By Gina Ferrara
When email started to gain popularity, organizations that generated transactional communications, such as statements, bills, policies, and letters, focused their efforts on increasing adoption rates for electronic delivery. When electronic delivery adoption rates started to increase, the unanticipated downside was the lost opportunity to communicate effectively with customers, which also impacted marketing.
Documents that were available electronically were simply a PDF version of the printed document, not the entire contents of the envelope. This meant marketing inserts were not included in the electronic version. Second, open rates for electronically delivered documents were much lower than that of printed communications, which meant consumers were not viewing critical communications. If the documents contained TransPromo marketing messages—now referred to as on-statement messaging—they too were missed.
Electronic delivery was a high priority for companies that wanted to eliminate or reduce the costs associated with print and mail; however, customer experience was not top of mind. Advances in technology over the last several years have provided consumers numerous channels to interact with their favorite brands and because of this, marketing departments have created omni-channel campaigns designed to utilize different digital touchpoints—such as email, mobile, SMS, and social media-—to reach customers.
Above: XMPie, a Xerox Company, provides software for cross-media, variable data one-to-one marketing.
Advancements Revitalize Mail
Thanks to all this technology, consumers are inundated with digital marketing messages to the point that we no longer see them and email inboxes are loaded with unopened mail. This is not to say that technology is bad from a marketing perspective. The silver lining is that technology has fostered a renaissance in direct mail marketing as marketers now have enhanced design and personalization capabilities to create multi-touch omni-channel campaigns.
According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), direct mail still pulls a higher response than any digital direct marketing medium. In fact, response rates range from about five to nine times greater than that of email, paid search, or social media according to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA)/DMA 2018 Response Rate Report. The DMA also reports that 70 percent of Americans say “snail mail” is more personal than the internet, which means that being personal is still important in marketing.
Marketing professionals know about the importance of good data. The challenge is aggregating and storing it in a single database where data analytics and business intelligence tools can access it and put it to good use. The ability to use data intelligently to hyper-segment and target a specific population of consumers with messages that are personal, relevant, and timely is critical.
Consumers are more receptive to direct mail since it is a less cluttered channel compared to email and other digital media. There have been studies conducted on how direct mail affects the brain and why it is more impactful to the consumer. According to a poll by the DMA in 2014, 70 to 80 percent of consumers opened most of their mail, including what might be considered “junk mail.” The bottom line? Direct mail works. According to the report published by Millward Brown and Bangor University, Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail, the tangible aspect of direct mail leaves a deeper footprint in the brain.
New delivery channels, such as mobile applications, social media, and SMS, give marketers the opportunity to contact consumers in a variety of ways. According to research by ListGiant, by reaching out to customers on multiple channels, they are 400 percent more likely to respond.
A lot of focus is paid to the millennial generation—individuals born between 1982 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As the largest living generation in the U.S., millennials have surpassed the baby boomers and represent about 25 percent of the U.S. population. This generation grew up with the internet and is often referred to as “digital natives.” Millennials have tremendous buying power, according to Accenture, and are projected to spend $1.4 trillion by the year 2020, thus the reason why marketers are specifically targeting them.
Millennials prefer customized experiences and seek brands that offer a unique experience, more value for their money, and great customer service. Customer experience is weighed heavily in their overall perception of a brand, since this is a generation that prefers experiences over things. Millennials may start an interaction in one channel and complete it in another.
Millennials do respond to direct mail, despite the perception that they are constantly glued to a mobile device. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), 47 percent of millennials check their mailbox every day and 77 percent pay attention to direct mail advertising, says Lending Science. Marketing campaigns that combine print and digital together appeal to the multi-channel preferences of millennials. To create engaging direct mail pieces for this generation, incorporate multi-media and digital through the use of quick response codes or augmented reality to link the mailer to a video and interactive materials on your website or social media site. Other enhancements to printed material, such as texture, are appealing and stand out.
It is important for marketers to consider all channels through which customers prefer to communicate. Communication preferences tend to be influenced by age, and shaped by the experiences of each generation. Your organization may offer multiple channels through which customers may interact, but all channels will not be embraced equally.
Don’t Rule Out Print
Print is still an important communication channel. It is a consistent and reliable channel of communication with less competition for attention in the postal mailbox versus an email inbox. However, printed and digital communications do not have to follow separate paths—they can work together. One way to do this is to use printed communications that drive to a digital channel; increasing consumer engagement by creating interactions through multiple channels. While digital channels provide easy access on any device; print offers a sense of credibility. It is a double win.
USPS Informed Delivery and Visibility
Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility are the latest innovations from the USPS that can help marketers turn every interaction into action by combining digital content with physical mail to increase customer conversions. With the Informed platform, the USPS is able to provide the right data, at the right time, to the right people, who can make business decisions and accelerate their customer experience strategy. Since its launch in 2017, 10,000 rich-content campaigns have been generated using Informed Delivery. At a rate of 500,000 new Informed Delivery subscribers per month, marketers should take advantage of this opportunity.
Informed Delivery allows marketers to submit an image that is associated with a mail piece’s electronic preview that a consumer receives. This image can link to a URL and fulfill a call to action with a single click. It also allows multiple campaigns to be associated with a single mailing at one time. This gives marketers the ability to customize content, such as supplying a clickable coupon that can be used with online storefront purchases and a physical coupon used in store—both of which are meant to increase consumer engagement and sales.
Informed Visibility is another innovation from the USPS that provides almost real-time visibility as mail travels throughout the mail stream. By providing insights like individual household delivery times, marketers gain insight into how well campaigns are working. From a retail perspective, direct mail pieces can be timed to arrive just before the busiest shopping times. Marketers also send follow up communications via other channels in relation to the timing of a particular mail piece.
Long Live Print
Print is not dead. Rather, it is an extremely valuable component in an omni-channel marketing strategy. By creating synergies between print and digital through the use of the USPS Informed platform, marketers can increase consumer engagement and enhance customer experience.
Despite the decrease in USPS mail volumes over the last decade, print will never go away. It will experience a renaissance both through the use of color and by combining components that incorporate digital into the print experience. dps
Gina Ferrara is a senior analyst at Madison Advisors. Connect with Madison Advisors on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/madison-advisors or on Twitter @madison_advisor.
Sep2019, DPS Magazine