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Direct Mail Bests Online Marketing with Personalization

Came across this post on Bond Printing’s Blog site (text below). Interesting post that is discussing a shift back to direct mail marketing as opposed to email marketing tactics. The article raises a lot in great points as to why direct mail is once

Personalized Relyco DigiPOP DVD Mailer

Personalized Relyco DigiPOP DVD Mailer

again getting better response rates. From Relyco’s point of view, there a lot of great laser and digital compatible substrates available now that easily be personalized to deliver a mailer that will get opened. Relyco’s ULTRASEAL pressure seal mailers and DigiPOP custom digital packaging products are just two examples to check out.

Direct Mail Bests Online Marketing with Personalization

If you’re looking for a revenue-generating powerhouse for your business, you’re looking for direct mail. Direct mail campaigns are the Old Faithful of marketing—businesses count on them because they’re dependable and promise a consistent ROI.

You can push direct mail’s ROI from consistent to record-breaking with a focus on personalization. Some online marketers mistakenly think their methods are more personal than direct mail. But thanks to Internet cookies, over-sent emails and Google Ad Words, consumers are turned off and tuning out. Direct mail bests digital marketing tactics in the area of personalization because, to the consumer, it feels more human.

The simplest way to personalize direct mail is using variable printing to address your business’s leads by name. But you can go even further than that.

The key to effective personalized direct mail is to get as much useful information as you can from your customers and prospects. Use sales records, surveys and social media to collect good data about your mail leads.

Now it’s time to personalize your direct mail piece. To craft a message that’s relevant to the prospect without being creepy, you’ve got to use your data carefully. Let’s say, for example, that your jewelry store wants to market diamond engagement rings. You’re working form a list of young people who you assume—or hope, for your business’s sake—are single (and you should know that from your data).

It makes sense to write copy that speaks to a buying audience in the mail piece you will send to males. On the other hand, the mail piece sent to females should feature different photos and copy. Although who will buy and who will receive such a gift varies, catering the message of the direct mail according to gender is a subtle method of personalization.

As this examples shows, the best marketers have to interpret the data and use it in a way that tactfully shows consumers that your business is just what they need. But you don’t have to be selling jewelry to personalize direct mail skillfully and in a non-intrusive way. Think about your audience and how their demographic information may affect their buying habits or business needs.

Work from your recipient data to go beyond names in personalizing your business’s direct mail. When you personalize your direct mail piece with a name, you’re working to catch your prospects’ attention. Go one step further—and one-up online marketers—by letting demographics inform your direct mail piece.

Relyco Digital and Laser Substrates Receive Quality Approval from U.S. Government Printing Office

Customized 3D digital packaging, carbonless forms, waterproof paper, self-mailer pressure seal forms, laser checks, and pressure sensitive labels earn Quality Level III rating for Specialty Printing

Relyco Digital and Laser Substrates Receive Approval Rating from Government Printing Office

Relyco Digital and Laser Substrates Receive Approval Rating from Government Printing Office

Relyco today announcing it has earned the Quality Level III rating for Specialty Printing from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). The Relyco digital and laser printing products receiving the GPO rating include DigiPOP customized 3D digital packaging, REIMAGE carbonless forms, REVLAR waterproof paper, ULTRASEAL self-mailer pressure seal forms, laser checks, and ENDURA LABEL pressure sensitive labels.

“Achieving this rating from GPO is very important for Relyco as we continue to grow our business with the Federal Government,” said Bruce Steinberg, vice president of sales at Relyco. “Our GPO rating is great validation of our products’ quality and now gives us greater exposure that will enable us to be a part of more agency and department bids for digital and laser printing jobs.”

The purpose of the GPO evaluation is to determine a contractor’s ability to consistently produce orders at the required quality level without undue assistance on the part of the government. These ratings will be used by the GPO’s automated bid list system in determining what vendors solicitations will be issued to and by GPO contracting officers as an aid in making responsibility determinations on individual contracts.

Relyco has hundreds of Federal Government customers including:

  • Department of Justice
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Air Force
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Department of Interior
  • Drug Enforcement Agency
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court
  • NASA

Relyco offers its complete line of quality business printing and payment solutions under GSA contract GS-02F-0158N. The company just added its new DigiPOP custom digital packaging products to the GSA contract. With more than 120 patented templates, DigiPOP print and fold substrates are ideal for direct mail, presentations, special events, fundraising, and more. To learn more about the products Relyco offers to the Federal Government, visit www.relyco.com, call 888.777.7359, or email info@relyco.com.

Retail Applications of QR Codes

We’re often asked how can I use QR codes. Here’s a great article about QR code applications in the retail market (see below). Relyco provides a wide range of substrates (paper products) to help retailers promote their products and services with QR codes. These type of products include:

Talk to Relyco today about ideas like this. Visit us at www.relyco.com, call 1-800-777-7359, or Email us.

Stores link to the online world

QR Code Signs Scan to Get More Information

Relyco Can Help You Put QR Codes on Your Signs

2-D bar codes provide that link, giving smartphone-toting shoppers instant access to mobile web content.
Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

A consumer walking by a GNC store may notice something intriguing in the window: a big black and white square next to a sign that reads, “The most phenomenal thing you’ll do all day.” Being a savvy smartphone owner, he whips out his phone, opens his QR code reader app, aims the smartphone camera at the black and white QR code, and waits just a second for the app to scan the image. The smartphone automatically opens up the web browser and links the consumer to a mobile web page that reads: “Congratulations, you won a free Phenom coconut water drink.” This crafty use of mobile technology has been driving shoppers into GNC stores to collect their free drinks.

And that’s only one way the consumer can interact with General Nutrition Centers Inc. via QR codes. The retailer placed codes in magazine ads this year that led to additional product information and videos on its m-commerce site, where readers could click to buy products. Store signs and banners with 2-D bar codes lead to videos promoting select products. The videos show athletic men and women in action and discussing supplements and other products. GNC hosts the videos on its m-commerce site, which accounts for 20% of the retailer’s online business. GNC’s next step: placing QR codes on individual products.

GNC customers skew young, the kind of smartphone users most inclined to try out new mobile technologies, says Jeffrey R. Hennion, executive vice president and chief branding officer at GNC.

“We’re seeing a substantial number of scans and mobile traffic,” Hennion says. “And it’s been growing.”

A bridge online
GNC is just one of the retailers that have recognized the potential of QR codes and other 2-D bar code formats to easily bring the Internet into bricks-and-mortar stores. Stores have tried to accomplish that in many ways in recent years, such as by deploying web-connected kiosks or printing out online customer reviews and tacking them onto store shelves. But it’s the proliferation of smartphones with built-in cameras that makes it a snap for the consumer to access web-based content from a poster, product package, even the side of a building: Just click to open a free scanning app, point the phone at the code, and the web content appears on the phone’s screen.

The ability for consumers to comparison shop and get more information while in stores has been a big driver of 2-D bar code adoption, says John Puterbaugh, founder and CEO of mobile marketing and technology firm Nellymoser Inc. The majority of its 100 clients use 2-D bar codes. “By putting 2-D bar codes on goods in stores, you transform a small store into a big showroom.”

At the same time, Puterbaugh notes, once a consumer is accessing the web via her smartphone she can also navigate to other sites to buy. “So there are tensions and opportunities 2-D bar codes set up,” he says. And web-only retailers and other direct marketers are moving quickly to exploit those opportunities.

2-D bar codes have been popular in Asia for a decade and in Europe for the last five years, mobile technology experts say. But it was only last year when they began to take off in the U.S. What’s made the square codes interesting is that tens of millions of U.S. consumers—78.5 million by late June, web measurement firm comScore Inc. says—now have smartphones that can access web-based content by scanning 2-D bar codes. While there are several 2-D bar code formats, the most commonly used are Quick Response (QR) and Microsoft Tag.

Consumers are starting to get acquainted with 2-D codes. In June 2011, 14 million U.S. mobile phone users—6.2% of the total number of mobile phone users—scanned a QR code on their mobile device, finds comScore. A majority of consumers who scanned codes were male (60.5%) and between the ages of 18-34 (53.4%). Scanners skew affluent, with 36.1% having a household income of $100,000 or more versus 20% of all U.S. households. The study also analyzed the source and location of QR code scanning and found that users are most likely to scan codes found in newspapers and magazines and on product packaging, and they scan while at home or in a store.

“In 2010 scanning hit an inflection point,” says Mike Wehrs, president and CEO of Scanbuy Inc., which offers the free 2-D bar code reader ScanLife and runs 2-D campaigns for retailers and other businesses. “The traffic prior to 2010 was an insignificant number. Today we’re doing over 2.5 million scans a month worldwide through our platform. 18 months ago it was 100,000 a month.”

Retail boom
A big part of that growth is coming from retail, as major chains like GNC, Sears Holdings Corp. and Lowes Inc. sprinkle 2-D codes liberally throughout their stores and marketing materials.

QR codes are a research tool that consumers are using to inform their purchase decisions in-store, says Imran Jooma, senior vice president of e-commerce at Sears Holdings, which features QR codes throughout its Sears stores and catalogs and operates m-commerce sites and mobile apps. Sears store shoppers can even snap a QR code for a live video chat with a Sears product expert.

“QR codes give customers peace of mind, especially when it comes to big-ticket items or more complex products,” Jooma says. “They feel really good they did the research and didn’t have to go to a lot of places to do it—just a snap of a QR code and you’re surrounded by all the information you need.”

Like GNC, Lowe’s Inc. is including 2-D bar codes on signs in stores and in print materials, including its circulars and its Creative Ideas magazine. Instead of using QR codes, Lowe’s uses codes based on Microsoft Corp.’s Tag format. Tags are prominent in the nursery departments at Lowe’s, appearing on the cards that go into individual plants. These Tags lead to information on how to care for the plants.

“If you follow how modern customers shop, there is a fuzzy line between channels,” says Gihad Jawhar, vice president of Lowes.com. “The information customers gather from store associates, packaging, the web and the social channel all blends together in their minds. Retailers need to make that easier for them to do. One of the best ways to do this is through 2-D bar codes, to add value to the customer’s shopping experience and facilitate cross-channel research to help make a purchase decision.”

On various in-store signs Lowe’s features Tags that lead to mobile-optimized product selectors to help shoppers narrow down their product options based on brands and available features. Lowe’s targets its 2-D bar codes effort at providing information that keeps customers shopping, not enabling commerce itself.

“They are there in a store to make shopping easier—2-D bar codes are there to facilitate the customer experience, not to focus on driving sales in one channel or another, but to keep the customer within Lowe’s. That is their primary purpose,” Jawhar says. He declines to give specific figures but says the 2-D bar codes “are constantly being used.”

There is no cost to consumers to scan 2-D bar codes; several free scanning apps are available in all the major app stores. But the challenge retailers face is to educate shoppers about how and why they should use those apps to scan 2-D codes.

“One of the mistakes we see today is a lot of naked codes with no call to action, no instructions. They do very poorly,” says Bill McQuain, director of business development, start-up business group, at Microsoft Corp., which launched its Tags in January 2009. “We encourage our customers to have a strong call to action. What will happen when I scan this, and also instructions on where to get a reader app.”

McQuain suggests retailers think creatively about getting shoppers to download a reader, if they don’t already have one, as soon as they enter a store.

“When you first walk in a store there should be a display that introduces the technology,” he advises. “A contest to get people to engage early on. Contests create a lot of buzz and engagement. Scan the Tag at the entry for a chance to win a $100 shopping card. That builds awareness immediately and then when they see the Tags throughout the store they’ll have the reader and they will be able to engage.”

Further, many retailers using 2-D codes and mobile experts say it’s important to have at least a little bit of instructional text accompany each code.

Consumer brand manufacturer Mister Landscaper, which uses 2-D bar code services provider Augme Technologies, has been placing QR codes on its micro-irrigation product packages, leading consumers in stores to mobile-optimized pages of videos, instruction manuals, tips and ways to contact the company. It doesn’t take any chances when it comes to store shoppers and 2-D codes. Accompanying its codes is a patch of text that informs them on what to do and how to do it.

“Augme was really insistent we put this on everything,” says Sam Thayer, CEO of Mister Landscaper. “We thought it was ridiculous to begin with, taking up space on the packaging. Now that we’ve done it we know it was the right thing to do because there still are a ton of people who don’t know what a QR code is. Maybe three or four years down the road we won’t have to take up as much of the packaging with that text.”

Mister Landscaper sales are up this season, and Thayer says he attributes some of the growth to QR codes. Augme analytics have shown significant numbers of scans at locations throughout the U.S., Thayer reports, and the scans align with store sales.

82% of customers who scanned a QR code to watch a video also watched videos on additional Mister Landscaper products, Augme reports. 42% of consumers who did at least one scan used the mobile-optimized site’s instruction manual page and 40% viewed the how-to video page, which suggests customers are not only scanning QR codes in stores but also at home when they need help installing or using a product.

E-retailers can benefit
As important as these codes can be in stores, it’s not just store retailers and consumer brand manufacturers that can play the 2-D bar code game. Web-only merchants and direct marketers can use 2-D codes in unique ways to drive more business to web and mobile commerce.

A prime example is online marketplace operator eBay Inc., whose RedLaser 2-D bar code reader app has been downloaded 12 million times. It’s not letting the fact that it has no stores stand in the way of reaping QR code rewards. Instead, eBay has placed QR codes on signs and other materials at various racing and automobile events to promote its eBay Motors mobile app, which has the RedLaser scanner built in. (Any retailer can build a free 2-D bar code scanner into its app.) The codes lead to mobile web content about the events, GPS-based maps for the events, and links to download the eBay Motors app if they’re not already using it.

The merchant wants car enthusiasts to think eBay when they think cars. The eBay Motors app serves as a guide for each auto event, giving consumers extensive information and helping them navigate the shows. This creates a strong tie between eBay and customers, eBay says, that is valuable to the merchant.

“We’ve done NASCAR, various car shows in California, having eBay be a companion with you at these car-related events,” says Steve Yankovich, vice president of platform business solutions and mobile. “When you want to go buy a car or a part, we’re more likely to get that transaction because we’ve been providing you all this other value as well.”

Paper coupon to mobile web
Another example of a non-store retail application of QR codes comes from coupon kingpin Valpak, source of the familiar blue envelope mailed to 40 million households every month. Valpak has perhaps the biggest implementation of QR codes to date. In July it began placing on the outside of its envelopes a QR code purchased by an advertiser.

The first round of 40 million was purchased by cable network TNT, promoting one of its new original shows. A scan of the QR code led to a promotional video, followed by a mobile web page on which consumers could enter to win a trip to New York.

Such sweepstakes are becoming a popular QR code tool, as they drive brand engagement, reap consumer data such as e-mail addresses, and can ultimately lead to an m-commerce site where consumers can make purchases.

Valpak says by October it will have 160 million QR codes in consumers’ hands. While it declines to reveal the total number of scans for its July debut, it says such totals do not provide a full measure of what 2-D bar codes offer.

“Sometimes with cutting-edge technology, numbers are not really the whole story,” says Michael Vivio, president of Cox Target Media, which operates Valpak Direct Marketing. “What you have is someone who is actively sitting down to watch a promotion and enter a contest, so you have a very engaged customer there. You don’t necessarily measure this in bulk numbers. We can achieve bulk numbers, but we can achieve very high engagement with the best consumers who are digitally aware and a great demographic.”

While the implementations may be different, pioneers in 2-D bar codes all agree that there is nothing quite like the codes for connecting stores and printed materials to the mobile web, and that 2-D codes greatly enhance in-store and catalog shopping.

The Nielsen Co. says by year’s end half of all mobile phones in use will be smartphones. And one need only look around to see that 2-D bar code use is on the rise.

Smart retailers are not just planning but acting today to meet the demands of the smartphone shopper who wants plenty of information to make a purchase decision anywhere, anytime. These 2-D bar codes may prove especially critical for bricks-and-mortar stores that can use the codes to deliver sale-cinching content and keep shoppers from looking around further, whether at competitors’ stores or online.

What is Variable-Data Printing?

Variable-data printing (VDP) (also known as variable-information printing (VIP) or VI) is a form of digital printing, including on-demand printing, in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process and using information from a database or external file. For example, a set of personalized letters, each with the same basic layout, can be printed with a different name and address on each letter. Variable data printing is mainly used for direct marketing, customer relationship management, advertising, invoicing and applying addressing on pressure seal self mailers, brochures, postcard campaigns, custom personalized digital packaging and more.

DigiPOP custom personalized golf ball sleeves

Personalize Golf Ball Sleeves and More with Relyco DigiPOP

VDP is a direct outgrowth of digital printing, which harnesses computer databases and digital print devices and highly effective software to create high-quality, full color documents, with a look and feel comparable to conventional offset printing. Variable data printing enables the mass customization of documents via digital print technology, as opposed to the ‘mass-production’ of a single document using offset lithography. Instead of producing 10,000 copies of a single document, delivering a single message to 10,000 customers, variable data printing could print 10,000 unique documents with customized messages for each customer.

The returns for variable printing vary from double the normal return at the basic level to 10-15 times the return for fully variable jobs. This naturally depends on content and the relevancy of that content, but the technique presents an effective tool for increasing ROI on marketing campaigns.

There are several levels of variable printing. The most basic level involves changing the salutation or name on each copy much like mail merge. More complicated variable data printing uses ‘versioning’, where there may be differing amounts of customization for different markets, with text and images changing for groups of addresses based upon which segment of the market is being addressed. Finally there is full variability printing, where the text and images can be altered for each individual address. All variable data printing begins with a basic design that defines static elements and variable fields for the pieces to be printed. While the static elements appear exactly the same on each piece, the variable fields are filled in with text or images as dictated by a set of application and style rules and the information contained in the database.

There are three main operational methodologies for variable data printing.

In one methodology, a static document is loaded into printer memory. The printer is instructed, through the print driver or Raster Image Processor (RIP) to always print the static document when sending any page out to the printer driver or RIP. Variable data can then be printed on top of the static document. This methodology is the simplest way to execute VDP, however it’s capability is less than that of a typical mail merge.

A second methodology is to combine the static and variable elements into print files, prior to printing, using standard software. This produces a conventional (and potentially huge) print file with every image being merged into every page. A shortcoming of this methodology is that running many very large print files can overwhelm the RIP’s processing capability. When this happens, printing speeds might become slow enough to be impractical for a print job of more than a few hundred pages.

A third methodology is to combine the static and variable elements into print files, prior to printing, using specialized VDP software. This produces optimized print files, such as PostScript or PPML, that maximize print speed since the RIP need only process static elements once.

For more information on variable-data printing and unique paper substrates (ULTRASEAL pressure seal forms, DigiPOP custom digital packaging, and more) that are ideal for your promotions, visit our website, call us at 800-777-7359, or Email us.