Mar. 6, 2006—This is not your father's software. That is what comes to mind when viewing the myriads of options on the market today, with sophisticated features and abilities that, a generation ago, would have been all but impossible to run effectively on a press.
Things like transitioning catalogs to online, searchable documents; creating 3D effects fast and efficiently; and even run lengths in the thousands, with every piece featuring slightly different information, are all possible with today's programs.
Three of those programs are leading the way in developing software that take advantage of the cutting-edge technology modern presses employ. RealRead, XMPie, and HumanEyes all saw an opportunity in the marketplace, and developed solutions to fill holes print shops might not have even known they had.
Uploader Pro 2.0 from RealRead fills a niche in the growing online market. Printers these days are finding that offering digital services is one way to increase their value to clients, however to create a job twice?once for print and one with all the bells and whistles an online version requires?takes time and effort many shops cannot afford to dedicate. That is where Uploader steps in.
The program takes print-ready materials and automatically converts them into catalogs suitable for posting online, complete with features such as page-turn animations, zoom abilities, and HTML links. The software takes a graphical user interface (GUI) approach, making it simple for users to learn and use.
The pages, once converted, can be viewed in any standard Web browser, without large, bulky downloads. Consumers, who seem to expect more content faster than ever before, will be able to access and load the pages quickly and easily.
The Online Appeal
?The virtual world is becoming more and more interactive, offering users rich online experiences for a variety of services," said Yoshi Kitamura, CEO of RealRead. ?We see our Uploader Pro as a way companies cannot only organize information quickly and effectively, but also make their consumers' online activities more appealing."
Random House Children's Books is one client taking advantage of the abilities RealRead offers. The company is using the product for its online book catalogs because of its security and digital protection, as well as the easy user interface.
Previously, according to Linda Leonard, director of new media marketing, Random House Children's Books, the company had to create PDFs of book spreads manually by scanning them internally and posting them onto servers. ?We definitely have experienced increased productivity from our previous system?we had to do less production on our end."
However, while it offers great benefits, this solution is not necessarily for everyone. According to Ms. Leonard, ?One concern is that the link to the RealRead picture book spreads takes customers out of our Web site environment, and the cost is prohibitive. We can't place all of our books in this program due to the high cost of processing each title."
Despite these concerns, she said she would recommend the program to others, with only a few reservations. ?I would [recommend it], but only for companies that don't have an internal system for posting PDFs online. One of the biggest downsides of using RealRead is the cost. It does get expensive and cost-prohibitive to set up a lot of books in the program."
Making VDP Work
XMPie has developed a robust program for creating and producing, both in print and with online components, variable-data jobs. With digital press technology becoming faster, cheaper, and more reliable in terms of quality levels, the ability and desire to create truly variable documents has increased. XMPie sought to fill that need with PersonalEffect.
The solution uses the database a customer builds with information about its clients. That information is merged with variable images, text, and layouts to ensure that each piece is individualized. Further, the variable fields can be set to adhere to a number of different factors, thereby increasing the likelihood that a direct-mail piece will be not only opened, but acted upon.
Toppan Printing Co. America Inc., Somerset, N.J., added XMPie's software to its product lineup, and has seen the benefits from having that additional service on-hand to offer clients. Having a solution the company can show to potential customers to demonstrate the ease of use and the effectiveness of variable data, has allowed Toppan to drive variable-data printing (VDP) in a big way, adding a whole new revenue stream to its shop.
?We talk about the technology a lot, and as a result we have used it to further understand our customers' needs, as well as generate new customers," said Gavin Jordan-Smith, director of marketing, strategic business development, digital services and information technology, Toppan Printing. ?So as a result, the offering has generated considerable results to our revenue as well as new client generation. We have seen a 19-percent growth in our customer base. Furthermore, we believe that coupled with the Xerox print solution we are able to produce a high-quality product that continually meets our customer requirements from a commercial print perspective.
?From a productivity standpoint, it takes us less than 30 minutes (personalized postcard) to one hour to create a fully customized, data-driven data sheet. This translates into savings for our customer," he added.
Toppan Printing is using the software because it wants to see higher response rates and a better ROI for its customers. One job, a campaign for Digitally Cool, a series of events held across the United States in 2005, included personalized posters with response URLs, personalized Web pages, e-mails, event registration, and prize selection. The final numbers showed that with just more than 17,000 pieces either mailed or handed out to potential attendees, more than 5,000 visited the unique Web page, a 31-percent response, and more than 1,300 of the 1,591 who attended pre-registered, a 26-percent response.
According to Mr. Jordan-Smith, ?We are creating [many forms of VDP] and have had numerous successes within all. Some of the greatest applications are the simplest, involving a simple, yet effective, cross-media component with print media. There are two basic reasons to create a successful one-to-one campaign: client retention and client generation. At the end of the day, it is these two main aspects that generate revenue."
A Depth of Perception
Lenticular, or three-dimensional, printed pieces are not new. However, in the past producing them took special equipment and a labor-intensive process to ensure that everything lined up and worked correctly. HumanEyes has changed that. The company's software makes it easy for printers to offer 3D effects without additional equipment. It takes a series of photographs and walks a printer through the process of putting the job together, creating a ready-to-print file on whatever output device the shop wishes to use.
Unimac Graphics, Carlstadt, N.J., saw the potential benefits of having this software on hand and chose to add it to its product mix as a new service offering.
According to Steven Rickett, chief operating officer, Unimac, HumanEyes allowed the company to offer a new service to clients that previously was too labor-intensive to sell. He noted that the number one benefit the company has seen since installing the software is that the ease of use and fast process has made 3D available to all of the firm's clients.
For Unimac, the idea of printing 3D wasn't a huge stretch, as the company has always done a certain amount of work on plastics and other unusual substrates. This is just an extension of that, said Mr. Rickett, noting that the firm has done about 20 jobs with the software so far since installing it last year. Projects have included items such as bookmarks, book covers, and shopping cart ads.
While this software can and does add a new revenue stream to a shop, Mr. Rickett cautions that it is not for everyone. He notes that printing on plastic substrates, which is used to create a movement effect, is not an easy task. Shops with experience and expertise with this type of material will find the HumanEyes process easy to add to their workflow, but for those who have never done this type of work, it will take a bit more time to get up to speed.
There are many options when it comes to software, and at every trade show and industry event it seems like another with the potential to make life easier for printers and clients is coming to market. Those shops who are not afraid to take the plunge will find themselves ahead of the game.