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Color Migration Market Update

By Gina Ferrara, Senior Analyst

Everything old is new again.  It is a phrase that makes one think about trends in the fashion industry.  But instead of hemlines and platform shoes, I’m thinking about how this phrase relates to print.  Let’s face it.  Printed business-to-consumer (B2C) communications – known as transactional communications – had become the proverbial thorn in the side of companies who generated them. These documents were printed because they had to be, especially if dictated by certain regulations.  When electronic delivery was introduced, print was anticipated to be a thing of the past.  After all…these documents weren’t that pretty to begin with.

Fast forward to present day.  Adoption rates for email delivery have hit a plateau while other digital channels such as mobile, SMS and even social media have become preferred delivery channels for consumers, thanks to technology.  But despite the availability of these digital channels, print is making a comeback and as organizations work to develop an omnichannel customer communications strategy, print has taken center stage.

Madison Advisors continues to monitor the print and mail industry and our Color Print Migration Market Update 2017 is a continuation of our research efforts on the migration from monochrome to full-color print output for enterprise in-plants and service providers. In 2011, our first color migration research report revealed that the use of full color for transactional communications was less than 1 in 5 images. Because the price point for a color image was significantly higher than it is today and investing in color inkjet technology required significant capital, this was not a surprise.  But as our latest research illustrates, transactional communications continue to migrate away from monochrome to full color, just not as quickly as anticipated.  But this is not bad news, because the data reveals that there is room for growth, and with growth comes opportunity.

In 2016, 62% of the 39.78 billion images produced by the participants in our research were monochrome.  For industry-leading color inkjet printer manufacturers, this represents greater opportunity to penetrate the transactional print industry. Service providers who have made the investment in color inkjet can attract more clients, and enterprise in-plants can improve the look of customer communications and potentially bring in work such as marketing collateral that was previously outsourced to a third party.

Color inkjet technology continues to improve with higher production speeds, lower operational costs and better quality of output.  Adding color to transactional communications increases brand recognition and creates synergy between print and digital communications with a consistent look and feel.  Color can be used to improve customer calls to action by highlighting important information in documents, and it can increase document clarity with colorful charts and graphs.  Despite the focus on digital transformation and creating digital experiences as a part of a multi-channel customer communications strategy, it is critical to consider the important role print can play.  For example, print can be used to drive consumers to a digital channel with website information, QR codes that can be scanned with a mobile app, or personalized URLs (PURLs). These “cross-channel” interactions increase engagement and enhance customer experience by allowing consumers the opportunity to engage with a brand through their preferred channel.

In the fashion industry, everything old is new again – but in the print industry, everything old is getting even better.

Over the past two decades, Madison Advisors' industry-neutral expertise enables enterprise organizations, service providers and technology providers to achieve their strategic objectives around today’s evolving customer communications management (CCM) requirements.
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