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Getting started with programmatic print

How ready are you to move into Programmatic Print?

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What is Programmatic Print?

In the age of automated marketing, Programmatic Print is gaining traction as a concept that delivers the emotional impact of individualised print with the immediacy of digital marketing, with compelling commercial results for brand owners.

If you’ve read about ‘Programmatic Mail’ or ‘Programmatic Print’ – perhaps in our previous article ‘Why you need to know about Programmatic Print’ – you’re possibly wondering if it’s an area of potential growth for your print business?

We recently published our own detailed report on growing consumer fatigue with digital communication. (You can follow the link to download the report for yourself.) This shift away from digital, combined with the need for brand communications to cut through and provoke a response from the target audience, points to a bright future for Programmatic Print.

Simply put, it’s a contemporary personalised marketing solution that combines the best attributes of digital and print marketing. Real-world examples of Programmatic Print in action show that, by reaching consumers with relevant, targeted information when they are at their most receptive, engagement is deeper, leading to higher response, increased sales and enhanced brand loyalty.

This gives the brand owner clear performance metrics for their print marketing, making print a measurable element of the marketing mix with a proven ROI.



Simply put, Programmatic Print is a contemporary personalised marketing solution that combines the best attributes of digital and print marketing.

Finding your point of entry

But, as a print service provider (PSP), how do you assess the opportunity and find a point of entry into this area of promotional print?

Your starting point is to do your background research and grasp the principles of marketing automation – the driver for Programmatic Print. There’s a huge amount of information freely available online from specialist software vendors like HubSpot, Marketo and so on.

Essentially, it works like this. As the digital print provider, in a Programmatic Print workflow you become an extension of the brand owner’s data-driven automated marketing ecosystem.

Powered by the consumer insight extracted from the brand’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and using the most up-to-date customer information, the marketing automation software may choose to trigger a piece of printed collateral rather than a digital communication.

So at given touchpoints in a customer’s online travels, print is automatically selected as the most appropriate channel and the work enters your workflow for automated digital print.

Personalised print coming off a printer

Potential to transform

In its fullest sense Programmatic Print goes a significant step further than programmatic mail. It brings into play the full gamut of promotional print beyond direct mail: brochures, catalogues, magalogues, customer magazines, brand books, customer newsletters, and so on. All produced in real time and delivered to the consumer in a 48-hour window.

For you, the PSP, Programmatic Print has clear potential to transform how you win and process work, because the marketing automation platform is ‘selling’ for you, pushing individual jobs directly into your automated digital print workflow. Sounds appealing, right?

If you have automated workflows and production in place — maybe you produce a lot of transactional print — you can already see the shape of your own Programmatic Print solution.

Marketing automation software is inherently designed for seamless integration, so while it’s not exactly a ‘plug and play’ scenario’ it’s very feasible to build onto your digital print production workflow.

Your next step is to investigate the situation with your own customers. For example, ask:

  • Do they have a CRM system?
  • If they do, what are they using it for?
  • If they’re gathering customer information, are they making the best use of it?
  • Have they invested in marketing automation? If so, what solutions do they have?
You also need to ask questions of yourself:
  • How ready are we to make a move into Programmatic Print? Are our current systems automated enough?
  • If not, what steps do we need to take to be ready?
  • Which of our customers are most suited to adopting a Programmatic Printing approach?

Personalised print coming off a printer

The “Triangle of Expertise”

Remember, you’re not alone in this. At Canon we talk about a ‘Triangle of Expertise’. You, the PSP, are at one corner. At the other are your customers. And the third corner is us, the technology solutions provider. Our role is to bring you and your customers together to identify the opportunities for Programmatic Print and create a plan to exploit them.

With the right technology solutions provider you have access to real knowledge of what’s happening in the wider market. Not only the applications, but how to make them work. Not only the digital printing solutions, but the combination of data analytics, workflow and software solutions that are just as essential.

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