New whitepapers available

Ricoh has commissioned Smithers Pira to create a series of whitepapers. These look at opporunities for Print Service Providers to open new worlds in a number of key market segments.

Whitepapers available now:

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Corporate Print: bringing the world in-house

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Digital commercial print: the new world order

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Direct Marketing: printing the personal

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Retail point-of-sale: the new frontier for consumer engagement

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – The new world of publishing with virtual stock

The Sun is rising over direct mail

Ricoh sponsored the DMA UK's latest research into Direct Mail

Ricoh sponsored the DMA UK’s latest research into Direct Mail

This week the British Direct Marketing Association (the DMA) held an event – Mail Matters – in London, to share the results of some research sponsored by Ricoh. It revealed some fascinating insights into how the brand owners and their agencies who commission, design and coordinate direct mail campaigns feel toward this marketing channel.

Many research studies into direct mail as a part of the marketing mix have demonstrated  very clearly that direct mail holds a special place in the hearts and minds of consumers. Its uniquely tangible properties  help to generate an emotional response that other media struggle to match.

Most research has focused on consumer attitudes and behaviour.  This new research though looks for a different perspective.  Direct mail just doesn’t happen unless both brand owner and their agency together make it happen. So, while the consumer picture is relatively well documented, the research told us what  these other vital stakeholders, the marketers and agency decision makers, think about it.

The Mail Matters research we sponsored told us that while the well known, young ‘digital natives’ in their agency roles  are naturally completely at home in the digital marketing arena, it seems that many are not yet fully switched on to what is possible with  direct mail, or advertising mail as it is sometimes called, today. For example a strong majority of respondents described both better personalisation and image personalisation as innovations that would enhance the effectiveness of mail.  As we know, however, this functionality is a long established feature of direct mail, but it becomes more exciting as a result of the possibilities generated by the smart use of data insights.

DMA Mail mattersEncouraging mail recipients to go online is a key goal the research shows, and there are many technologies to facilitate a smooth transition from the paper page to the online world.  Ricoh’s interactive print solution, Clickable Paper is one of the newest. What the research suggests is that some marketers and agencies are either persisting with the limited functionality of QR codes or not deploying any bridging technology at all. It is also worth noting that 72% expect more innovation to integrate print with digital media; and I am sure that this will be a big part of the future of direct mail.

Very positively, there is a powerful core of respondents who trust direct mail in their campaigns because of its proven effectiveness and strong ROI. And while postage costs may be a barrier to some, the returns available are clearly the decisive factor for many others.  And at Ricoh we believe this group will grow as the communications and commercial factors in favour of direct mail in the mix become even more compelling. For while data analytical techniques, such as those available through Ricoh’s Precision Marketing service (for example the MarkSim market segmentation tool which was used to analyse this research), are enabling better segmentation and more accurate targeting, direct mail production is becoming more cost efficient. The latest high speed inkjet systems, like the ground-breaking Ricoh ProTM VC60000, are bringing a new level of print quality to complement their well understood variable data capabilities. And at the same time Ricoh’s new cut sheet devices, the ProTM C 9100 and ProTM C7100 series, bring new levels of capability in terms of media range and special effects, ideal for direct mail jobs that demand impact and stand-out.

So, at Ricoh, we are seeing a new dawn for direct mail. With marketers and agencies alike moving toward greater understanding and harnessing of its power, coupled with the technology available to enhance response and optimise cost efficiency.  It’s an exciting time to be in the direct mail field. For alert print services providers in particular, who can seize the moment, helping their clients fully capitalise on the opportunity and the technologies available now.

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