An automotive marketing and consulting company is turning to HP’s digital press products to kick its order fulfillment process into high gear.

Marketrend, which provides personalized direct mail services to Toyota Motor

Sales and Lexus, among others, said it was about 70 per cent of the way through a project to migrate its product sets to a Web-based order-fulfillment system linked to two HP Indigo 3050 presses. The firm helps auto makers by creating customized marketing materials, including thank-you messages after a purchase and service reminders, to build loyalty between car buyers and their dealers.

Chris Killarney, Marketrend’s CEO, said the firm is starting to allow customers to log onto a secure Web portal where they can preview and change marketing material which can then immediately be sent to the presses for printing.

Marketrend had typically pulled data from several sources, including dealer management systems, scheduling applications or Web/intranet sites that it hosts for customers, among others. Its portal uses some third-party software but the interface was designed in-house, Killarney said.

Until recently, Marketrend would take requirements from a customer, design the material in a print design shop and then send it off to an outside printer and print a “”shell”” within seven to 10 days. That shell would then come back and be fed through satellite printers or high-speed colour copiers, he said. The Indigo digital printers will allow the firm to take that work back in house and in some cases, he said, fulfill orders within one or two days.

HP is not the only vendor to offer digital presses, but Killarney said he was attracted to the Indigo 3050’s ability to print spot colours. The results so far, he said, are closer to photographs than traditional copies.

“”The ability to represent very closely the quality, the colour and the feel of that communication piece that will transmit into the hands of the prospective customer the ideals you are trying to get across is very important,”” he said. “”It has to be representative of the brand quality and image.””

HP Canada commercial account manager for Ontario Marc Raad said the purchasing decision for digital printers doesn’t usually happen in the IT department but at the VP or CEO level, where some vision is required to see the benefits.

“”Most companies today, they get engaged with their customers, and the security is huge to hold onto,”” he said. “”They’re holding data on behalf of the OEMs . . . they can’t let that out of the door.””

Besides speed, Killarney said the presses will allow Marketrend to offer more flexibility in terms of how it can offer customers. This might include, for example, the degree of customization for the maintenance menus at various Lexus dealerships.

“”The variability, in terms of what we could print, was fairly limited,”” he said.

Marketrend has been offering online data collection for the better part of a year, Killarney said, but the Indigo 3050 will allow it to integrate the online service with the output of what’s printed.

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