed from sheetfed.

And this is why he takes time and care with each new conversation to underline how the innovative technologies have been commercialised to produce standout print quality that deliver added value and highly measurable return on investment.

As a fourth-time drupa veteran he knows what to expect, even if this is the longest time he has spent at the show. But just two and half hours away from home he has at least been able to pop back occasionally to get his laundry done.

The future of Digital Mailboxes

By John Payne, CEO, Zumbox, &
Humberto Prospero, Director of Consulting and Integration Services, Ricoh US

Unlike the title of John M. Cain’s explosive 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, tomorrow’s postman may not ring at all. As consumers grow trust data security, online bill payment and management are expected to grow exponentially. The challenge is accelerating consumer acceptance so that the predicted growth begins today rather than tomorrow.

After all, companies have been aggressively cranking up their online businesses for more than 10 years. Because email has been fraught with security issues, banks, retailers and others have spent millions creating secure websites where consumers can order and pay for purchases. People have responded with gusto. Eighty percent of consumers transact business online; 64 percent pay bills online. Yet the rate of people opting out of receiving paper versions of their bills and statements stands at a mere 15-20 percent.

Why haven’t consumers switched to a paperless platform en masse? We believe the answer is based on three consumer values that have been missing until now: convenience, control and simplicity. The average US consumer receives more than 17 bills each month plus significant quantities of other essential mail (privacy statements, insurance documents, stock disclosures, etc.). Receiving all of these documents every month, one by one, on numerous websites requires significant work on the part of the consumer.

So, despite the appeal of digital documents and interest from early adopters, mainstream consumers are reluctant to take on the extra work of rounding up all their mail. They want a “digital postman” to deliver their electronic mail safely and securely, without any fuss on their part.

What is a digital mailbox, and why is it poised to propel the mail revolution?

Digital postal mail — an exact facsimile of their paper mail — will be delivered immediately into a centralised digital mailbox as documents are made available from businesses. Consumers can access their digital postal mail conveniently, the way they want — through the web, mobile readers and an iPad application. Unlike documents that consumers must search for on different billers’ websites, everything is in a single place that they can control.

How do digital post offices work?

There are a few different digital mailbox solutions on the market today – but for this example, let’s focus on Zumbox’s US service.

Consumers log onto the Zumbox website and register their free digital mailbox, which is based on the same physical address that the Post Office uses. Once the address is verified via a verification code that is delivered physically to that address, the consumer can start receiving digital postal mail without additional setup. Unlike other paperless solutions, Zumbox automatically delivers the full set of communications, rather than requiring consumers to gather additional documents from other sites. This push system is highly convenient and dramatically simplifies the consumer’s process of getting mail. Should a person move, a simple change of address request is made in Zumbox for the digital mailbox to be associated with the new address so consumers keep all their documents forever.

Consumers will find other conveniences, as well, to make their lives easier when dealing with mail. For example, customers can choose how to pay their bills. They can still pay by regular mail, or they can click a button to pay automatically from a checking account or a credit card. No worries about having their documents at hand when they need them, either. The service archives mail forever in a secure document repository and provides an efficient search capability that allows consumers to find their tax filings or financial records easily at any time. A homeowner, for example, could search quickly online, from any computer, for an insurance policy lost in a fire.

Another nice feature will be a chat button allowing customers to click and chat with a company’s representative. Surveys show that chat discussions on the Internet provide better customer satisfaction than on the phone. Plus, it is a more cost-effective solution.

Both businesses and consumers require a speedy, economical and compelling mail solution that solves their issues and meets their needs. The increasing cost of physical communications is simply becoming too much for businesses to bear. Estimates show that large banks, utilities and insurance companies, for example, spend around 50 cents per mail piece. With the digital mailbox solution, that cost could drop to half of what it is today. As hard copy mail delivery becomes less convenient and less reliable, consumers, also, will begin to step up their demands for better alternatives.

The advantages of digital mailboxes for businesses stretch far beyond cost savings. The solution opens the door for two-way exchanges. Companies can put special offers in with their digital statements, and customers can click a button to accept an offer — an attractive way to increase revenue. Enterprises will be able to take greater advantage of precision marketing, data analytics and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through web-friendly methods.

To ensure security, the top digital mailbox offerings employ a double-barreled encryption system — encrypting mail while in motion and at rest. The technology offers consumers an environment free of SPAM, malicious links and worrisome attachments. Encryption is performed in authenticated links to systems, in fat pipes, not trafficking “in the wild” (outside corporate firewalls). In addition, restrictions can be placed on documents, requiring user credentials or other security responses in order to be viewed.

What will digital mailbox solutions mean for the printing industry?

At first blush, digital postal services may seem like a scary thought for transactional and commercial printers. On the contrary, however, printers will benefit substantially if they capitalise on the trend now. Digital postal mail transforms the business liability of physical mail into an extremely valuable digital communications channel and represents the natural evolution of traditional postal mail into the digital marketplace.

Today, clients produce output by creating large electronic files, sending the files to the printer, then to inserters and then out for mailing. With Zumbox, for example, at the point where the files go to the printer, another data stream will send a copy to the secure Zumbox portal. Consumers will see their mail in Zumbox immediately, and hard copy mail will be delivered through the postal service to their physical mailbox, until they choose to opt out of receiving the paper versions.
As a result of economic pressures on businesses, such as using traditional mail, digital postal solutions become an attractive alternative that allows printers to remain relevant in the business-to-consumer communications channel. Printers will be able to provide their customers with a desired service while, at the same time, create a new revenue stream by leveraging their print-to-mail investments.

Four major pillars of benefits:

Cost savings: Service providers are facing ever-increasing costs and lower profit margins. Digital mailboxes enable providers to move to a low-cost model that will help improve margins.
Customer satisfaction and loyalty: Both satisfaction and loyalty can be improved through web-friendly methods, such as chat lines for customer support, which are less expensive than telephone coverage but more highly regarded by users.
Flexible payment options: Consumers can choose their payment method. By clicking a button to choose to pay either by credit card or checking account, users can avoid the postage costs of mailing in their bills and avoid late charges caused by postal delivery delays.

Better messaging options: Companies can send relevant messaging through two-way dialogue and respond quickly to inquiries. From what they learn through the process, marketers can better tailor their campaigns to hit their target audiences more precisely.
For more information about the value of digital mailbox solutions, please visit:

How can commercial printers utilise the cloud?

Print service providers (PSPs) always look for ways to deliver solutions more effectively and efficiently to customers. Hence, the latest trend in the market is to extend existing capabilities into new managed services that offer more end-to-end workflow solutions with the highest levels of integrity and reliability. One of the most cost-effective ways to do this is via the cloud. What does this mean for PSPs and their customers? And what are the major factors to consider when turning to managed services?

Most managed services refer to managed print services for office document printing and the workgroup environment. While there are some wholly managed transaction print services available, they are focused on operational outsourcing, not workflow management. Solutions such as Ricoh Production Print Solutions’ Managed ADF Services leverage the cloud functionality to provide compliance-driven companies with the ability to create secure and highly auditable print environment that address workflow management while still maintaining operational control.

Overall, cloud solutions such as these are designed to manage infomation more efficiently while reducing capital budget outlays and IT overhead requirements. But there are many things to consider before deciding which cloud service is right for your company and customer base. They include:

• What are you looking for? – If you’re looking for a service separate from a managed print service offering, the cloud is for you. It is focused on optimising the transaction print workflow in environments that have stringent obligations to maintain customer privacy and integriy. Additionally, offerings, such as Ricoh’s Managed ADF Services, ensures that all IT server and application administration (configuration, updates, etc.) is entirely managed by workflow professionals, greatly reducing customer IT administration requirements.

• How flexible is the service? – Flexibility and adaptable is key to delivering business efficiency. Using the cloud, companies can expect just that. Via a secure network connection, web-based interfaces can be accessed by any authorised operator using a browswer inside the network without the need for additional software. In addition, Ricoh’s Managed ADF includes integration ofa number of additional third party applications which provide functions such as document composition and postal optimisation. These applications are all contained within the InfoPrint cloud ecosystem. This approach allows for a reduced requirement for hardware maintenance and administration, while providing flexible and robust business continuity.

• What benefits are you hoping to see? – When commercial printers utilise the cloud, they expect to help customers obtain overall integrity, productivity enhancement, business continuity capabilities and previously unobtainable or unrealised cost savings that larger organisations currently enjoy. Within the application ecosystem, smaller customers have access to a variety of applications on a pay by the drink basis. More so, cloud-based managed services are designed to reduced dependence on scarce IT skills and enhanced reporting and audit readiness capabilities. Simply, cost-savings, reduced IT overhead and increased regulatory complaince are immediate benefits seen.

Managed services provide the latest technologies with much more flexibility, administered by an outside professional. With managed services, including those optimising the cloud, organisations can focus on its core business while benefiting from state-of-the-art technology at an affordable cost.

— John Hankins, Worldwide Offerings Manager for Managed ADF Services, Ricoh Production Print Solutions