Product Customisation Key to Competitive Advantage
The modern retail market is more competitive than ever. Bespoke, custom products stand out from the crowd, and labelling technology is at the core.
Step into any high street retailer or log on to an online store, and whatever it is you are looking for, there is one thing you are guaranteed to be faced with: Choice, and plenty of it. From bars of chocolate to bottles of beer to hand made cosmetics, there is an increasing trend towards specialist products aimed at an ever more precisely delineated target market.
This trend does not just apply to those small, specialist manufacturers. The craft beer market is a perfect example of where small-scale brewers have stolen a march on the large conglomerates. The result? The large companies are following the example of their independent competitors by creating more custom brands that have bespoke appeal.
An identical trend is now appearing in the cosmetics industry, and the printed labels are absolutely key to delivering a custom product that is designed to appeal to a very specific market segment. Inevitably, a more specialised approach means shorter production runs and makes time from conception to shelf critically important.
More information, delivered faster
The days when a manufacturer could design a product, the artists and label manufacturers could create a label and then everyone could sit back for the next 10 or 20 years and watch the money come rolling in are long gone. Not only are label manufacturers faced with short production runs and constantly changing designs, the materials they are expected to use are also subject to variation.
In an age when standing out from the crowd means everything, abnormal has become the new normal when it comes to the shape and composition of the substrates used.
As if that does not provide enough to worry about, there is also the aspect of increasing regulation, particularly in the food, drink and cosmetics arenas. Batch numbers, dates and other coding necessities all need to be worked in, and there is no room for error.
Meeting the challenge with evolving technology
There are three types of printing that have seen significant development in recent years to meet the challenges of the new millennium:
- Continuous Inkjet is a highly versatile solution that can be used for printing on almost any packaging material and with non-standard shapes. The technology delivers a continuous stream of ink, which is separated out into individual droplets in the inkjet printer’s print head. A proportion of these droplets are electrostatically charged. The droplets go through a deflecting electrode, at which point they are deflected, or routed, according to their charge. Those without an electrostatic charge are sent back into the circuit, while charged droplets are delivered to the paper or print medium.
- Laser marking is often used to print bar codes and the like. It is particularly appropriate for use on unusual surfaces, for example where the material is curved or soft.
- Thermal Transfer is one of the most innovative technologies, and is becoming increasingly common. You can read more about the technology behind thermal transfer printing in this article from last December.