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Taste For Success

Direct Mail Technology

With direct mail experiencing something of a resurgence, Rob Fletcher takes a look at the latest mailing equipment that could help your company take advantage of this spike in demand

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Delivering the Goods

Forgive me for quoting Paul McCartney’s ‘Live and Let Die’, but “in this ever changin’ world in which we live in”, we have to adapt to change very quickly. Much like secret agent James Bond in the film that the hit song was written for, we are faced with new technologies on a regular basis, some of which can have a major impact on our daily lives.

While 007 had to contend with the rise of evil masterminds like Scaramanga and Goldfinger, the print industry has had to deal with its own challenges, such as the not-so evil email. Not so long ago, e-mail was seen as the death of direct mail, with many brands and retailers turning to the digital communication to connect with their customers.
However, in recent years, we have seen the marketing pendulum swing back in the other direction, with many marketers returning to direct mail to reach out to consumers. While this is good news for print, it has meant that print-service-providers (PSPs) are now under increased pressure to ensure mailing products are of high quality, to help ensure brands remain committed to this form of communication.

Here, we pick out some of the latest technologies that can help your company stay on top of the direct mail wave and keep your customers, and indeed the end-user, happy.

Compact and effective
One firm heavily involved in mailing technology is KAS Paper Systems, which is able to offer a range of solutions to PSPs. Steve Jarvis, UK sales manager at the company, says that while the popularity of direct mail is unlikely to return to the levels we saw 10 or 20 years ago, there has definitely been an upturn in demand in recent years.

“The ease and low cost of emailing has led to overflowing inboxes, high delete rates and a reduced return on investment,” Jarvis says, adding: “Following its decline due to the advent of the internet and increasing postal costs, direct mail has found a new appeal with its tactile nature, physical presence, and strong perceived value compared to e-mail marketing. This has led to higher open rates and calls to action, backed up by numerous studies causing many brands to make it their preferred marketing tool.

Direct mail has found a new appeal with its tactile nature, physical presence, and strong perceived value

“Mailings are often very time-critical, so having reliable and high quality kit is essential. Also, mailings can vary from simply folding and inserting a single page letter into an envelope, through to multiple and variable page letters with barcode reading, selective inserts, document tracking and inserting into DL, C5 or C4. Lower quality equipment may not be able to cope with this range of mailings or offer an upgrade path if mailings increase in quantity and complexity.”

With this in mind, Jarvis draws attention to some of the solutions on offer from KAS Paper Systems, including the KAS Mailmaster Compact envelope inserter, which the company will display on its stand at The Print Show from October 11th to 13th. This entry-level machine can fold and insert a letter with up to two inserts into DL, C5 or C4 at 5,000 envelopes per hour.

KAS Paper Systems will display its entry-level KAS Mailmaster Compact envelope inserter at The Print Show in October

Jarvis comments: “It comes with a price that can often be justified by printers who are only doing two or three mailings per month and can be upgraded with a sheet feeder/collator/folder for multiple page, direct mailings.

“It is constructed to handle large volumes but also designed for easy set up and quick changeover from one job to another, making it equally suitable for short-run work. Three automatic feeders and a hand feed position are provided as standard. The prime document feeder has an integral folder. Two insert stations handle a wide variety of documents.”

Also available from KAS Paper Systems is the C5/DL Mailmaster 565HS, as well as its big sister, the C4/C5/DL Mailmaster 465HS. Both machines are entirely bespoke and offer a multiple sheet, letter feeder/collator/folder with barcode reading, multiple insert feeders, inkjet addressing and document tracking at 7,200 and 5,000 envelopes per hour, respectively.

Also, the top of the range is the Mailmaster Eclipse, which boasts all the features of the smaller models and more, at 8,000 C4/C5/DL envelopes per hour.

The top of the range Mailmaster Eclipse from KAS Paper Systems can operate at speeds of up to 8,000 C4/C5/DL envelopes per hour

KAS Paper Systems also stocks the Mailwrap, a polywrapping solution that Jarvis says is a “step up” from the slower, manual drop-in polybagger, without going straight to a large, high speed polywrapper that he says printers generally do not need and cannot justify.

Jarvis expands: “The Mailwrap, with a relatively small footprint, encloses at 6,000 packs per hour. All KAS machines are renowned for their reliability and durability, with their solid metal construction as well as being as easy to operate and changeover as printers’ finishing and printing equipment.”

Relevant communication

Also active in this sector is AMS GB, which specialises in mailing and packaging solutions. Victoria Christen, marketing manager at the firm, says the resurgence of direct mail is a result of brands, retailers and marketers realising that this form of media is “emotionally engaging” and drives consumers to take action, which in turn creates value.

AMS GB will be in attendance at The Print Show this year to showcase its latest range of solutions to visitors from across the industry

Christen expands: “Postal direct mail continues to be more and more relevant to the way businesses communicate today, especially in multi-channel campaigns to generate customer acquisition and retention. Where marketers were previously put off by postage costs, direct mail has proven to generate a high ROI and when personalised, response rates increase dramatically.”

However, as also highlighted by Jarvis of KAS Paper Systems, Christen says it is critical for printers to invest in the right kit if they are to achieve quality results with direct mail work, and in turn ensure repeat business.

Christen comments: “Where cost and quality have historically been key issues for printers to invest in mailing kits, AMS’ increasing range of equipment and software has made personalised mailings, variable data printing and printing postage paid impressions straight forward to produce and more secure. This ultimately save uses time and money, resulting in improved return on investment.

“The quality of print for postage paid impressions (PPIs), such as the Royal Mail’s Mailmark barcode, is so important as they need to be machine readable.

Low quality print is not accepted. Also, with better quality technology, there are less breakdowns and call out charges.”

Along with AMS’s existing range of envelope printers and envelope filling systems, Christen reveals that the company is about to launch its own Mailmark Verification Solution to help provide mailers with a high level of assurance that the barcode print on each piece of mailing is readable.

Christen says: “Mailmark readability errors must be avoided to minimise high adjustment penalties. The verification solution consists of software and an industrial reader, which takes an image of each barcode, lets users know if it is readable and stores it. Stored images can also be used as evidence if issues arrive with the Royal Mail.”

Christen adds that the system, which can be retro-fitted to most existing printing and finishing equipment, will be demonstrated at The Print Show.

Personalised, targeted

Another company that is able to support PSPs with their mailing requirements is Kern. Peter Jolley, general manager at the firm, says that mail offers a number of advantages that email messaging cannot, and it is for this reason that mailing will remain relevant.

Jolley expands: “In recent years there has been much debate about e-marketing versus direct mail. It is true to say many companies are seeing great results from direct mail in comparison to purely email campaigns. Recent reports suggest that investment in direct mail is a lower proportion of total marketing spend, but not too much can be concluded from this.

“Kern believes that direct mail needs to be specific, personalised and targeted to the audience and when appropriate to that audience in conjunction with e-marketing campaigns. Mail gives some advantages in that generally you touch physical mail longer than you do an email especially if it is personalised to you with relevant content and interest.”

As part of its ongoing commitment to the mailing sector, Kern recently launched the K1600, a machine with auto changeover that Jolley says meets the demands of a modern mail facility in either direct or transactional mail.

He adds: “C4/C5/DL capability aimed at the mid volume market; it has a place not only as a work horse, but also as a quick change over for smaller batch production that, historically, have been relatively time-hungry in comparison to the volume of mail produced.”

Kern can also offer a range of modules with the ability to feed a wide variety of formats, such as thin inserts to booklets. These modules can be fitted to Kern’s current range of equipment and, in most cases, can be retrofitted to the previous range of Kern equipment.

All this talk about direct mail has got me thinking about the humble book of pizza vouchers that often drops on my doormat. During my three years at university, my housemates and I formed quite a collection of these vouchers, as we sought out ways of making our loans last as long as possible.

And this is a habit that has stuck with me today; although nowadays it is vouchers for baby food and nappies. When it comes to emails, they are much easier to discard, with just a few clicks of a mouse or swipes of a screen consigning them to history forever. However, with physical mail, this seems much more valuable and, as suggested by some here, personal, with consumers more likely to take notice.

O Factoid: Historians believe that the first recorded letter was sent by Persian Queen Atossa in around 500BC. However, the first stamped letter was not sent until the reign of Queen Victoria in 1840. O

So, with direct mail making a comeback, is it time for your company to invest in new mailing kit to ensure you can cater for the demand of your customers, pizza vouchers and all?

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