The installed base of solutions for web2print and omnichannel communications continues to grow and print service providers are taking advantage of the opportunities these solutions provide, both for an improved customer experience and a more efficient workflow (as well as new revenue opportunities). As a result, the companies that provide these solutions are increasingly challenged to add more functionality. I recently spoke with variable data and web2print expert, Kristin Anderson of VDP Success, to learn a little more about some new developments that have the potential to radically change the face of web2print and the way folks execute omnichannel campaigns.
WTT: Kristin, can you start by telling us a little about your background?
KA: I held product marketing positions with Agfa, EFI and Earthweb during the 1990s, and in 2004 joined XMPie as the Director of Product Marketing, where I served in that role for three years before starting VDP Success. I was involved in the initial product launches of many of the XMPie products still on the market today. In addition to product marketing for the full range of XMPie offerings, I was also the marketing relationship manager for Adobe, EFI and others.
WTT: What types of services do you provide at VDP Success?
KA: This business was based on the deep product knowledge and ecommerce/VDP expertise I developed while at XMPie. When I left there, I leveraged that experience into a consulting business and primarily work with XMPie customers. My services typically start after XMPie’s initial installation and training. This includes hands-on training with their implementation to build their demos and get their first storefronts and campaigns up and running. For companies that have implemented XMPie but don’t have enough volume to hire a dedicated resource, I act as an extension of their team, developing and executing storefronts and all media within the omnichannel campaigns. And finally, I act as a subject matter expert, helping them with business development or on customer sales calls in a sales support function. I’ve maintained a very good relationship with XMPie, and am involved in many of their alpha and beta test programs, so that keeps me up to date on the latest developments.
WTT: What do you see as the most exciting new developments?
KA: There are basically three areas where XMPie plays: 1:1 campaigns, in print or multiple media; automated layout to create masters for volume printing; and web2print for self-serve customization and ordering of variable print campaigns and automated layouts. The Cross Media and web2print offerings have been separate applications, each with its own unique benefits. What I am really excited about now is the approaching launch of Campaigns-on-Demand, which will be shown as a technology demo at drupa 2016, bringing the benefits of both together and allowing marketers to customize and order their omnichannel campaigns through the storefront’s interface. In addition, the marketer can view real-time campaign analytics and download up-to-date customer data, all in a self-serve manner. Campaigns-on-Demand is an addition to XMPie’s StoreFlow – its web2print storefront solution combined with Xerox FreeFlow Core for production automation.
WTT: Why is this important?
KA: First of all, good omnichannel campaigns, and the ones that bring in an ongoing revenue stream both for the XMPie owner and the marketer, are run over and over again, with few or no changes. If you are running a series of seminars, for example, you simply change the details for each seminar and basically re-send the same content to the same, or a different, customer list. Perhaps there is an offer that goes to new home owners that gets sent to a different list each month with no changes. Or a routine promotion with a coupon where the product, discount and expiration date change. In the past, in order to update campaigns, a marketer would have to send content changes and data to the XMPie service provider. This would go to both the design and development teams, and get put into their schedules. The team and customer need to review the changes, and the cycle repeats until everything is approved. Routine content changes and data swaps are not very complicated on the XMPie side, but they do require staff trained in XMPie who know where to find and execute those mundane tasks. Think of the difference when the marketer can go in through Campaigns-on-Demand on a self-serve basis and easily make those changes directly, with no need for special skills. This is huge. You don’t need to involve all of the service provider’s staff again, which takes significant cycle time out of the process. Literally, the customer can make those changes in as little as five or ten minutes – at any time that is convenient to them, even if the service provider is closed. With the integration of Circle and StoreFlow, the customer is oriented to the campaign workflow and can preview every page, in every medium, during the customization process to make sure it is what they want. For a “proof,” they can do an end-to-end test run, approve the entire campaign and submit the order. The pURL web site is up and ready to go, the printer prints and mails the personalized postcards (or whatever the printed piece might be), and the drip emails go out per the campaign’s automation schedule.
WTT: What do you think an average lead time might have been before?
KA: A few days to a few weeks, depending on production schedules and customer availability for reviews. Now we are talking 10 minutes. A few days was really great, but ten minutes is better, and there are fewer resources being expended by everyone in the supply chain, which allows everyone to be more productive.
WTT: Aren’t there other solutions out there that can do this?
KA: There are a variety of marketing automation solutions out there, but most don’t do a good job of incorporating print in the campaign. With this approach, it all gets done in one shot. You basically design and implement a 1:1 campaign for the marketer that includes all of the touches and media you want to use, and add it to the storefront. The customer places an order and voilà, their next campaign is scheduled to run. Each campaign in the store can easily be repeated and/or quickly modified.
WTT: What types of campaigns do you see people doing?
KA: An example might be a campaign that runs for months. It might start with a print piece that drives the user to a survey or sign-up form, followed by a timed email drip campaign; that is, after someone visits a web site or pURL, they might get a thank you email or a couple of reminder emails based on the actions they take. You can program all of that up front, and it just happens. And you have access to the analytics all in the same place.
WTT: Who do you see as the primary customers for this?
KA: My experience is that most marketers would like to outsource the programming and hosting of the infrastructure for these capabilities if they can find a reliable partner. And with this new release, they can do that and maintain tight control of the message, branding and launch timeline of their omnichannel campaigns while allowing for some flexibility for variances in contact information, promotional offers, and/or event information from run to run. For those marketers already running campaigns with an XMPie service provider, the addition of self-serve should increase customer satisfaction significantly.
WTT: One of the benefits of web2print for marketers is the ability to set up templates where they can control the brand imaging and messaging, yet allow remote employees, agents or franchisees to customize content to meet their local needs within branding guidelines. Does this still apply in the scenarios you are describing?
KA: Absolutely. It’s great for those types of organizations. Now their agents, reps and franchisees can not only get the marketing materials – brochures, signage, manuals, etc. – they need, but they can also easily execute omnichannel campaigns. And each person ordering can track their campaign’s results directly and immediately from within the storefront, without having to go to a special site, use a separate login, get special permissions, or call a service rep. I think it is going to tremendously accelerate 1:1 omnichannel campaign adoption.
WTT: Is there anything else you would like to say about Campaigns-on-Demand?
KA: I have been involved in the testing program for Campaigns-on-Demand and am impressed by its natural, and elegant, merging of XMPie’s premiere products. As an XMPie developer who has used the existing suite of products for years, I find adding the Cross Media campaigns to StoreFlow very intuitive. The fact that it’s all part of one product makes it very easy to use. As with any Cross Media campaign, the print and web pages are built and tagged using the standard set of desktop tools, the campaign is constructed and automated with Circle, and the analytics charts are created in Marketing Console. The Cross Media campaign can include the full range of XMPie’s capabilities including uImage personalized images, refer-a-friend web forms, and PDF on Demand. The product setup in the storefront is nearly identical to the print-only VDP campaigns; there are only a few extra steps to learn. This is also true for the person ordering the Cross Media product. If they are familiar with customizing and ordering variable print items in StoreFlow, then a simple orientation to the interplay with the integrated Circle workflow chart is all that is needed for them to become self-sufficient.