By Kellie Garber, Senior Product Manager for Primera Technology, Inc.
There was a time when “manufacturing” was synonymous with “mass production.” No longer. Customers are demanding unique experiences—not just in services, but also in the products they purchase.
Today’s consumers value boutique creations, rare finds, unusual flavors and scents, seasonal or limited-time specials and goods tailored to their interests, loyalties and moods. A whole manufacturing technique known as “mass customization” has evolved in recent years, just to address these kinds of short-run, specialty needs.
Why bother? Because there’s money to be made. Segmentation and customization, it turns out, can be highly profitable. In one Bain & Company study, 81 percent of all executives surveyed said that customer segmentation is a critical tool for growing profits. Another report by IBM Watson and Econsultancy found that customer segmentation was the top priority among marketing, ecommerce and digital professionals.
In 2011, Coca-Cola Australia marketed cans and bottles of Coke, each with one popular first name printed on the label. Over 150 different names were featured in all. That summer, in a nation of just over 23 million people, more than 250 million units were sold. As Coca-Cola proved, personalized products can be a winning strategy.
As a manufacturing strategy, however, “short-run” doesn’t always mean the products themselves are limited—just the reasons for buying. Holiday or seasonal specials, commemorative editions and team/community affiliations are just a few examples of how to entice buyers without changing the product itself.
The key to these innovations, it turns out, is in the label. Create a custom label that captures and celebrates the moment, and incremental sales will follow. To support such opportunities, new types of color label printers, affordable enough to be used in-house, are opening the doors for additional sales—and generating lower costs, higher retail prices and greater profits in the process.
Color label printers, capable of custom output, are helping manufacturers in dozens of categories from wine and beer to specialty foods, gift products, cosmetics, pet products and many others. In-house printers and label applicators offer performance that rivals and even exceeds high-run alternatives.
Quality, for example, is maintained through inkjet processes that deliver up to 4800 dpi resolution. In-house color label printers also support a variety of glossy or matte stock, in multiple label shapes and using scratch- and smudge-resistant label materials. Pigment inks, when combined with polyester or other substrates, provide a highly water-resistant result that is ideal for beer, juices, or other food/beverage products. And because the substrate allows inks to sublimate and become sealed below the surface, photos, graphics, text and barcodes are protected against a wide range of environmental factors.
Cost savings is another advantage. Manufacturers are often saddled with buying thousands, or even tens of thousands, of labels from vendors or service bureaus when only a few hundred are needed. In-house color label printers, by contrast, allow manufacturers to produce only the labels needed, immediately and on demand.
Tabletop color label printers capable of printing hundreds of thousands of labels start at under $1,300, and label applicators that apply 1,200+ labels per hour start at less than $1,600. Given that in-house printers can meet exact production specifications, it’s possible to lower unit costs since no minimum quantities or price breaks are imposed. Obsolete inventory is eliminated as well.
Custom labeling makes it easy to update designs, or create new designs, on the fly. Unique or short-term products get to market faster because labels can be printed immediately—when, where, and in the exact quantities needed—and often commanding a higher profit.
Short-to-medium run custom labels have proven their value time and again. One specialty soap company, in business for over 20 years, found a way to improve margins by purchasing a short-run color label printer. After opening its doors with goat milk soap, the manufacturer expanded into lotions, body sprays, lip balms and other niche products. Using a pigment inkjet label printer, the company is now able to generate extreme quality labels for its new products and scents as needed, at speeds of 6”/second. In addition to saving money, the company is able to print its new labels on UV stock, which ensures vivid color retention on products showcased at outdoor shows.
In another case, a coffee company uses an in-house color label printer to quickly identify its specialty and limited-offer coffee blends. Self-adhesive labels bannering the blend are applied over the top of each bag—many of which are delivered by bicycle.
From wine to water, candles to cleaning products, dairies, greenhouses, gourmet foods and hundreds of other categories, in-house labels can boost sales and improve margins. Your product may be your business; but your label is your brand, your reputation and your primary sales tool. Use it to your advantage with in-house labeling, and greater profits can be the happy result.
Kellie Garber is senior product manager for Primera Technology, Inc., one of the world’s leading specialty printer manufacturers. Its products are sold through Primera Authorized Resellers and Distributors in more than 200 countries and territories.