March 2014 - Print+Technology

print technology emailPRINT + TECHNOLOGY

Print is only one component in today’s complex communications channel, where value is derived from combining media options. According to market research firm InfoTrends, “print plus” is a major driver of cross-media usage. Simply stated, “print plus” refers to combining print with another channel, creating a form of communication that is more effective than using print alone. Over the past few years, a number of new technologies have emerged to make print more interactive. Specifically, mobile has become a major player in the more holistic integrated communications world. Traditional print materials like books can blend in augmented reality for educational purposes, while QR codes can provide links to YouTube videos for product information. Some of the most popular offerings and the underlying technologies in today’s cross-media world are outlined below.

Mobile Codes
Printed mobile codes (e.g., QR codes, data matrices, Microsoft Tags) that can be scanned with a smartphone to display additional content have seen rapid adoption in recent years. The primary goal of these codes is to provide interactivity to the recipient of a printed piece. This interactivity might involve offering additional product information, providing a link to a video, extending an invitation to complete a survey, or providing a discount coupon. QR codes are the most popular type of mobile code. They are most commonly used in brochures, direct mail, and magazines. QR codes are actually facilitating sales in a wide variety of today’s industries. Rather than simply asking consumers to “like” a business on Facebook, these codes capture a consumer’s attention and invite a deeper exploration. They can also serve as helpful “after hours” tools or provide support when salespeople are tied up with other customers.

InfoTrends’ study entitled Mobile Technology: Making Print Interactive found that 24% of marketers considered coupons or discounts to be very effective in prompting consumers to interact with mobile codes. Another 20% of marketers said that the ability to connect to social media was an effective way to prompt interaction with mobile codes.

Clickable Print/Image Recognition
In brochures or catalogues, using a QR code for each product is not always the best option. It is often better to provide product images or additional information via a single QR code rather than placing separate QR codes for each product image. New technologies that address this issue continue to emerge.

clickable image

Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is tough to explain, but it does exactly what its name implies. The example that most people can relate to is its use in televised sports, where computer-generated graphics provide insight into the action. The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time. Augmented reality works by overlaying virtual information onto the real world to “augment” (or add insights) to the experience. In recent years, other great examples of augmented reality have surfaced, including in-store packaging applications, engineering manuals, educational books and games. 

Physical Extensions
While the examples above are based on virtual extensions of printed pieces, some companies are experimenting with physical extensions. The most popular include:

• Web keys: Small USB sticks positioned on paper and can contain any type of virtual information. Web keys are ideal for B2B marketing and other instances where large amounts of information must be distributed.

• Organic Light Emission Diodes (OLED): Organic components (plastics) used in digital displays such as television screens. Although expensive, they have evolved to a stage that they can be used in printed pieces such as magazines.

• Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): A wireless non-contact system in which chips exchange information using radio-frequency electromagnetic fields. RFID is heavily used in logistics and also as a payment system for public transportation. Some smartphones and tablets have recently been equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities based on RFID. This trend is expected to continue over time, further driving developments in mobile payment options.

As mobile technology is now a focal point of consumers’ lives, it is important to seek tools, technologies, and strategies that will help drive revenue. Personalized URLs, QR codes, augmented reality, and physical extensions are all examples of “print plus,” which adds interactivity to traditional print channels. This makes it a more effective medium for communications. Mobile is only going to become more important to consumers over time, so it’s vital 

to stay connected to the emerging technologies that are making print more interactive!

Kaspar Roos is a Director for InfoTrends’ Production Workflow & Custom Communications Solutions Services.