What is Variable Data Printing? – A Beginner Friendly Guide

variable data printing

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Variable data printing is a digital printing method that lets you change certain parts of your printed materials – like names, addresses, or even images – without stopping or slowing down the printing process. Unlike traditional printing, which produces identical copies, Variable data printing allows each piece to be customised. 

With variable data printing, you just set up a template and link it to a database that contains all the customer information. The printer then does the heavy lifting. It automatically pulls the right information for each customer from your database and prints unique flyers for each one, all in one go. 

In this article, we’ll cover the working and the key benefits of variable data printing. We’ll also dive into its practical applications and a comparative study on static and variable printing. 

How Does Variable Data Printing Work?

Five steps on how does variable data printing work

Below are the steps that highlight the working of variable data printing. 

  • Data Collection: This initial step involves gathering essential customer information such as names, mailing addresses, purchase history, and preferences. It forms the foundation for personalised printing.
  • Design Template Creation: A design template is created with variable fields. These fields are placeholders that will be replaced with personalised data for each print piece.
  • Integration: The process continues by integrating the collected data with the design template. Specialised VDP software automates this merging, ensuring accuracy and customisation.
  • Printing: The customised pieces are produced on a digital press. Modern digital presses can efficiently handle complex variable data printing jobs, maintaining high quality across all pieces.
  • Quality Check and Delivery: A quality check ensures that all personalised elements are accurate before the final product is distributed. Once approved, the customised print materials are delivered to their intended recipients. 

Static Printing vs Variable Printing: A Comparative Analysis

Comparison table between Static Printing and Variable Printing

While exploring printing technology, we encounter two distinct methodologies: static and variable printing. Static printing offers uniformity across all outputs, whereas variable printing introduces a dynamic element, tailoring each piece to specific needs. 

This comparative analysis aims to shed light on their respective advantages and disadvantages, engaging in the intricate details of these printing paradigms.

Static Printing
Variable Printing
There is no customisation; every print piece is identical.
High customisation: each print piece can be tailored to the individual.
Same content for all recipients.
Content varies per recipient, including names, addresses, personalised messages, and more.
Lower engagement due to generic content.
Higher engagement due to personalised content that resonates with the recipient.
Lower initial cost for large runs without changes.
Higher initial cost due to customisation, but potentially higher ROI through targeted marketing.
Use Case Example
Printing 10,000 flyers for a general store sale, where each flyer is exactly the same.
Printing 10,000 direct mail pieces for a retail store, where each piece includes the recipient’s name and offers based on their purchase history.
Ideal For
Static document and mass marketing campaigns where personalisation is not necessary.
Direct marketing campaigns, CRM activities, and transactional documents where personalisation can significantly impact response rates and customer satisfaction.

Advantages of Variable Data Printing

Seven benefits of variable data printing

Here are some benefits of variable data printing. 

Enhanced Personalisation

Variable data printing tailors each print piece to the individual, using their specific data like names, preferences, and past interactions. This customisation enhances the connection between the brand and the recipient, making the communication more relevant and engaging. 

Personalised print materials are more likely to capture attention and be remembered, building stronger customer relationships.

Increased Response Rates

Personalised print materials generated through variable data printing typically achieve higher response rates than generic materials. By addressing the recipient’s unique interests and needs, these customised communications are more engaging and compelling, leading to increased interaction and action from the target audience. This effectiveness is reflected in improved outcomes for marketing campaigns and customer outreach efforts.

Improved Customer Engagement

Customisation through variable data printing fosters deeper engagement by creating print materials that resonate personally with recipients. This approach captures attention more effectively and encourages a stronger emotional connection to the brand, enhancing customer loyalty and interaction. 

By making recipients feel valued and understood, variable data printing plays a crucial role in building lasting customer relationships.

Faster Turnaround Time

Integrating digital printing technology with variable data printing allows for rapidly producing customised materials. This efficiency significantly reduces the time from design to delivery, enabling businesses to react quickly to market changes and customer needs. 

The ability to produce personalised print materials on demand ensures timely and relevant communication with the target audience.

Greater ROI (Return on Investment)

Variable data printing contributes to a higher return on investment by enhancing the effectiveness of print marketing campaigns. Personalised materials are more likely to engage recipients, increasing response rates and conversions. This targeted approach maximises the impact of marketing budgets, yielding better results and financial returns compared to standard printing methods.

Versatility in Marketing Campaigns

Variable data printing offers unparalleled versatility, allowing for customisation across a wide range of print materials, from direct mail to promotional items. This flexibility enables businesses to tailor their marketing efforts to various audiences and objectives, enhancing the effectiveness of campaigns across different channels. 

The ability to personalise content and design for specific segments increases the relevance and impact of marketing communications.

Efficient Data Utilisation

Variable data printing leverages customer data effectively, transforming it into personalised marketing messages. This process ensures that valuable data collected from customer interactions and preferences is utilised to its fullest potential, creating print materials that speak directly to the recipient’s interests and needs. 

Businesses can significantly enhance the relevance and effectiveness of their communications by making data-driven decisions in the customisation of print materials.

Where is Variable Data Printing Used?

Eight key areas where variable data printing is used

Variable data printing finds its application across a wide range of industries, enhancing customer engagement, personalising communication, and streamlining operations. 

Below are key areas where VDP is extensively utilised:

  • Direct Marketing and Advertising: Variable data printing transforms direct marketing campaigns by creating highly personalised mailers that resonate with the recipient on a personal level. This includes targeted promotions and event invitations tailored to the recipient’s interests, past behaviours, and preferences, leading to increased engagement and higher conversion rates. 
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): In CRM, variable data printing enables businesses to send personalised loyalty cards, updates about rewards, and targeted surveys, thereby enhancing customer loyalty and strengthening relationships through relevant and appreciated communication.
  • Transactional Documents: Variable data printing elevates the utility of transactional documents such as invoices, statements, and appointment reminders by incorporating personalised details. This customisation turns routine communications into opportunities for further engagement and brand reinforcement.
  • Financial Services: The financial sector leverages variable data printing to create personalised transactional documents like bank statements and policy documents, improving customer communication and engagement with tailored information.
  • Healthcare: Variable data printing is employed in healthcare for patient communications, including personalised health plans, appointment reminders, and educational materials, making the information more relevant and specific to each patient’s needs.
  • Education: Educational institutions utilise variable data printing to produce personalised materials for students, including customised course materials and event invitations, enhancing the educational experience and alumni engagement.
  • Retail: Retailers use variable data printing for loyalty programs, customised packaging, and targeted promotional materials to personalise the shopping experience and foster brand loyalty.
  • Events and Hospitality: This sector applies variable data printing in creating personalised event invitations, tickets, and promotional materials, offering attendees a unique and tailored experience.


Through these diverse applications, variable data printing proves to be a versatile tool that enhances communication effectiveness across various touchpoints. This makes it an invaluable asset for businesses and organisations aiming to connect with their audience personally and positively. 

Make Variable Data Printing Easy With BarTender Software!

Make Variable Data Printing Easy With BarTender Software

Efficiency and accuracy are paramount in the dynamic world of variable data printing. BarTender software emerges as a comprehensive solution, streamlining the creation and printing of labels with a level of ease and flexibility that transforms operational capabilities. 

Here’s how BarTender simplifies the variable data printing process, making it accessible and efficient for businesses of all sizes.

  • Versatile Label Creation: BarTender enables the design of sophisticated labels and print materials incorporating images, texts, barcodes, and RFID tags. This versatility ensures that your products are labelled and branded, with every piece of information precisely where it needs to be. 
  • Seamless Automation: The true power of BarTender lies in its automation capabilities. By integrating flawlessly with existing business systems like SAP and Oracle, BarTender automates the fetching and printing data directly from your customer database. This automation extends to triggering print jobs upon specific events, such as the arrival of new orders or updates in your database, ensuring that your labelling process is as timely as it is accurate.
  • Advanced Integration and Control: With BarTender’s REST API and .NET API, you gain unparalleled control over the printing process. These tools allow for custom web application integration and direct interaction with BarTender’s print engine and scheduler, offering a new level of automation and efficiency.
  • Centralised Management: Managing your labelling process across multiple locations can be challenging, but BarTender simplifies it with central management features. It provides a secure, centralised repository for documents, label templates, and other resources, ensuring consistency and compliance across all sites. The software also offers a centralised audit trail to monitor system access and changes, providing complete traceability.
  • Diverse Editions for Every Need: BarTender is available in several editions— Starter Edition, Professional Edition, Automation Edition and Enterprise Edition—each designed to meet different levels of labelling complexity and automation needs. Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, there’s a BarTender edition that fits your requirements.
  • BarTender Cloud: For businesses seeking flexibility and remote management capabilities, BarTender Cloud is the answer. This cloud-based platform brings the power of BarTender to your fingertips, allowing for remote label design and printing management, ensuring operational continuity and efficiency, regardless of location.


Choosing BarTender software from Triton Store equips you with a leading label management solution. It marks a significant step towards optimising your labelling and inventory management processes. With its robust security features, extensive support, and flexibility, BarTender elevates your operational efficiency and effectiveness to new heights.

Discover the transformative impact of BarTender Software on your variable data printing needs. For more information, contact us through our live chat service or explore further by filling out our contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Use Variable Data Printing on?

Variable data printing can be used on various printed materials, including direct mailers, promotional flyers, personalised brochures, event tickets, invitations, reminder postcards, transactional documents like invoices and statements, loyalty program communications, and customised packaging. 

Any print material that can benefit from personalisation qualifies for variable data printing. 

How Much Does Variable Data Printing Cost?

The cost of variable data printing varies based on the project’s complexity, volume, and specific requirements. While initial costs may be higher due to setup and data integration, the potential for a higher ROI through improved engagement often offsets these expenses. 

How Does Variable Data Printing Impact Response Rates in Marketing Campaigns?

Variable data printing significantly boosts marketing campaign response rates by personalising content for each recipient. This tailored approach leads to higher engagement, as customers are more likely to interact with content that resonates with their preferences and behaviours.

Can Variable Data Printing be Integrated With Digital Marketing Strategies?

Absolutely. Variable data printing complements digital marketing by linking personalised print materials with online actions, such as scanning QR codes or visiting personalised URLs (PURLs). This integration enhances customer experience and provides valuable engagement data, bridging the gap between physical and digital marketing efforts.


In conclusion, variable data printing has emerged as a cornerstone in personalised communication, revolutionising how businesses interact with customers across various sectors. 

The effectiveness of a variable data printing project hinges on its ability to deliver tailored messages that resonate with each recipient, ensuring that every piece of communication is relevant and impactful. This targeted approach fosters stronger relationships between businesses and their customers and significantly improves marketing efficiency, ROI and customer retention. 

We hope this article has illuminated the transformative power of variable data printing and inspired you to consider how variable data printing can enhance your business’s communication strategies.

Thanks for reading!

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