EFI Launches MarketDirect Cross Media Software

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EFI recently released a significant rewrite and enhancement to the Direct Smile platform and they have named it MarketDirect Cross Media.  EFI rebuilt the authoring, publishing and management tools on top of the legacy Direct Smile composition tools. This gives users access to all the channels: print, email, landing pages, mobile, and social. This cross media marketing software combines campaign design and campaign automation into one program.

Campaign design features includePrint Media Design

  • VDP
  • Personalized images
  • Mobile sites, QR codes and SMS
  • Interactive customer surveys
  • Templates
  • Themes


Campaign management features includeStoryboard

  • Campaign wizard to simplify creation
  • Storyboard for a graphical view of the campaign
  • Automated reminders and triggers for follow up activities
  • Real-time analytics

According to Aaron Tavakoli of EFI there are two core reasons for the rewrite of the Direct Smile platform:

  1. Provide a more integrated experience.  What that means is the product has the same look and feel as two other major EFI platforms: DSF which is their W2P platform and PrintStream which is their fulfillment platform. There is a cohesive experience when EFI customers are using those three platforms. All three work together and can exchange data.The print workflow includes design integrated all the way to the Fiery and then to the MIS for cost accounting. Every aspect from initial design to the transaction is available on EFI’s W2P storefront and if you want to fulfill that campaign as an element to a set of retail locations that’s possible as well. It’s all integrated and it’s a 360 degree view of the service provider model, which means service providers can create, produce, track and invoice.
  2. Make it easy to use.  EFI spent the last two years making this product easy to use. The built in campaign wizard makes it possible for everyday marketers to build campaigns. Users select from a dozen campaign templates that account for 90% of all campaigns. The system builds all the campaign infrastructure behind the scenes – for example the user simply answers questions like
    1. Do you want to use email with a landing page?
    2. Do you want an inbound landing page from a social site?
    3. Do you want an auto response on a registration page?

In the background EFI builds out the entire infrastructure for the user, users don’t have to create a landing page and link it to the email. Once it’s all built users can customize and then apply a theme.  The idea is that for one’s larger customers  you would have a designer build themesall the branding elements including the look and feel, but you only do that once and then the next time you run a campaign you simply reuse the theme.  You don’t need to re-engage design for subsequent campaigns as the original digital assets are saved as Themes. Themes are simply a digital asset management system that are applied to campaigns enabling a user to run a new campaign in minutes.

MarketDirect is sold as self-hosted model or as a Software as a Service hosted by EFI. There are two package options:

  1. Essential – comes with ability to create campaigns in all channels with unlimited number of recipients. Includes 3 concurrent campaigns.  If you have more than three concurrent campaigns you change to a higher priced subscription.  Pricing starts at $13,800 per year.  Users who commit to 3 or more years get a discount. If EFI hosts the solution there is an additional $3,000 annual charge.
  2. Pro Package – designed more for corporate enterprises that want to integrate with a CRM system like Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce.com and need the ability to manage campaigns through a portal.  Pricing starts $22,800 per year. Users who commit to 3 or more years get a discount. If EFI hosts the solution there is an additional $3,000 annual charge.

There are many software packages on the market for managing campaigns; however, there are only a few that integrate print into the campaign. Most cross media campaign solutions just deal with digital media and leave print as a separate channel to be managed independently.  MarketDirect integrates print as one of the main channels which gives it a big advantage for direct mailers/commercial printers who want to add cross media marketing services to their repertoire. On top of that MarketDirect combines the ability to create personalized campaigns (using DirectSmile technology) with the ability to easily manage the execution of those campaigns all in one package.  The big player in this space is XMPie which also has VDP design and campaign management capabilities.  Now print service providers have another choice and choice is good.

The Journey to Inkjet Printing Hits Another Milestone

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Both in North America and in W. Europe in 2017 over half of the production digital color pages were printed on inkjet presses. The majority of what was printed can be characterized as applications that require low color coverage on uncoated stock which translates to transactional documents, direct mail and books.

inkjet percentage

When it comes to transactional printing and a good portion of direct mail the combination of offset preprinted shells with monochrome laser overprinting has been supplanted with white paper-in color inkjet printing. This transition started in earnest about 7 or 8 years ago and has been going strong since.  This effort has been led by continuous feed inkjet products from Ricoh and Canon.

Another big inkjet application has been short run color books.  The speed and productivity of inkjet combined with low running costs has helped publisher rethink their business moving from a focus on the print cost per book to the total cost per book sold. The industry shifted from print to inventory model to a print on demand model. In this market HP is the clear leader with its PageWide web lineup.

So what’s next for inkjet?

Next up for inkjet is the ability to handle jobs that call for offset-like image quality on standard offset coated stocks. And there is lots of activity underway.

With regards to continuous feed color inkjet, the products aiming at this market include the Ricoh VC60000, Screen 520HD, HP PageWide presses with HDNA technology, Xerox Trivor, and the new Canon ProStream.  All of these presses produce high quality output on coated media.

VC6000ProStreamTrivor 2400-2

The newest continuous feed press in the market is the Canon ProStream.  It was launched in Europe last year at Hunkeler Innovation Days and now the first two North American installations are wrapping up in Chicago this month. The first is at Darwill and the second is at a large web offset shop. The Ricoh VC6000 already has over 50 installations in North America and W. Europe.  HP is of course selling new presses with their new HDNA imaging technology but existing customer can also upgrade to HDNA technology.

On the cutsheet side the Canon i300 continues to make inroads for printing direct mail, transactional and books and owner have already printed over 1 billion pages on these presses. Their new color grip technology is opening up a wide array of media and has improved image quality.

For applications that demand the highest quality the Fujifilm J Press and Konica Minolta Accurio KM-1 (also sold by Komori as the Impremia IS29) are the leading inkjet contenders. Both of these presses offer offset-like quality on a B2 sheet.  Canon has also announced a B2 inkjet press called Voyager with betas starting later this year and they are touting it to have extremely high image quality

Adoption of the technology continues to be linked to inkjet press manufacturers’ progress on the key issues of image quality, media flexibility, and ink and media costs. The latest generation of presses will solve or are very close to solving image quality and media flexibility issues. Costs, particularly inkjet ink costs remain a key issue for full adoption.

Super Bowl Drives Print

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Close but no cigar. My Minnesota Vikings came within one game of playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. It seemed as it was destiny as in the divisional playoff game the Minneapolis Miracle occurred when with 10 seconds left in the game and trailing by one, the Vikings completed a 61 yard pass for the win over the Saints as time expired. However, the euphoria of a last second win versus the memories a many last second losses only lasted one week as they were thoroughly trounced by the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Oh what fun it could have been to play the Super Bowl at home.

The economic impact of the Super Bowl on local businesses is forecast by Rocket Analytics LLC to be $338 Million.  Of that $268 Million will be spent by visitors on retail shopping, hotels, food & beverage, rental cars, entertainment, and ground transportation.  But that still leaves $70 million for a wide variety of services needed to support the game including creating graphics for the venues, and printing programs, signs, flyers, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Printers Invest in Finishing

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More than ever, printers are investing in technology to automate their shops. Order entry and prepress is being automated with web to print software, new digital presses continue to get more productive, and job information is flowing effortlessly through the system. Now that drive for automation is now being directed at finishing.

That helps explain why print service providers are investing in finishing to grow their businesses. Caslon’s survey of print service providers shows the areas where printers are investing to grow their business and for the digital printer segment (businesses who primarily used digital presses) finishing is the top choice with 65% of the respondents signaling a plan to invest. And two other segments, quick printers and commercial printers with more than 10 employees, are also investing heavily in finishing.

Digital Printer InvestmentsQuick Printer Investments Commercial Printer Investments

In the past the typical wisdom was to finish digital printing output offline on the robust finishing equipment made for offset output.  Printers would tell me that equipment designed for digital presses was not robust enough and that tying up a production line with inline finishing equipment just didn’t make sense.  However, the development of new more rugged digital finishing equipment combined with the new paradigm of having finishing equipment that can easily work inline, near line or offline is changing the ROI calculation.  Printers are now gaining the benefits of digital, short set up times and faster throughput, while not giving up production flexibility.

At Print 17, a wide range of finishing devices designed specifically for digital printing output was on display. The full range of devices from inline, near line, offline, or a combination was available. Two that caught my attention were from C.P. Bourg – their Bourg Sheet Feeder (BSF) and the Bourg Sheet Preparation Module (BPM).

The Bourg Sheet Feeder (BSF) can accept collated sheets from any number or brand of print engine stackers and automatically aligns the incoming stack and feeds them to the respective finishing module.

The three key benefits of the Bourg Sheet Feeder (BSF) are :

1. No manual transfer of collated paper sets saves time and money

2. Ultimate flexibility between inline, near line and offline with the Dual-Mode BSF which can produce perfect bound books or saddle stitched booklets in-line while another job is being simultaneously printed offline

3. High productivity with the BSF tandem configuration: automatically switches between 2 BSF units for non-stop production

The Bourg Sheet Preparation Module (BPM) is designed to help automate the creation of perfect bound booklets created from output on digital presses. The BPM converts large parent size sheets with multiple pages printed on them into small individual pages of different formats all in one pass enabling the creation of multiple book formats from media of a single size. So you get the labor savings from automation of the converting process and ability to run multiple book formats inline creating more revenue growth options for the business.

New finishing equipment on the market is not limited to booklet making. Today’s digital presses can connect in some form or fashion to over 250 devices. With the improvements in capability, reliability, automation and flexibility it’s no wonder that printers are investing in finishing.

Ricoh Expands its Wide Format portfolio with addition of EFI® Vutek™ Hybrid Printers

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Since 2004 when Ricoh acquired Hitachi Printing Systems, they have been on a mission to become a world leader in production printing. In a short period of time they have built an impressive portfolio of high speed rollfed inkjet presses and cutsheet toner presses, software (Web to Print, VDP, MIS, and workflow) plus a line of services that include color management and workflow analysis.

Ricoh continues to invest in this market. Just this year they doubled the number of sales reps in the field selling to the production and wide format markets. And of course new products are being continually added to the portfolio.

EFI 16h hybrid printerThe newest additions to the wide format portfolio are mid-level EFI® H1625 and high-speed EFI® Pro 16h wide-format LED printers. The portfolio now includes Ricoh latex roll to roll printers, Mimaki flat bed printers and the EFI®hybrid printers.

The partnership with EFI goes well beyond a simple reseller’s agreement.  It’s a worldwide alliance that Ricoh has with EFI that includes software, DFEs and now wide format printers. On the software side it is a fully integrated partnership that covers just about all the devices offered. With regard to wide format printing, this is a worldwide alliance as well. Ricoh is already selling and servicing EFI printers in Latin America and Europe.

Why partner with EFI? Well EFI is a market leader in the UV inkjet space and their hybrid technology which combines roll-to-roll and flatbed printing is compelling and fits a nice segment of the market.

What enables this partnership to work is the combined skills of both companies makes for a better experience for the customer.  One of the key elements of any wide format printer is the inkjet heads and EFI has adopted Ricoh Gen5 Printheads in this product.  Thus the customer gets the advantage of Ricoh inkjet technology along with EFI’s expertise in imaging science, software science and substrate delivery. (The Ricoh inkjet printheads are also used in Ricoh’s Latex printers and Mimaki flatbed printers.)

In addition, since the hybrid printers are driven by Fiery™, integration with Fiery cutsheet presses is seamless making it easy for plant personnel to run these new hybrid printers and streamline workflow.

And finally, Ricoh will leverage its massive service organization to service these printers giving customers faster response times and more peace of mind.

What’s in Your Mailbox?

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The USPS just reported their results for 2017, (their fiscal year ends in September).

For the year ended September 30, 2017, Marketing Mail revenue decreased $1.0 billion, or 5.7%, on a volume decline of 3.2%, compared to the prior year. The percentage of decline in revenue was greater than the percentage of decline in volume for 2017 due to the April 10, 2016, expiration of the exigent surcharge, which generated approximately $396 million in incremental Marketing Mail revenue in the first six months of 2016. Revenue and volume were also adversely affected by a reduction in mail advertising campaigns by certain large mailers.

This is in contrast to the year ended September 30, 2016, Marketing Mail wherein volume increased 1.1%, compared to the prior year.

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New Ricoh Inkjet Press Product Briefing

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by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, Caslon & Company

Blog PhotoRicoh has a new continuous feed inkjet press out and there’s a PODi Product Briefing on it. Their new RICOH Pro VC40000 fits in nicely between their IP50000 and Pro VC60000 presses.

The RICOH Pro VC40000 is a CMYK plus one optional color, continuous feed, digital inkjet press designed to meet the needs of direct mailers, service bureaus, and data centers who produce tens of millions of pages per month. The innovation in the Pro VC40000 over the IP50000 is in its color uniformity across the page and its ability to print at its highest quality at all speeds. Let me explain why this is important.

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Magazines continue steep decline

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One of the industry’s largest players, Quad Graphics reported third quarter results that showed steady profits, however revenue declined by $50 million or 4.8% versus the same period in 2016. Keep in mind that a printer with $50 million in revenue is a top 100 printer in the US.

Quad didn’t announce where the decrease in revenue is coming from, but I’m betting magazine printing is a big part of the decline. Roughly 16% of Quad’s revenues are from magazine printing. They list Time Inc. as one of their big publishing customers and previous announcements have indicated Quad prints as much as 85% of Time magazine, plus many other titles. Read the rest of this entry »

Manageable and Effective Marketing – Pacesetter Did It and You Can Too

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Remember that saying, “the cobbler’s children go unshod”? I would be lying if I said that our company, Pacesetter Enterprises, never suffered from something similar. We often get so busy working on our clients’ needs that we lose focus on our own marketing efforts. Many times, we would go weeks, even months, without sending out a single marketing piece.

With increased competition and reduced budgets, losing sight of your marketing can be detrimental to your overall sales. We are competing, in many cases, on a larger scale. Our systems need to be streamlined, our branding needs to be on point, and our daily tasks need to directly contribute to the overall goal of the company.

How do we do that on a shoestring budget? How do we do that if our resources are limited? How do we even figure out how we’re different from our competitors? Read the rest of this entry »

Xeikon on a roll.

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After holding the Xeikon Café in Europe for several years, Xeikon brought the event to North America this week in Chicago. While primarily a user conference, Xeikon took the opportunity to add in a press conference and provide new insight on their strategy and positioning.

One of the key positioning elements for Xeikon today is that it is now a division of Flint Group, a large, highly respected manufacturer of inks for the printing industry. The backing of a large, reputable, and successful player removes all the issues surrounding the financial stability of the company, something that has hung over the company for years.

Why is this so important? Caslon research on buying criteria has uncovered the following criteria as the most important and trust in the vendor is one of them:

  1. The buyer can print the desired applications with the necessary image quality. If the press can’t meet the application requirements the buying process ends abruptly
  2. Productivity – the press needs to be able to keep up with demand and at economical cost
  3. Reliability – uptime and the associated service are critical for success
  4. Trust in the Vendor – The vendor has to demonstrate commitment, financial stability, and a roadmap that customers can rely on.

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