What is Variable Data Printing and Why Should You Use It?

Published July 15th, 2021 by Devteam

Direct mail is a tool that has been in use almost since the United States Postal Service existed. According to the USPS, 58% of the mail Americans receive is direct mail marketing. In spite of that, 59% of Americans report that they enjoy getting mail about new products!

Many businesses limit their marketing to email communications. In actual fact, the response rate to personalized direct mail advertising attracts up to 28 times more lead generation than email marketing.

As we are slowly reopening our country post-pandemic, a direct mail marketing campaign is exactly what you need. Read on to learn how to create a powerful direct mail campaign using Variable Data Printing (VDP).

What is Variable Data Printing?

In the past, companies would send out thousands of sales flyers, business advertising flyers, brochures, and other such printed marketing material. These were often monochrome with few images and were sent out based on a zip code or location. Less than 1% of these generic flyers were actually opened and most of them made it to the trash or the recycling without being viewed.

The benefits of direct mail are, nonetheless, undeniable. Especially since, instead of sending out 10,000 identical mail flyers, postcards or brochures to potential customers, you can now create 10,000 personalized mail flyers, postcards or brochures.

Imagine that you can address your customers personally, using the correct title, name and gender, and details relevant to them such as location. Doing this by hand is time-consuming and the ROI is not significant. Your ROI will improve with personalization, according to Forbes. As much as 84% of consumers reported that it increased the probability of them opening a piece of mail.

Now, there is software that can do this for you called variable data printing. which can use the information you already have in your database on your customers and individualize your direct mail for you! The variable data printing process can use your customer's name, their purchase history, and their demographic category (e.g. married, have children, job title, etc.) to create a powerful direct mail campaign.

One caveat would be not to reveal too much about what you know about your customer. You don't want him to feel uncomfortable about the depth of your knowledge of his personal information. 

According to the Direct Marketing Association, communicating to your customer with two personalized points will increase their value by up to 60%. Using three personalized points will increase their value by up to 125%.

VDP can also target locations with personalized aspects to generate new leads using coupons and other digital resources. You can also use VDP to target clients who haven't interacted with you lately.

Formats For VDP

You can use variable data printing in multiple formats, your imagination is the limit! Your lead and contact data is a resource you can turn to for information that will help you decide the format that is most appropriate. 

Here are some examples:

  • Birthday wishes with a discount coupon
  • Anniversary of their last interaction with a special offering
  • General discount coupons targeted to a specific demographic (e.g. a coupon for diapers to mothers or expecting mothers)
  • Thank-you notes for visiting your premises or interacting with a sales staff member
  • Free gift offers with a purchase
  • Postcards with the customer's name and address
  • New product marketing campaign
  • Upcoming sales or promotions on products previously purchased

Using Your Customer's Name

Adding a name to your customizable digital printing makes that piece of paper about them, not about you. It becomes a direct communication to the recipient. 

The customer's name can be on a postcard, a letter, or an envelope. It should be included in the body of the letter, not just the address line. Political campaigns use this technique extensively.

Using Images or a Map

Monochrome direct mail with just words receives significantly less response than mail with images and/or color. These are attention-getters that can arouse a recipient's interest in a product or service. Don't forget that your brain can process images 60,000 times faster than it can process text.

Maps are also excellent visuals to locate a business or a service. Customers like to know where you're located in an easily identifiable fashion. A simple map can show that your business is within driving distance and motivate them to check it out.

Using Previous Customer Interactions

You have a record of your customer's purchase and interaction history. You can use this data to categorize your customer according to interests and needs. 

Do you have a new product and a group of customers that may be interested in it? Do you have a promotion on a product? With this information you can find exactly the customer that may want these. You could include a coupon or recommendation in their VDP that will trigger their interest and give you a better chance at selling your products.

Using QR Codes and Personalized Landing Pages (PURLs)

A Quick Response code (QR code) helps you direct your customer to a landing page, an online form, or a specific digital content page. The customer will scan the code with a smartphone or another internet-connected mobile device, and it will direct them exactly where you want them to go. QR codes can be included when printing marketing material as more people are using them all the time.

A Personalized Uniform Resource Locator (PURL) or personalized URL is a micro web address you can create that is unique to each of your customers. These are generated by uploading your client list into special cloud software (there are quite a few available) that will produce this micro page for your client with a URL that looks like this: HTTP://

These are very effective as the landing page can address your customer directly. They can include their name and images related to previous purchases or suggestions you may have based on purchase history. You can also track your customer's interaction with your products using this resource which is a huge bonus.

Using Variable Data Printing to Make a Difference

From the blandness of generic direct mail to the power and focus of variable data printing, by now you can identify the multiple benefits of VDP! Changing the text, the images, and adding personalized touches will make the difference between your direct mail marketing efforts landing in the trash or the recycling bin versus getting your customer’s next visit to your business!

For the last 30 years, Arrowmail has been providing top-notch printing, variable data, mailing, and design services. Get a quote from us and launch your post-pandemic direct mail campaign using VDP today!


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