On a personalization note…

Aaron Tavakoli, Senior Product Marketing Manager

On product teams, it’s easy to get carried away with the technology and products you’re developing and overstate their benefit or impact. Most technology categories in the printing industry are, after all, relatively mature – with a comprehensive set of features and capabilities, software development isn’t always about flashy new capabilities. In many cases, you’re improving functional aspects of tasks and workflows that are already supported, so product releases aren’t necessarily like a new iPhone® launch!

However, there are some very exciting developments in the web to print arena that continue to drive true product innovation and lend themselves to changing the way our customers solve THEIR customer’s problems. None more so than the area of VDP (Variable Data Printing), where the technology is used to solve one of the most significant communication problems we have today when competing for customers – attention span. Attention is currently the hottest commodity in today’s information-overloaded world, and one of the key aspects to improving engagement and audience attention rates is personalization.

Personalization isn’t a new concept in print; VDP software has been around for many years, and together with digital presses, promised to change the way we communicate. However, while there has been much progress, it’s only been larger organizations that have been able to operationalize the tools effectively. Complex template building and programming requirements, coupled with data integrity and formatting issues and unintuitive UX meant that many mid-sized and smaller businesses have been largely locked out of the benefits.

When we built SmartCanvas – those were the very challenges we were looking to address. SmartCanvas is a free module that every single MarketDirect StoreFront customer gets access to, which makes it incredibly simple to create, publish and most importantly, modify and build documents online. Content owners can author documents in Adobe® InDesign and publish directly to SmartCanvas – determining which elements should be locked and which the print buyer can modify, change or add to. Images, text, and page elements can all be changed. Simple logic can drive formatting rules which modify layout based on the content included. And for the print buyer, using SmartCanvas products couldn’t be easier and requires nothing more than a browser.

SmartCanvas is in use in thousands of MarketDirect StoreFront customer sites, driving document personalization worldwide every day. Recently, EFI expanded on this powerful tool with an upgrade that again changes the game. SmartCanvas VDP now enables print buyers to customize and create their documents online quickly and easily and upload data to the personalized template to personalize thousands of documents quickly and easily.

What’s unique about the workflow is the idea that the customer can first modify and customize the template and then merge data with it in the next step. Traditional workflows only permit single record manipulation of the template. Printers can enable their clients to create versions of branded materials, and select from pre-uploaded data, or upload new data to personalize the content. It’s a compelling solution that enables printers to offer robust personalized marketing services to almost ANY-sized businesses.

There’s much innovation on the horizon; we know our customers are always looking for new ways to drive engagement and provide differentiated services for print buyers. In addition, as digital marketing costs rise and digital fatigue continues to erode the value, there’s a renewed focus on print, especially as a component of a multi-channel approach. For more information, contact your EFI representative.