Landmark InfoTrends Event Creates Industry Buzz
InfoTrends Group Director Barbara Pellow started her keynote at the Trans-promo Summit, held in New York City on August 22 and 23 by saying, "Trans-promotional applications aren't something like trans-fats that are bad for your health and well-being!" All kidding aside, trans-promo is a hot application area, and the conference validated the strong market interest on the part of service providers and billers alike.
So what is trans-promo? By definition, transaction documents are those direct mail pieces that communicate information about a recipient's transactions. These pieces could be checking account statements, business invoices, credit card bills, or 401K statements. They could even be appointment reminders from your hairdresser, doctor or veterinarian. Transaction documents reflect a relationship where the customer has "opted in" based on doing business with you.
Trans-promotional applications aren't something like trans-fats that are bad for your health and well-being!
Promotional documents are direct mail pieces with a call to action. They typically have a sales-oriented message. The recipient may or may not open the piece based on a combination of the offer strategy and the quality of the creative approach.
Over the past 18 months, a combination of new technologies, postal changes, and market conditions have created an environment where transaction documents like statements, invoices, and notifications are proving effective at generating sales and long-term relationships. Now, companies are starting to use these communications to create ongoing, sustainable customer dialogues that promote products and services in addition to communicating transaction information. This transition is being coined the "Trans-promo revolution."
On August 22 and 23, more than 300 professionals gathered in New York City to learn more about trans-promo. They were an equal blend of issuers of transactional documents, print service providers who either already offer trans-promo or would like to, and vendors that support the effort. This was about 100 more people than InfoTrends expected, especially considering that the third week of August is not the best time to be in The Big Apple, and there was a fairly short lead time on arranging the conference. I was also interested to see some of my colleagues from the traditional printing trade press in attendance, indicating that they see an interest among their commercial print readers in this business area and it is not just transaction service bureaus who can play.
The Summit also featured a table-top exhibit area with many of the hardware, software and service providers represented. Plenty of time was allowed for network and visiting with the exhibitors, and the exhibit hall was lively and dynamic during those times.
During the sessions, we heard from Alan Kuritsky, Vice President of Marketing for the DMA; Mark Clements of the CMO Council; InfoTrends experts who have been following this market for some time; and a range of billers/issuers and print service providers sharing their experiences with the process.
Transaction documents reflect a relationship where the customer has "opted in" based on doing business with you.
One thing is clear: This is a booming market. In fact, InfoTrends anticipates it will grow by a CAGR of 91% by 2010! And the enthusiasm expressed by the speakers as well as the intelligent and probing audience questions, would indicate we are on our way to that type of growth.
As with the early days of variable data printing, most participants in the early trans-promo market are loathe to share specific results; they consider this a proprietary competitive advantage. But they were more than willing to talk about the initiatives they have underway. For example, Dennis McClure, Invoice Marketing Manager for Ford Motor Credit, the world's largest automotive finance company, says Ford Motor Credit is leveraging its monthly customer invoices to share information ranging from promoting owner benefits and corporate good news, all the way to communicating potential offers customers could take advantage of when buying a new vehicle.
"We also want invoice imagery to look more like a direct mail piece over time."
Dennis McClure, Invoice Marketing Manager for Ford Motor Credit
According to McClure, the move to full-color trans-promo statements, done in partnership with DST Output, was predicated on the fact that Ford Motor Credit had maximized the technological capabilities of its invoice format and wanted to get more value out of the invoicing process for its multiple brands. In adopting the new technologies, Ford Credit was looking to increase the statement messaging area, improve statement processing throughput speed, and improve the overall appearance and functionality of the monthly invoices. Another benefit was the ability to consolidate mailings, saving significant dollars on climbing postage costs. McClure reports that the program is meeting the company's expectations in terms of returns. What does McClure see in the future for Ford Motor Credit in its trans-promo efforts? "In addition to more e-bills and links to personalized web microsites, we are always going to want better color and better speed," he says. "We also want invoice imagery to look more like a direct mail piece over time. We will continue to leverage all of the latest and greatest technology wherever it makes sense."
Ford Motor Credit had maximized the technological capabilities of its invoice format and wanted to get more value out of the invoicing process for its multiple brands.
Another great example was from Prinova, a consulting firm that specializes in document design and development. In this case, an extremely innovative and dynamic application was developed by Prinova with health benefits company Humana. SmartSummary is a full-color, fully personalized health finance and benefit statement, which was an industry first. Part of Humana's Integrated Customer Experience, SmartSummary is sent quarterly to plan members to encourage them to view and manage their health care coverage as a financial investment. Effectively using color, images, icons, graphs, tables, and plain language, SmartSummary is easy to read and understand. And this was one of the few where quantitative results were revealed. Humana reports they have achieved:
17% increase in loyalty and retention
52% increase in its private Smart Products membership
3% coupon redemption rate (compared to norm of 1.5%) from personalized coupons
42% shift from brand to generic drugs (typical is 10%) through targeted message campaign
Call center calls for member questions/concerns dropped from an average of 7-10% to less than 3.5%
Call center mean call times reduced by 15%
Credit card migration
Israel-based Oniya-Shapira, one of the largest color digital print sites in the world, with six HP Indigo digital color presses, also shared its experiences with Israel Credit Cards Ltd), an issuer of major brand credit cards, including VISA, Diners Club and MasterCard along with retail credit cards and loyalty cards. Oniya-Shapira had approached the company to suggest that it should use trans-promo communications and full color statements with its VIP customers. Much to Oniya-Shapiria's surprise, the company opted to migrate all of its statements to the new format, resulting in some 4.5 million pages per month of trans-promo statements.
Oniya-Shapiro in Israel prints 4.5 million trans-promo statements each month.
Collaboration & Discipline
One thing was clear, though, in listening to the speakers. Art Plus Technology's Elizabeth Gooding said it best: "If it was a walk in the park, everyone would have been doing this years ago. It takes work, collaboration, discipline and a cross-functional team." She stated her belief that service providers often paint a very optimistic picture and customers are not informed about the true level of effort required. "We do customers and the industry a disservice if we don't paint an accurate picture," she says. Gooding points out that you can have a fabulous statement design, but without the right process behind it to get it through compliance and to follow up on promotions, it can be a waste of money.
You can have a fabulous statement design, but without the right process behind it to get it through compliance and to follow up on promotions, it can be a waste of money.
One of the most telling audience questions came from Chris Lewis of Research Data during the vendor panel. He asked the vendors-- HP Indigo, InfoPrint Solutions, Kodak, Océ, and Xerox-- if they were using their own technology to create trans-promo documents for their own businesses, and no one was able to answer that question with a positive "yes."
Nonetheless, trans-promo is an application whose time has come, and everyone I spoke to at the Summit was excited about the event, indicated that they had learned a lot, and were looking forward to next year's Summit. Wireless provider T-Mobile had a number of people present, and one representative I spoke to indicated the company was on its way to launching its first trans-promo initiative next year. She said, "It is comforting to know that we are taking all of the right steps to ensure that our effort is successful. It has been very helpful hearing from those who have already implemented trans-promo, and learning about both their successes and their challenges."
Service providers indicated that sales cycles are long, though, ranging from six to 12 months, and the implementation can take several months after that. Yet service providers are jumping on board and willing to make the investments. First Data's Vice President Glen Wordekemper stated, "If there weren't excellent results, there would not be companies like First Data spending millions of dollars on infrastructure to do it."
Sales cycles are long, though, ranging from six to 12 months, and the implementation can take several months.
As part of the conference, InfoTrends distributed a definitive white paper on the subject. For readers who were not able to attend but want to learn more, it would be an excellent resource. Additionally, WhatTheyThink hosted an informative trans-promo webinar recently, sponsored by GMC Software Technologies, and the archives are available at no charge.