Bytes Document Solutions, in association with its Xerox Business Partner XBC-IT, has achieved a high degree of success in the South African printing market with the Versant family of high-quality digital production presses. One of these numerous successes was at Midrand-based direct mail printer Color in Mail.
Color in Mail is a leading digital colour printer serving the direct mail market. It was founded by Warren Stanton in 2003 with the aim of bringing colour variable data printing to the direct mail market focusing on meeting customers’ wants and needs. Although true production-level variable colour printing was in its infancy at the time, Warren knew that there would be a market and demand for solutions based on this capability.
The most important element in this market is the capabilities of the equipment, whether it can handle production volumes, colour print quality and, volumes of variable data. This relies on a combination of printing hardware, for print quality, and data handling software to achieve the correct merging of data elements. For Warren, the choice of supplier was made relatively easily, based on the many years of experience which his father, Gavin, had with Xerox solutions in his own company dating back as far as 35 years ago to the time of laser xerographic printers.
For Warren the choice of manufacturer was simple, it had to be Xerox, not only because of the experience that his father had over the years, but also because Xerox was a clear leader in the market. His supplier then, and still to this day, was Xerox Business Partner XBC-IT who, with the support of Bytes Document Solutions (BDS), has assisted and guided Color in Mail through the learning curves and growth which the company has experienced.
Color in Mail specialises in direct mail printing which makes an impact through personalisation and customisation. What this means is that, over and above the use of recipient’s name and address, the images and other data printed are also specific to the recipient. This can be as simple as dedicated text - right through to images specific to the recipient. One of the regular production jobs handled by Color in Mail is a sheet of casino vouchers for members which sees each recipient receiving a set of vouchers created individually for that specific member.
Warren commented, ‘If you look at the length of that particular run it is more than 58000 sheets, however, there are no less than 14000 completely unique combinations of images. Add to this the various values of the offers and the client’s details and every single sheet is unique. This is not something which can be done conventionally, it requires the power of digital printing combined with database management.’
Over the years, Color in Mail has had a number of different Xerox printers and have even used devices from other suppliers but has always come back. Warren added, ‘There is one other aspect which is very important, service. While the equipment has to be reliable and robust, it is understandable that there will be times when service, repairs or other forms of maintenance are required. What sets XBC-IT and Bytes apart is the level of service. They guarantee a four-hour turnaround but it is usually a lot less than that.’
Warren continued, ‘Print is the focal point of our operation and as such quality is extremely important but so is the ability to handle the workload in order to ensure that our clients’ campaigns go out at the right time. We work closely with our clients to ensure the optimal time frames for postal delivery. The timing of the campaigns means that we rely heavily on the productivity and reliability of the Xerox presses. It is for this reason that we depend on both XBC-IT and BDS to ensure that our presses achieve maximum productivity. If a problem does arise we can contact either BDS or XBC and we know it will be resolved promptly.’
With success and growth has come the need for more print capacity, specifically in the colour arena. This resulted in Color in Mail installing the Xerox X1000i press. Following a process of investigating similar machines on the market, Warren determined that the Xerox 1000i was the ideal device for his requirements. While the production speed of 100 pages per minute in full-colour and the duty cycle of up to 400 000 sheets per month were both impressive, it was the capability of the press to print metallic silver or gold and the clear varnish printing which were of particular relevance to Warren.
He commented, ‘The Xerox 1000i appeared more robust than the other devices I looked at the ability to handle quality-enhancing prints using metallic and clear varnish gave it a distinct edge. Metallics, especially Gold have always been difficult to achieve. Gold is almost impossible to accurately emulate using the four process colours. The fifth print station means that we can create true gold. All these enhancements give us something different to offer to our customers – something which they appreciate as it elevates their campaigns.
‘The 1000 was a bit of a stretch for us from both a financial and production capacity viewpoint. However, it offers us some unique capabilities which benefit our customers. We believed so much in what we were doing and what we were trying to achieve that we took a huge leap and major capital outlay to buy the right machinery to handle the jobs we wanted to print.’
The Xerox 1000i joins the J75 and the Versant 2100 colour production presses giving Color in Mail a full complement of new Xerox presses to handle a wide range of work. While the majority of its efforts are aimed at providing full multi-channel marketing services, Color in Mail is able to produce a wide range of printed materials ranging from business cards through to customised and personalised prints on a range of paper-based substrates up to 350gsm.
Warren commented, ‘Although all three of our presses are colour devices, the 1000 is dedicated to full-colour prints. We use the other two devices to handle a combination of black-and-white and colour depending on the requirements at the time.’
He added, ‘Print is obviously at the centre of everything we do, but with the skills we have developed in database management, handling personalised and customised direct mail campaigns, we have expanded to offer a full range of services including printing and e-mailing. We can combine print with electronic communications where a QR code can link the recipient back to a Personalised URL or PURL which is a unique and dedicated landing page for each recipient of a personalised printed item. We believe that there is something powerful about the combination of a smartphone and printed media, they are both mobile, versatile and accessible. They work so well together and makes it possible for consumers to access dedicated marketing collateral at almost any time and anywhere.’
A great deal of information has been produced regarding the response rates of colour over monochrome printing, of personalised over static, however, the addition of a combined print and electronic marketing campaign can further improve response rates. Warren stated, ‘An important part of the service which we provide to our clients is e-mail verification, thereby ensuring that the mails are delivered, along with delivery and read reports so that we know, down to the last recipient, which e-mails have been opened, read and acted upon. We can even link printed campaigns back to those clients to verify whether they have made use of the vouchers which were sent to them or even which vouchers they used, thereby allowing our clients to fine-tune their offers to their customers.’
Warren spends a lot of time educating customers in the corporate sector on the benefits of personalised and customised printing, as well as on the advantages to be gained from a full, multi-channel marketing campaign. As the message gains traction, more corporates are starting to experiment with the capabilities which are available. Color in Mail may be a small company but its entrepreneurial spirit means that even in busy times customer requirements are still a priority. Warren always goes the extra mile to give complete customer satisfaction – meeting the demanding needs in this highly successful niche market.