- Enterprises of all sizes understand the need for diverse messaging. The reason for this is obvious—their customers want choices!
- According to research by Keypoint Intelligence, personalization was the most important factor that prompted consumer respondents to notice a piece of direct mail.
- In today’s multi-channel world, businesses must be prepared to communicate on every front.
By Colin McMahon
Since the dawn of the digital age, all of us have heard the “print is dead” prediction in analyses and other commentary. Although this statement has an element of truth, it has been largely exaggerated. Print’s days of channel dominance are most certainly over, but it remains a powerful means of communication. Digital is here to stay, so it is more important than ever for printed communications to be fresh and innovative. Well-positioned personalized print can generate higher engagement rates and stronger revenue streams, even in today’s digital world.
Print’s Role in a Multi-Channel World
Terms like “multi-channel” and “omni-channel” are becoming increasingly prevalent. Although there are slight differences between the two, they refer to a common idea—communicating with clients or customers through more than one avenue. Organizations today are increasingly shifting their marketing and communication strategies to become more multi-channel.
Businesses routinely communicate via multiple channels, including direct mail, e-mail, SMS/text messaging, mobile apps, and social media. Even in today’s new, more complex landscape, direct mail is still important and must be leveraged properly. Enterprises of all sizes understand the need for diverse messaging. The reason for this is obvious—their customers want choices! People want to communicate on their terms, but these preferences will vary from one customer to the next. Ultimately, however, all consumers are demanding freedom of choice and consistency across channels.
Think about receiving a piece of direct mail vs. receiving an e-mail. The latter can be deleted almost instantaneously—its convenience is a positive as well as a negative. Because the average e-mail message occupies the recipient’s attention for such a short time, there is little chance that the consumer will remember it. Direct mail, by contrast, is not so immediately disposable. Even if the recipient is completely disinterested in the mail piece, it will likely hold their attention for longer than a digital piece.
Direct mail is also the less cluttered channel. According to research from Keypoint Intelligence, consumers receive 3.5 times more digital messages than printed messages in a typical week. Although direct mail is certainly in no short supply, a printed marketing communication is more likely to stand out and engage the recipient at a deeper, more sustained level.
The Importance of Personalization
Personalization (i.e., designing products/promotions to specifically reflect an individual’s preferences) has been shown to be the most effective way to motivate engagement. According to research by Keypoint Intelligence, personalization was the most important factor that prompted consumer respondents to notice a piece of direct mail.
Figure 1. Factors that Prompt Consumers to Read Direct Mail
N = 1,472 Consumers in the US and Canada who read/review printed direct mail before throwing it out
Source: Annual State of Marketing Communications Consumer Survey, Keypoint Intelligence 2020
The desire for personalization is perhaps an unforeseen byproduct of the digital age, coupled with what has been made possible through recent technological innovations. Today’s consumers have become accustomed to storefronts and newsfeeds that are personalized to their preferences. Whether through near-field communication (NFC) tags, augmented reality (AR)-enhanced paper, or just localized print marketed campaigns, print service providers can leverage the power of personalization to make their products infinitely more captivating for consumers.
While the arrival of certain consumer data protection laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Protection Act have made collecting personal data a bit more regulated, PSPs still have access to a plethora of information that can be used in their personalization efforts. Some of the best data to acquire from clients involves demographic information. This knowledge, which includes things like birth date and home/business address, is relatively static. As such, a piece of direct mail that arrives on the recipient’s birthday (and includes a birthday greeting with a related discount or promotion) will likely prove far more successful than a generic communication.
In today’s multi-channel world, businesses must be prepared to communicate on every front. Most importantly, the delivery of those communications must align with consumers’ unique preferences. It should also be remembered that multiple channels can be used to support one another. For example, that customer who seems completely disinterested in regular direct mail might get really excited about printed mail that is tied to augmented reality or NFC experiences on their smartphones.
The digital landscape has made it possible to collect an unprecedented amount of information, but the elements that matter remain the same. Personalization makes it possible to deliver exactly what the customer wants via their preferred communication channels.
The Bottom Line
The advent of the digital landscape has changed the communication world forever. Even life-altering events like the COVID-19 pandemic will not cause print to reclaim its previous dominance as the primary communication channel. That said, print remains an essential part of the overall communications mix. Even in today’s digital world, PSPs understand the benefits of printed messages. They tend to command more engagement time than digital messages, and many consumers continue to enjoy receiving relevant printed communications. The Internet is an enormous landscape that grows bigger by the day, but print can be leveraged to help navigate that world. It can cut through the clutter, serving as a map to tell consumers where to go and how to take advantage of various offers.
Coupled with personalization, print can become even more effective at accomplishing its mission. Print providers with highly personalized print packages will be better positioned to propel themselves toward success.
Colin McMahon is a Senior Editorial Analyst at Keypoint Intelligence. He supports most of Keypoint’s Production services with podcasts, blogs and other types of deliverables. A graduate of Concordia University, Mr. McMahon is a published author, avid researcher, and enjoys working with the latest in imaging hardware.