What is variable data printing

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In this article we focus on variable data printing and its applications. Although there are many applications our emphasis will be primarily from a marketing perspective.

What is variable data printing?

Variable data printing is a type of digital printing which allows the insertion of variable print (e.g. text and images) into a print run. The variations will typically apply to individual pieces or could apply to batches in a print run. The print job itself though operates continuously without stopping and is used in applications such as marketing, accounting (e.g. invoices and statements) and applying customer address labels, etc. Variable data printing is more expensive than traditional/non-variable printing, but only marginally, so the extra cost is well worth paying for due to the considerable returns available. There is also an argument to say that variable data printing is a green initiative and less wasteful, in that it will target and focus print runs and eliminate unnecessary mailings.

The opportunities presented by variable data printing

Here are some examples of print management opportunities made available through variable data printing:

  • Address labels – at its most simple variable data printing can be used to add a unique address to every item in a mailshot campaign, these labels can also be applied directly to envelopes to make eye-catching designs
  • Code printing – variable data could print a QR code or unique voucher code particular to each customer or group
  • PURL – a personalised URL could be printed, this is traceable to each individual customer and will bear a unique identifiable URL to monitor if they respond to a campaign

Variable data printing enables personalisation

Personalisation is important to modern day direct mail marketing and is one of the reasons that direct mail has surged in popularity in more recent times. Direct mail campaigns are personalised by data, which is inserted into the print run as explained. The data will be from various sources, e.g. CRM, social media, past invoices, telemarketing, etc.

Personalisation could:

  • Print data relating to past items viewed on a website, or maybe print related/similar products
  • Display local based information, e.g. a map, the address of a local store, etc.
  • Send a reminder for a shopping cart abandonment on an Ecommerce website
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Using variable data printing for transactional print and mail

Another great benefit of variable data printing is that it can be used for transactional print and mail too. While this type of print and mail isn’t a primary marketing or money-making tool such as with direct mail, it is still absolutely crucial in the business process. This is especially so for retaining customers through the building of a personalised relationship.

Transactional mail is essentially mail that is used to complete some kind of transaction with a customer, and doesn’t necessarily need to be a monetary one. Transactional mail includes things such as:

  • Sending out invoices, statements or collection letters
  • Confirming a recent transaction with a customer
  • Thanking a customer for their continued loyalty
  • Notifying a customer of any changes to their account, whether this has been made by themselves or by the business


Variable data printing, which can also be utilised with a process called mail merge, allows you to print multiple forms of transactional mail in one print through. Perhaps this is the same piece of mail but directed to different customers, or maybe you are printing multiple invoices and statements which all require different content contained within.

Have a look at these articles relating to variable data printing:

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So now that we have explained the benefits of variable data printing and its role in personalisation it’s time to consider implementing this as part of a future solution. Call 0800 612 1972 to discuss how to make the most of your future variable data print campaigns or complete this contact form for an early call back.


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