Inkjet and Toner: Developing High-Impact Direct Mail

Last updated: 05-30-2021

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Inkjet and Toner: Developing High-Impact Direct Mail

Inkjet and toner are two different printing technologies that bring their own unique advantages to the table when it comes to the creation of direct mail pieces. Businesses that fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of each can make the very best decisions for their own mailing campaigns.

There’s no shortage of print vendors who like to talk about the many capabilities of their hardware solutions. While it’s true that some print technologies are quite flexible, none of them will be ideally suited for every situation. The printing industry is extremely diverse, and there’s even more variety within its subsegments. Direct mail applications represent one of the larger sectors within the print industry. Although mailed communications might seem uniform, they can have multiple variations in color, paper type, and volume quantity.

Inkjet and toner are two different printing technologies that bring their own unique advantages to the table when it comes to the creation of direct mail pieces. Businesses that fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of each can make the very best decisions for their own mailing campaigns.

The advent of the digital age has brought much change to our industry. The proliferation of digital technologies like laptops, tablets, and smartphones has opened up new lines of communication. Email is now far and away the most commonly used communication channel. While it is true that print cannot compete with email in terms of sheer volume, direct mail remains the second most common form of communication. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), roughly 430 million pieces of mail are processed and delivered each day.

Although direct mail may not be as prolific as email, it is still widely used. More importantly, it can help drive engagement in today’s digital era. According to research from Keypoint Intelligence, most consumers reported reading and reviewing their direct mail before discarding it. This was true across all age groups, even the youngest respondents. Perhaps even more interesting, younger consumers were even more likely to read and review their direct mail than their older counterparts. This speaks to the continued relevance of direct mail as a communication channel.

Figure 1. Share of Printed Direct Mail that is Read

N = 1,550 Consumers in the US and Canada

An inkjet printer can be simply defined as any device that prints by propelling (or jetting) droplets of ink onto paper. Inkjet machines are generally less expensive than toner printers, so they are traditionally viewed as an affordable alternative for printing companies that hope to generate content on a budget. For those that are willing to invest in more expensive inkjet machines, however, the quality can be quite good. High-end inkjet devices can produce vibrant color and detail on various paper types, including glossy, matte, photo metallic, and satin.

Today’s consumers receive a lot of direct mail, so it is important for providers to ensure that their communications stand out. Print providers with inkjet capabilities can offer their clients a wide array of professional-looking communications that will get noticed in customers’ mailboxes. Although toner-based devices are faster, inkjet printers can also create documents in a timely manner. Inkjet technology is ideally suited for producing short-run mail campaigns that can grab attention with full color and personalization. As shown in the Figure below, personalized content and color are the top factors that get consumers to read/engage with direct mail.

Figure 2. Factors and Techniques that Make Direct Mail Stand Out

N = 1,550 Consumers in the US and Canada

That said, inkjet technology has its limitations. Although the machines are generally less expensive than some other print technologies, inkjet inks can be pricier. As a result, print service providers (PSPs) will pay more for supplies in the long run. Inkjet inks can also bleed or smudge if they are not handled properly right after printing. Certain inkjet inks (e.g., aqueous) can also bleed when exposed to water—and this is a problem that is frequently encountered with mail deliveries.

When it comes to producing direct mail communications, there is no single technology that is superior for all applications. Both toner and inkjet have benefits as well as limitations. Inkjet is a great choice for delivering eye-catching pieces that will likely make recipients more inclined to engage.

Although toner-based technologies form the backbone of many direct mail campaigns, they fall short with color production. Businesses that require the capacity to send out mostly monochrome deliverables like bills and statements will likely be better served with a toner device.

Today’s savvy marketers have discovered that they must be masters of multiple printing technologies. As is the case with many other industries, the trick is understanding which technology is best suited for the specific task at hand.

Eve Padula is a Senior Consulting Editor for Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Services with a focus on Business Development Strategies, Customer Communications, and Wide Format. She is responsible for creating many types of content, including forecasts, industry analyses, and research/multi-client studies. She also manages the writing, editing, and distribution cycles for many types of deliverables.


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