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How to Personalize Campaigns with Variable Data Printing


Have you ever received a highly personalized piece of direct mail from one of your favourite brands? What about a wedding invitation that had your name and address inscribed on the envelope? Odds are, both of these materials were made using Variable Data Printing—a technique that customizes print materials to feel curated and relevant to you.

Why Variable Data Printing? Studies show that 63% of marketers agree that personalization increases customer interactions and conversion rates. As consumers, we respond better to information that is specific to us than we do to mass communications. Luckily, Variable Data Printing makes that personalization a breeze to achieve.

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive into the basics:

What is Variable Data Printing?

Variable Data Printing (VDP) is a process that allows you to print large batches of personalized materials all in a single print run. Rather than creating hundreds of digital files with unique data on each (like an address), VDP enables you to use one creative file and merge it with a data source to personalize each piece.

With VDP, you can personalize almost anything on a printed piece, including:

  • Name and addresses
  • Images and logos
  • Location (i.e. for franchises)
  • Colours
  • Special promotions

Take for example the postcards below. The piece on the left is a generic postcard printed in a bulk run without personalization and was likely delivered to everyone in the neighbourhood. While this can also be an effective method of advertising, let's shift to the sample on the right. This piece uses Variable Data Printing to personally address the recipient by name and show her examples of houses sold on her street within the last month. Which ad do you think is more likely to peak Janet's interest?

Variable Data Postcards

How does Variable Data Printing work?

Using a data source like an Excel spreadsheet that’s been exported from your CRM, advanced digital printing technology within a printing press pulls the data and inserts it into a template. Revisiting our wedding invitation example, you might have the basic design of the invitation made into a template, but variables like your guest’s names and address information are then merged into the file automatically with VDP. This prevents marketers from having to do manual and time consuming data merges.

Examples of Variable Data Printing

In a world where 84% of consumers want to be treated like a person rather than a number, Variable Data Printing is a simple and effective way to employ the power of personalization. Here are a few ways businesses use VDP to connect with their customers today.

Appointment reminders

Have you ever received a postcard from your dentist reminding you that it’s time for your annual cleaning? How about from your car dealership when it’s time for an oil change? Using data from your CRM, it’s easy to set up time-based automations that export your lists to be sent off to your digital printing partner.


Many retailers use VDP for upselling to customers post-purchase. Take for example a store that sells hot tubs. After the client’s new purchase is delivered, they send a special offer with 10% off accessories and cleaning supplies. With VDP, they can swap out text and products to make the ad relevant to the customer’s specific model of hot tub.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

The average eCommerce shopping cart abandonment rate is a whopping 68%. Marketers have determined an effective way to entice those customers to come back using VDP. Sending a piece of direct mail that shows the specific items from the shopper’s abandoned cart, they’ll offer a discount code to complete their purchase—a cost-effective way to increase conversions.

There are many creative strategies marketers can use to personalize their direct mail campaigns and increase customer loyalty, retention and revenue with VDP. Want to brainstorm ideas for your business?

Chat with our team at WCD Creative >

Why Clean Data is Critical for VDP

Printers can’t detect spelling errors or false information—they’re simply fed data that’s then merged onto a printed piece. Because of this, maintaining a clean data source is critical to a successful campaign.

Here are a few ways you can prepare your data:

Collect it often and everywhere

    It’s likely that you already have a treasure trove of customer data. For some businesses with more sophisticated CRMs, this data is already maintained and stored in a central location. For others, it might be spread across systems and sources. If you’re collecting information like addresses, names, contact details, purchase history, preferences and other valuable information, make sure to save it somewhere central so you can personalize your customer’s communication.

    Commit to keeping it clean

      Data entry can be messy. If a customer is filling out a website form and that information is then merged into your CRM, the information will stay there exactly as they typed it. Maintaining a clean database means checking for spelling, grammar errors, capitalized text and other details. It also means updating information as it changes to the best of your ability. For example, if your B2B contact moves to a new company, update that information in your CRM.

      Variable Data Printing with WCD

      As one of Canada’s leading digital printing providers, WCD is well equipped to guide you through your Variable Data Printing campaign. We’re also Canada Post Smartmail Marketing Expert Partners—meaning we’re great at designing, printing and distributing direct mail campaigns that are proven to convert customers. Curious how your marketing team can use direct mail to reach ambitious goals? Let’s collaborate.


      3 Ways to Integrate Digital and Direct Mail In Your Next Marketing Campaign

      If you’re a marketer, you know firsthand how quickly the marketing landscape shifts. But as algorithms update and trends come and go, there’s one tried and true traditional marketing tactic that has stood the test of time—and that’s direct mail marketing. In a marketplace driven by digital experiences, direct mail alone may not give you the results you’re looking for. However, research shows that integrating direct mail with more modern digital marketing and data-driven strategies can create powerful campaigns. In fact, people pay 39% more attention to integrated direct mail and digital campaigns than they do to single-media digital campaigns. Just imagine the impact that could have on your campaign results and ROI! TL;DR — Integrating digital marketing and data-informed strategies with direct mail can enhance the effectiveness of both. To get your creative marketing gears turning, here are three innovative ways to merge digital and physical for maximum impact, including: Personalized URLs and QR codes Leveraging data for targeted mailing Syncing email marketing with direct mail 1) Personalized URLs and QR Codes One of the most effective ways to integrate digital marketing into direct mail is by using Personalized URLs (PURLs) or QR codes. These tools create a seamless transition from a physical mail piece to a digital platform. Here’s how it works: PURLs: These are unique, personalized web addresses included in your direct mail piece. When a recipient types this URL into their browser, they're taken to a highly personalized landing page that might greet them by name and offer tailored content or special deals based on their preferences or past interactions with your brand. QR Codes: These are scannable codes printed on your mail piece. While QR codes have been overused in some aspects of marketing, print materials are where they really shine. When scanned with a smartphone, they direct the recipient to a specific web page. This could be a promotional video, a sign-up form, or a special offer. Using PURLs or QR codes allows you to track engagement levels and gather data on your audience’s preferences, which couldn’t be achieved without the digital aspects of the campaign. These methods provide real-time insights on landing page visitors and conversions, so you can more accurately measure the ROI of your integrated marketing campaign. That’s a major win! Using QR Codes on Neighbourhood Mail Neighbourhood Mail™ is one of three categories of direct mail marketing offered by Canada Post. Because it targets generalized neighbourhoods or regions, it’s ideal for mass awareness campaigns if you’re looking to acquire new customers. If you live in Canada, you likely receive Neighbourhood Mail™ often because it is the least targeted and most economical option of the three. Whether it’s your local pizza shop or home hardware store, small businesses often send postcards or pamphlets via Neighbourhood Mail™. To streamline the customer experience, they’ll add a QR code to lead the customer back online without having to type in a URL manually. Next time you check the mail, see if you can find a piece of direct mail with a QR code on it and let us know—do you think this tactic is effective? 2) Leveraging Customer Data for Targeting From your social media accounts to past order addresses—your marketing team is sitting on a goldmine of customer data and insights. Leveraging these insights, you can create highly targeted direct mail campaign lists to significantly increase the relevance and impact of your mailer. Here's how: Analyze your audience Dive into your audience insights to better understand their preferences, interests, and buying habits. This could include demographic data including household income, locations, age and marital status. But depending on the nature of your business, you could also go deeper into things like the type of car they own, whether they like to take winter vacations, or whether they live in an older home. How is all this relevant? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out. Find similar customers Say you own a roofing business and you want to send marketing messages only to areas where people live in older homes that may need new roofing. Or perhaps you’re an auto dealer looking to sell more inventory of pre-owned cars. By segmenting your data to give you a list of customers that have previously purchased these things from you, you can use Canada Post’s Postal Code Targeting services to find similar customers. How does it work? Because you likely have your customer’s addresses on file from past order details, you can use Postal Code Targeting to send direct mail campaigns to postal codes that have similar audience attributes to your existing lists. This method of targeting is based on the old adage, “birds of the same feather flock together.” Meaning, people generally live in the same area as similar people. Imagine if you saw a neighbour getting their roof updated, and days later, you received a direct mail piece that says, “Your neighbour just got their roof done. Now it’s your turn!” with a 10% off promo. Could that level of personalization urge you to take action? 3) Synchronizing Email and Direct Mail Combining email marketing with direct mail creates a multi-touchpoint campaign that reinforces your message. Here’s a simple strategy to integrate the two: Begin with an email announcing a special offer or a piece of valuable content.Follow up with a direct mail piece that delivers on the promise made in the email. This could be a detailed brochure, a sample product, or a personalized discount code.Use a subsequent email to follow up on the direct mail piece, perhaps asking for feedback or offering additional related online content. In this type of campaign, Personalized Mail is your go-to method. Personalized Mail is a one-to-one approach that mails a specific recipient and is personally addressed with their name. This works best for marketing to existing customers or to a list of previously engaged prospects who might already be familiar with your brand. Personalized Mail is often used for scenarios like inviting people to events, soliciting donations, reporting financial performance to stakeholders, or supporting loyalty card programs. Can you think of a time a company sent you a marketing message and followed up with a piece of direct mail? Many leading brands use this integrated method to nurture their audience. Sephora uses this method to market their Beauty Insider program and exclusive discounts, while Questrade uses it to send financial statements to their account holders. This synchronized approach ensures that your brand stays top-of-mind, as recipients encounter your message across multiple channels. The opportunities are truly endless! Curious About Creating a Direct Mail Campaign? Integrating digital marketing with direct mail creates a holistic approach that leverages the strengths of both. The key is to ensure that each element of the campaign complements and reinforces the others, creating a unified, multi-channel marketing strategy. With these tactics, your business can enhance engagement, improve response rates, and drive a higher ROI on your marketing campaigns. To dive deeper into the world of direct mail and learn how to build out your very own campaign, access our FREE 6-Step Guide to Direct Mail Marketing. Or if you’d rather not go it alone, learn how WCD can help you create your direct mail campaign—from strategy to design, printing, mailing and beyond.

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      5 Powerful Ways to Utilize Direct Mail for Your Business

      Do email and social media dominate your marketing strategy? With today’s screen-time statistics, it's easy to overlook the tried-and-true method of direct mail. Despite what some marketers assume, direct mail remains a highly effective tool for businesses to engage with their target audience in a tangible and personal way. With careful planning and execution, direct mail campaigns can yield impressive results and help your business stand out from the competition. Let’s explore five powerful ways your marketing team can leverage direct mail to drive growth and boost your business, including: Generating New LeadsNurturing Customer RelationshipsShowcasing New Products or ServicesDriving Website TrafficRe-Engaging Dormant CustomersOr, dive into the basics of direct mail > 1) Generate New Leads Direct mail can be an excellent tool for generating new leads and expanding your customer base. By strategically targeting specific demographics or geographic areas, you can reach potential customers who may not be as receptive to online marketing efforts. And the real money maker? Personalization—because 84% of consumers say they’d be more likely to pay attention to mail that speaks directly to them. Consider offering exclusive promotions or incentives to encourage recipients to take action, such as visiting your store, redeeming a coupon, or signing up for a newsletter. And don’t forget to include a compelling call-to-action that entices recipients to engage! 2) Nurture Customer Relationships Have you ever received a personalized reminder that it’s time to take your furry friend to the vet? “How nice!” you think, because it feels personal and caring for them to reach out. Direct mail provides an opportunity to nurture existing customer relationships and keep your brand top-of-mind. Consider sending personalized thank-you cards, birthday greetings, or anniversary offers to show your customers that you value their loyalty. By adding a personal touch and making your customers feel appreciated, you can foster long-term relationships and encourage repeat business. Learn how a local business grew with direct mail > 3) Showcase New Products or Services You’re beaming with pride over your new service offering—so much so, you want to shout it from the rooftops! Direct mail allows you to communicate with the people who matter most [your customers] in a visually appealing and informative way. Use high-quality images, engaging copy, and compelling offers to capture the attention of your target audience. Whether you're launching a new product line, introducing an upgraded service, or announcing a special promotion, direct mail can help you make a memorable impact and generate excitement among your customer base. 4) Drive Website Traffic Direct mail isn’t a one-and-done deal—it can and should be used alongside digital channels to drive the best engagement. A study by Canada Post shows that integrating direct mail with digital tactics in a campaign increases brand recall by 40% and makes consumers 39% more likely to pay attention. Include QR codes, personalized URLs (PURLs), or unique coupon codes in your direct mail pieces to encourage recipients to visit your website for more information, or to make a purchase. This integration of offline and online marketing channels creates a seamless customer journey and enhances the overall effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. 5) Re-engage Dormant Customers Direct mail is a powerful way to re-engage with customers who haven't interacted with your business in a while. How? First, segment your customer database based on their purchase history or engagement levels, and then send targeted direct mail pieces that reignite their interest. Consider offering exclusive discounts, sneak peeks of upcoming products, or personalized recommendations based on your customer’s previous purchases. By showing them that you value their past support and want to rekindle the relationship, you stand a better chance of bringing them back into the fold. While digital channels continue to evolve and play a vital role in your growth strategy, direct mail remains an effective and impactful tool to add to the marketing mix. Remember, the key to success lies in creating targeted, personalized, and visually appealing direct mail campaigns that resonate with your audience. So, don't overlook the power of direct mail—it may just be the missing ingredient in your perfect recipe.

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      Case Study: Home Renovation Business Grows with Direct Mail

      How a Calgary-Based Home Renovation Business is Growing with Direct Mail Over the past few years, the home has taken on an entirely new meaning. For many of us, it’s where we’ve spent the majority of our time working, resting, and enjoying leisurely activities with loved ones. As we adapted to spending more time at home, businesses were also pivoting. They needed new ways to interact with customers that stretched beyond the brick-and-mortar experience. Business owner Brett Murphy can attest to that. Brett’s Calgary-based business Custom Roll-Out Drawers helps homeowners revitalize their space and “learn to love their home again” through custom renovations and storage solutions—from cabinet refacing to countertops, closet organization, and more. Since the company’s inception in 2003, its marketing strategy has mainly focused on exhibiting at home shows in Calgary and surrounding areas. As the pandemic set in and events dwindled, the company needed another way to attract new customers. “Over the past two years, home shows have been few and far between. We needed to look at other options for lead generation, so I went back to what I know works—direct mail." How Direct Mail Has Advanced Over the Decades Brett first learned about direct mail advertising through his father’s house cleaning business over 20 years ago. During that time, the process of targeting customers was complex and time-intensive. “Before Canada Post had Precision Targeter to segment households to mail to, we would purchase Statistics Canada information on neighbourhood demographics so we could pinpoint our target market,” says Brett. At that time, the family outsourced printing and would then spend hours counting and bundling their direct mail pieces—up to 3,000 pieces a week—before handing them over to Canada Post for delivery. “We would roll six-foot maps out across a table and highlight the neighbourhoods we wanted to target.” Today, Custom Roll-Out Drawers can segment their audience with just a few clicks. Using Canada Post’s online Precision Targeter tool, Brett can select up to three audience attributes from a list including household income, age, family structure, type of dwelling, and other demographic and behavioural data points. From there, he can narrow down his audience by geography—whether it be by the municipality, postal code, or even a specified drive distance from his shop. Finding Success with Direct Mail in Calgary Since mid-2020, Brett has been working with WCD to run a series of direct mail campaigns now totaling over 45,000 pieces. As Canada Post Smartmail Marketing Expert Partners, the WCD team manages the graphic design, printing, mail preparation and delivery to Canada Post—saving Brett valuable time. Targeting a series of postal codes that match the company’s ideal customer profile, Brett strategically drops mailers to the same households multiple times throughout the year—a tactic that increases brand recall and the likelihood of conversion. “I’ve had people call me and they’ve held onto two or three of my postcards, so I know it can take a few touchpoints before the customer will reach out." “So far, the direct mail campaigns have successfully replaced the leads we were getting from home shows. We will return to events when they come back, but we’ll also continue our mailers so we can double our volume of leads,” says Brett. “Canada Post’s Smartmail Marketing program can be turned on and off almost instantly, and it’s quite cost-effective. The flexibility and targetability offered by direct mail marketing works amazing for our business.” For small business owners, investing in marketing that is cost-effective and provides a great return on investment is so valuable. Custom Roll-Out Drawers is now gearing up for their next direct mail campaign and hopes to return to exhibit at home shows in 2022. To learn more about their business, visit www.rolloutdrawers.com. How Can Your Business Get Started with Direct Mail? Ready to learn more about how your business can achieve its marketing goals with direct mail? Learn more about direct mail marketing on our website, or download our free eBook: The 6 Step Guide to Direct Mail Marketing below.

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