Print’s personalisation revolution has only just begun

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, February 4, 2019

The value of the personalised gift market is expected to reach $31bn (£24bn) by 2021 – up 55% from 2016, at least according to new research commissioned by HP.

It is hardly surprising, then, that more and more printers and brands are looking at how they can get a piece of the action, particularly as the study also found that 70% of shoppers are willing to pay at least 10% more for personalised products.

In a webinar held last month, HP Graphics EMEA brand owner Jose ‘Pepe’ Gorbea said there is clear evidence to suggest that the desire for personalisation is shared by all consumer generations, albeit with millennials and Generation Z leading the charge.

While personalisation is clearly not entirely a young person’s game, to generations that have been brought up online and are constantly bombarded by digital messages, it’s easy to see why more tailored, printed messages can more effectively cut through the noise.

“In the online world, it’s getting increasingly difficult to penetrate the attention of the consumer and to be relevant in terms of influencing them to buy something,” said Gorbea.

Furthermore, in the age of social media and content sharing, people are effectively becoming their own brands. Quite literally in the case of bloggers and YouTubers.

“So many bloggers are taking sponsorship and endorsing products and that can result in sales going through the roof,” says TheMagicTouch managing director Jim Nicol.

“All the major t-shirt players offer t-shirts with no labels in now because people will print their own labels using systems like ours onto the back of the t-shirt and suddenly it’s their own little brand.”

Nicol believes printers could better harness the opportunities created by personalisation.

“Printers have all got existing clients that they know they can get more business from, but are doing nothing about it.

“We know that if people make the effort to make a personalised sample – a notebook or a nice polo shirt with a logo on – and then use this ammunition to recontact their existing clients that haven’t ordered anything for a while, then it’s an easier way to break the ice.”

Roland DG has just unveiled the VersaStudio BT-12, a new machine that it bills as its first direct-to-garment printer for on-demand personalisation.

“It’s clear that society doesn’t want the same as everybody else anymore. The days of ‘me too’ are gone, everybody now wants ‘brand me’ and that’s evident in everything you do,” says Roland DG head of sales for UK and Ireland Rob Goleniowski.

“There’s the ability to customise virtually every part of some cars and people want their own customised phone cases.”

He adds: “More and more, SMEs that wouldn’t have previously put their logo on their own t-shirt or polo shirt are realising that every surface is a marketing and promotional opportunity.

“So tradespeople have quite frequently got their own personalised workwear these days to make them look more professional. And that’s before you start looking at the consumer world where you go to a hen do or a stag do and there are 25 t-shirts with comedy names on the back that have all been produced just for that one weekend.”

Ben Williamson, owner of personalised print specialist Printster, believes the fun element of personalisation is also driving the market growth. One of his company’s latest products – aimed at the Valentine’s market – enables customers to upload a photo of their face which is then plastered over wrapping paper for their loved one.

“As people are innovating new products that are funnier and more unique, I think it’s an industry that’s going to constantly grow more popular,” he says, adding that improvements in technology have also made personalisation more accessible.

“It’s so much easier these days to upload a photo from Instagram or Facebook, whereas years ago the photo would be on your PC and you might have to send it to yourself via email and then upload it.”

Ongoing developments in digital printers have also helped to spur on the use of personalisation and versioning, particularly in areas such as direct mail and packaging, opening up more possibilities for variable data and more tailored, targeted campaigns, and making shorter runs more cost-effective to produce.

More advanced web-to-print systems, meanwhile, have made it easier for businesses of all sizes to enter the personalisation market.

“There’s a huge uptick in interest for personalised products of all types,” says Tony Lock, sales director at web-to-print platform developer Infigo Software.

“You know when you see a personalised tin of Vaseline available that this is coming – I think a lot of brands are now having these conversations. The technology is there today so brands are now looking very seriously at how their supply chains can deliver that.”

He adds: “We’re talking to customers about lots of very interesting niches now – things like luggage, for example. There is a lot of opportunity in niche gifting markets – so you’re not necessarily taking on Moonpig or somebody like that but are looking at a subset into a particular sector, customer or behavioural type.”

All signs point towards the personalisation of print only getting bigger and more commonplace across every area of the industry. And while countless applications already exist, many other potentially lucrative opportunities are continuing to emerge.

“There’s quite a big growth in things like personalised interior decor – wallpapers, bedspreads, curtains or tablecloths,” says Roland DG’s Goleniowski.

“People don’t necessarily want to go to Laura Ashley or Homebase and choose a roll of wallpaper off the shelf now. They have the ability to create their own design and have a unique feature wall in their homes – that’s the sort of thing which is starting to get more and more momentum.”


Personalisation helps brands stand out from the crowd

bondTim Bond, head of insight, DMA

Personalisation has fast become something consumers have come to expect in all the communications they receive from brands. For a customer to find marketing messages truly engaging and useful, they need to be personalised to some degree. Whether that’s in a broader sense of understanding the nearest store that person could visit or a deeper knowledge of the brands and products they tend to prefer.

The demand for personalised print will continue to grow as more and more marketers recognise the need to deliver personalised experiences through the medium, at scale and increasingly at speed. Print remains a unique experience in an increasingly digitised marketing landscape, offering customers a tangible connection with your brand. Digital only really stimulates one or two senses, where print can easily engage three or more.

Print isn’t just for baby boomers either. In our recent Customer engagement – Acquisition and the consumer mindset report we found post was the second most popular marketing channel among consumers of all ages. In fact, younger age groups even prefer to receive mail than older consumers, which may surprise some.

Ultimately, the secret to any great piece of marketing is an understanding of your customer and creativity in how you engage with them. This could involve being innovative with content, execution, strategy, use of data or all of these. I have no doubt that the future will see a resurgence in print as a key part of every omni-channel marketing strategy – personalisation will play a key role in this growth.

Personalisation is one of the most effective ways that brands can ensure their marketing material stands out. But ultimately, it should sit alongside an overarching strategy of putting your customer first. Use data and insights to improve consumers’ experience and interactions with your brand, but always ensuring you’re also respecting their privacy.


How is the personali sation of print evolving?

sumnerRobin Sumner, managing director, Romax

“If you go back 10 years, putting somebody’s name on a cloud on the front of a mail piece was quite unique but now it’s more subtle than that. It’s not about me telling you what I already know about you – your name and where you live – everyone knows that we know that. It’s more we know what your last spend was and we know your propensity to buy. We’ve done a lot of data analysis on you before we send you that piece and then we target you with the most likely purchase route on behalf of our client.”

owersRichard Owers, director, Pureprint Group

“Current demand for personalised communications and products suggests to us that variable content printing could at some point be a bigger part of the print market than fixed content printing. Imaging through digital print onto virtually any substrate is extending what printing is capable of, and with the power of modern workflows and data handling creative communications have entered a new era. As the creative community explore what is possible, we are likely to enjoy an even more stimulating visual and personalised world.”

tolleyJon Tolley, managing director, Prime Group

“From our perspective the personalisation market is growing year-on-year. There are still areas that haven’t been tapped into and we continue to push our R&D for new products and developments. I don’t think there has been any change in the mindset of the consumer, it’s always been there. The recognition of your own name or something that’s personally related to you is far more valuable than something that’s not – it’s a psychology thing rather than anything else. What has changed is the ability to deliver those products.”


© MA Business Limited 2021. Published by MA Business Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, London, SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 06779864. MA Business is part of the Mark Allen Group .