Colour printing shows its worth

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The Independent Online
HIGH-VOLUME computer printers with a 'highlight colour' facility are not cheap - one model costs pounds 143,000. But businesses tempted to avoid this particular piece of techno- wizardry should take note of some research carried out jointly by manufacturer Rank Xerox and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham - which showed that despite the cost, colour printing may quickly pay for itself, writes Malcolm Wheatley.

An experiment was set up to compare the impact of bills sent out in ordinary black and white with that of those using colour highlighting. On invoices, for example, arrears can be highlighted in red.

The authors of the study claim that this was the first time the effectiveness of colour highlighting had been tested in a controlled environment. Council tax payers in arrears on their April and May instalments were divided randomly into two equal groups. One group was sent a reminder notice employing colour highlighting, the other group a notice in black and white.

Apart from the use of highlight colour on phrases such as 'This Is Your Final Reminder' and 'Amount Overdue', the reminders were identical. From the group sent the highlighted reminders, an extra 1,053 payments were received, worth pounds 75,303.

The study convinced the council to buy a printer, and other businesses are doing the same. BT signed a contract in April to purchase six, in a deal worth pounds 1.7m, to produce customer contracts that highlight key information such as order number, order date and the customer's new phone number.

Other business applications are emerging. A research note issued by the Gartner Group, the US consultancy, records higher direct-mail response rates - by as much as 25 per cent.