Business challenge

To help its clients enhance their marketing campaigns and increase response rates, Toppan Forms wanted to enable them to improve the targeting and personalization of communications with end-customers.


With LABOLIS, a customer analytics solution based on IBM technology, the company gained deeper insight into customer behavior. Today, targeted campaigns result in higher response rates and more sales.



increase in direct mail response rate, driving new and incremental sales


increase in purchasing frequency helps clients to grow revenues


lower error rate, reducing call center admin and cutting mail costs

Business challenge story

Engaging directly with customers

As well as offering traditional printing services, Toppan Forms provides communications outsourcing services: helping clients communicate better with their end customers. These outsourcing services typically boost the success of marketing campaigns while cutting the cost of back office operations.

Takeshi Ui, Marketing Manager at Toppan Forms, comments: “Our goal is to optimize all forms of customer communications to ensure that they help clients achieve their business goals. For example, we aim to increase the number of direct responses and purchases associated with retail companies’ promotional messages by making those messages as attractive as possible. And to help our clients reduce the burden on call center staff and lower their mailing costs, we tailor application forms to be straightforward and easy to complete, helping to avoid errors and omissions.”

To help its clients get the greatest value out of their communications with customers, Toppan Forms needed to gain a better understanding of customer behavior and responses. “Our aim for the future is that all customer communication—be it promotional or transactional, paper-based or digital—be highly personalized,” says Takeshi Ui.


As a first step towards this more personalized future, Toppan Forms realized that new analytics techniques could help it launch a data-driven creative strategy for its touchpoint communications.

LABOLIS enables us to produce communications that speak directly to individual customers.

Takeshi Ui, Marketing Manager, Toppan Forms

Transformation story

Better targeting through data-driven insight

To gain deeper insight into customer behavior, Toppan Forms developed an advanced customer analytics solution based on IBM Analytics software, which includes in-memory technology provided by IBM® DB2® with BLU Acceleration®: LABOLIS (which stands for LABOratory x LIStening).

Takeshi Ui recalls: “We selected IBM SPSS® Modeler Professional Server/Client as the foundation for LABOLIS because it offered extensive yet easy-to-use predictive analytics and data mining capabilities. The intuitive graphical interface enables users to build an entire ‘knowledge discovery process’ as a stream of icons, making it quick and easy to build and apply new and revised data models. Seamless integration with our existing IBM DB2 database was an added bonus. With IBM BLU Acceleration in-memory technology, we benefit from ultra-fast performance, which helps deliver speedy insights into customer behavior and enables us to take timely action.”

With LABOLIS, Toppan Forms can analyze existing customer data, including demographics, location, previous transactions and responses, email data and web access logs to better understand behavior patterns.

“After preparing the data and adding variables that relate to potential responses, data scientists can build and apply models to the relevant customer lists and sort by probability—enabling us to predict those most likely to respond,” explains Takeshi Ui. “This means that we can send out targeted messages to the most responsive customers and increase the average response rate and return on investment of marketing campaigns.”

Results story

More responsive customers

Today, Toppan Forms and its clients are reaping the rewards of detailed, data-driven insight into customer behavior enabled by IBM Analytics with IBM DB2.

“LABOLIS has enabled us to boost the efficacy of our clients’ marketing campaigns,” confirms Takeshi Ui. “Direct mail response rates have increased by a factor of 1.4, while the frequency of purchasing is 1.2 times higher on average. For one client, we increased the number of credit card subscribers upgrading to gold membership from 1.4 percent to 2 percent. For another, we increased the response rate for uncollected balances from 2 percent to 5 percent by analyzing personal debtors’ demographics, customer communication histories and collection performance to determine which would be most likely to pay.”

Using IBM SPSS Modeler, Toppan Forms is helping its clients move from a basic, demographic view of customers and prospects to an advanced, multi-dimensional view that models engagement, personality types, purchase history, propensity to buy, past and predicted future response rates and more besides.

With deeper insight into how their customers and prospects are likely to respond—and when they want to buy – Toppan Forms’ clients can target their marketing communications to reach the right people, at the right time, in the right way to maximize results. They can also reduce their mailing costs by avoiding sending communications to consumers who are statistically unlikely to respond or who are not ready to buy at that point in time.

Toppan Forms also uses LABOLIS to perform advanced behavior research into how consumers respond to different designs and messages in direct mail. The company employs eye-tracking and brainwave measurements to optimize the design of printed forms and other communications, helping to ensure maximum impact and ease of completion.

Takeshi Ui elaborates: “By monitoring a sample of customers using eye-tracking systems and interviewing them afterwards, we were able to identify precisely how stressful it was to read and complete a sample of application forms. After color-coding sections and changing the design to improve the text flow, we found that the number of fill-in errors decreased from 25 percent to just 10 percent. This benefits our clients—boosting administrative efficiency and cutting costs—by eliminating the need to re-issue forms or make follow-up phone calls. What’s more, the optimization increases customer satisfaction, as they can complete applications much more easily than before.”

Armed with optimized forms and more intelligent targeting thanks to the IBM Analytics solution, Toppan Forms continues to expand the capabilities of LABOLIS around marketing precision with predictive customer intelligence and speed-of-thought analytics. To complement these activities, the company plans to implement IBM Campaign software.

Takeshi Ui concludes: “LABOLIS enables us to produce communications that speak directly to individual customers and provide measurable improvements in response rates and campaign efficiency. With the help of our IBM Analytics solution, we are helping our clients to get closer to their customers and boost the effectiveness of direct mail.”

Toppan Forms

Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Toppan Forms is a leading printing and communications outsourcing company. Operating 23 subsidiaries across East and Southeast Asia, Toppan Forms employs over 11,900 people and reported a net profit of USD64 million in 2015.

Solution components

  • DB2 Advanced Workgroup Server Edition
  • SPSS Modeler

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