Why does variable data printing cost more?

As you probably have assumed from the blog post title, variable data printing (VDP) DOES cost more than standard printing.  But why? And how much more?

Here is how the VDP pricing structure works at our shop:  there is a data processing fee, a print upcharge, and a handling/bindery fee.

Data Processing fee – This fee is for processing of the data.

On a variable data print job you will supply the main artwork that is common for all pieces and then supply a spreadsheet that includes all the variables.  The variable will then need to be “programmed” into the static art so when the file is being printed the digital machine is pulling data and plugging it into the correct fields.

This data processing fee can be very low for example $50 for just inserting a person's first name on one side of a printed postcard.  OR, it can be thousands of dollars if you have multiple variables (some text, some images, etc) on multiple sides of a product or on multiple pieces of a project. 

Print Upcharge – This fee is usually very minimal 10-15% upcharge to take into account additional spoilage and reduced run speed.

Handling / Bindery fee – This fee can span anywhere from a 10% upcharge to a very significant increase depending on the complexity of the VDP and includes any extra sorting or matching that needs to be done due to the variable data.

For example, lets assume you have a personalized cover letter that needs to be inserted into the front pocket of a pocket folder and the pocket folder will then be inserted into a larger envelope for mailing.  The assembly team MUST ensure that the cover letter (that’s inside the folder) matches the name on the outer envelope.  It would be quite embarrassing to have a package addressed to Jane Doe and upon opening the package it is intended for John Smith.  Yikes!

This sorting / stuffing process requires additional quality steps which will result in a higher cost than just stuffing a generic letter into a generic folder into a generic envelope.  Make sense?

The good news is that according to a Cap Venture study, VDP has shown 36% higher response rates, a 47% increase in repeat orders, and a 25% increase in average order value.  Repeat studies have found that on average, Variable Data pieces generate response rates ranging from 3 to 10 times higher than non-personalized direct mail.