After years of promise, the balance has shifted toward action. Market leaders in banking, insurance, telecommunications and healthcare are now generating statements, invoices and other critical customer transactional documents in color - in far greater numbers than ever before. While the benefits of color print have been documented for decades, the new economics of color print have only recently tipped from black and white to color.

On the expense side, a new and emerging category of printing devices can generate personalized color documents at significantly lower per-page costs. Technology offers new levels of integration, streamlining workflow and increasing productivity. Plus, significant savings are realized by reducing postage and by eliminating pre-printed paper stocks, promotional inserts and the accompanying inventory management.

On the revenue side, companies have capitalized on the high open and read rates of transaction documents by adding relevant, data-driven offers and promotional messages. By coordinating the look and feel of color print and digital communications, firms have improved the overall customer experience. New content dashboards have put marketers in control of one-to-one messaging in ways that provide for direct measurement of response and ROI.

Together, advances in hardware, software and workflow engineering combine to offer advantages to organizations that choose to harness the power of color print.

The Advantages of Digital Color Print

The market consensus on color is clear - it changes the effectiveness of communications:
-ª Color helps to enhance brand recognition.
-ª Making messaging "pop" not only strengthens calls-to-action, but can reduce error rates by making instructions clear and easy to follow.
-ª Color graphs and charts often convey concepts more quickly and effectively than text alone.

In a March 2010 survey conducted by Leflein Associates and commissioned by Pitney Bowes, 69% of the 1,500 consumers surveyed indicated that they would be more likely to open a mailpiece with color text and graphics before opening a plain white envelope without messaging.

While the transition to high-volume color print has been slow in coming, industry analysts at InfoTrends now predict that inkjet technology will ultimately be a "big success in production printing."

Understanding the Dynamics of Today's Inkjet Technology
Practical Pricing
Once out-of-reach, high-speed, cost-efficient color print is now a reality. How much have prices changed? According to InfoTrends, the cost of digital color print today is a mere fraction of what it was in 1995 when color copiers and printers were introduced. In the last 10 years alone, digital color costs have declined by 75%. This puts digital color costs far closer to that of black and white - and in range to challenge the costs of offset color print.

High-quality Print
Advances in digital technology have enhanced quality even as price points have declined. A good example of this is the new digital print technology which enables high-quality digital print even on standard paper stock.

The simpler one-step digital color print process offers a host of benefits. Eliminating the pre-print stage makes print production more efficient, more flexible and creates economies that aren't always considered in the total-cost-of-print equation by: eliminating/reducing pre-print inventories; eliminating/reducing pre-print color inserts; and eliminating/reducing forms management costs.

Productivity and Workflow Integration
Color print has now been fully integrated with database management, print stream engineering and mail creation - providing a seamless, end-to-end workflow.

Earlier, we mentioned the profound difference that a combination of color, personalization and prospect-level messaging can have on the effectiveness of customer communications.

Workflows can be consolidated too. Mailpieces, inserts included, can be created and assembled together, increasing the efficiency of mailpiece production processes and getting communications to market faster.

One of the biggest differences afforded by digital print is the ability to group print runs in new ways. Instead of being constrained by the need to organize runs according to the pre-printed forms and/or inserts involved, digital printing can switch seamlessly between form types and inserts. As a result, mailpieces can be generated in order to capture postal efficiencies, make better use of envelopes as part of the communications package and/or "household" communications for a better "single face to the customer."

All of these efficiencies are all the more important because, together with effective use of color and messaging, they enable businesses to increase revenues.

Maximizing Transpromo Opportunities
Transpromo, or the integration of promotional messaging and materials into transactional mail, has become a major focal point for marketers and mailers in recent years - and with good reason. Transactional mail generally requires action by the customer, so it is significantly more likely to get opened and read. When it comes to transactional mail, therefore, customers are a captive audience, and this is an ideal opportunity to present promotional messaging knowing that it will be seen.

Adding color maximizes the impact of promotional messaging, leveraging the opportunity presented by these most-opened, most-read documents. And digital print stream engineering enables businesses to incorporate "on-serts," pinpointed messaging printed in color directly onto current transactional documents and envelopes.

Integrated Tracking and Measurability

Going digital provides opportunities for tracking and measuring results faster and more accurately than ever before.

-ª User interfaces are designed with ease-of-use in mind. Directions are clear, straight-forward and logical.

-ª Marketing dashboards provide quick snapshots of communications and their performance - and these can be presented by product, customer type, geography and more to help marketers gain better insight into performance among different segments.

-ª Content management tools help to automate the process of creating one-to-one, data-driven messaging that fully reflects complete customer relationships and can coordinate and bundle communications on different company products and solutions.

Moving to color is a smart move in today's economy. After all, digital color print is the way of the future - that's where today's print-industry research and development dollars are going.