The ability to create brand loyalty with personalized packaging is a key differentiator for digital, says Bondy. He added that SKU proliferation is greater than ever, with a product manager stating that SKU counts have increased 20 fold, from 40 products to 800 due to private labeling requirements.
Minus plate costs, digital printing can serve a vast array of local and regional needs. According to Bondy, a recent survey from American Express found that consumers are buying more locally, and 54% say they support their local economy. Key value propositions of digital printing include the ability to print on demand andjust in time manufacturing, collated sets and versioning, and personalized printing/variable data printing.
“With digital, we can produce labels in the direct sequence we want them to be shelved,” said Bondy. “It used to be okay to just deliver products, but it’s not okay anymore. We need a surprising, enjoyable experience that allows us to get the full value proposition of the product and extend a referral to someone else.”
Digital printing can create labels and packaging that target consumers based on multiple criteria such as age, work, sports affiliation, location, interests, gender, events, etc.
A panel of label converters emphasized that digital printing need not be limited to short runs, though. Simon Smith, managing director at CS Labels, said that his company relinquished its last conventional printing press and hasn’t looked back since. According to Smith, CS Labels once ran a job consisting of 500 million labels, with each label different than the last.
“Digital really has been a game-changer for us as a company,” he said. “We believe in digital and think it has a really great future. We went to Xeikon to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace with price, service and quality. It’s so much more than short run.”
Meanwhile, Catie Manning-Ewald, creative and marketing director at Accu-Label, said that her printing company operates both flexo and digital, but there are some jobs that flexo inherently cannot handle.
“We could not do without digital; we’re that dependent,” she said. “But at the end of the day, you need to find the solution that’s best for you. Digital is the best fit for a lot of the work we do. It has been a lifesaver many of times.”
Digital has also provided an answer to a host of pain points in the labels and package printing industry. Converters are increasingly asked to deal with data synchronization and a complicated supply chain, in addition to the aforementioned explosion of SKUs.
Lisa Gregor, owner of Church Street Brewing Company, runs a small business that relies on the local customer. According to Gregor, “The label is memorable and leaves lasting impression.”
Paul Reilly, in analyzing the industry’s mega trends, implored Xeikon Cafe North America attendees to embrace change and new printing technologies. He also added that current sales forces should focus on needs for their customers that will exist in the future, as opposed to today. According to Reilly, those printing needs will be digitally produced.
“There is little doubt today that the ability to deliver cost-effective, high-quality, short-run jobs through toner and inkjet technology is driving almost every part of our business,” said Reilly. “I think digital is a trend that is going to overwhelm this industry forever.”