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Finding the Full Potential of Variable-Data Printing

(October 2015) posted on Tue Oct 20, 2015

Personalized and printable, Big Data isn’t just for the tech geeks.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Other data languages have been developed for VDP work. In the late ‘90s, the Print Initiative of the Print on Demand Institute combined the efforts of a number of big vendors including Canon, Kodak, HP, and Xerox to create an optimized data-friendly rendering. The result was Personalized Print Markup Language (PPML), still used extensively for very high-speed data merging in applications such as mail-order catalogs and specialty high-value promotions.

Going beyond the design programs, many RIP manufacturers offer VDP options for their software. Besides merging data and images, they can render and merge barcodes, QR codes, and Data Matrix Codes from the file. They also offer the ability to edit and specify output and nesting. Furthermore, since the work is being done inside the RIP software, the resulting files will be optimized for output, color management, and data.

What’s Next?
In order to make VDP a valuable asset, you must understand how it, and you, fit into the bigger picture. Even though VDP has been around for more than 20 years, I feel we’re just at the beginning in specialty graphics. Right now, we’re only skimming the edges of the technology’s potential with simple data merges. The future lies in how multiple, unrelated databases will be filtered, tested, sorted, and merged, going well beyond the work we’re doing today.
To get a picture of what this might look like, consider a large print provider that works with a national home improvement chain of big-box stores. The client is very concerned about maximizing the sell-through of inventory at each location. Their problem is that geographic and demographic variances make each store’s sales unique. Moreover, weather differences by region affect the types of projects that can be done by customers depending on where they live.

The ideal scenario for the client and the printer would be to analyze the sales data for the entire network of stores to determine what is moving and what needs to be featured, discounted, couponed, or coded at each location. The printer would receive a master data file telling them which images and messages are to be printed for each store, customizing the P-O-P merchandising and graphics not just by location, but also by real-time marketing objectives.


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