You probably understand why printing, mailing and shipping are integral components to the multichannel experience that consumers have come to expect. But what about your clients — both internal and external? Are they aware mailing can be just as colourful, interactive and engaging — if not more so — than online communications? Do they know how sophisticated modelling can help marketers target their efforts and measure results in printed channels as well as digital ones?
“With mailing still very much in the mix, companies that fail to make the most of this channel are sub-optimizing their spend as well as squandering the opportunity to have a rich and valued conversation with their clients,” says Kevin Marks, vice president of Global Production Print at BlueCrest. “Creating higher-value communications is all about helping clients identify and target customers and then communicate effectively with them to boost response rates and ultimately profits.”
Creating value for clients requires tapping analytics to make communications more targeted and relevant; reinventing physical communications to make them more engaging; and having access to equipment and software solutions that enable dynamic, personalized messaging delivered through appropriate channels.
The rise of the Internet and growing use of connected devices have led to an explosion of data collection. Beyond “transactional data” that customers supply when they buy a product or service — such as names and addresses — lie oceans of untapped “dark data,” including customer demographics, purchase histories, survey responses, customer satisfaction data, social media inputs and more. Dark data can help businesses understand individual customers and earn their loyalty over the long term.
But even with all the new sources of customer data available, targeting and personalisation remain challenges. “It’s easier today to have insight into who is responding to your campaigns and to identify key target markets,” Marks says. “But it still takes a special effort to predict where your marketing dollars will have the most direct impact.” High-level analytics using dark data can help you predict customer behaviour in terms of what, when, how, where and why they buy.
“Uplift modelling,” also known as “incremental modelling,” allows you to predict changes in individual customer behaviour that occur as a direct result of a marketing treatment. It enables businesses to focus only on customers who will react positively to a message while weeding out those who will buy anyway, will never buy or might even react negatively to a solicitation.
Uplift modelling using traditional statistical programming packages can be a frustrating experience, but automated approaches can significantly increase ROI for customer retention, cross-sell, upsell and other marketing initiatives.
Using tailored information
Whether the communication is direct mail or a transactional piece like a bill or statement, personalised information grabs and holds a customer’s attention. Messaging can be tailored to the customer’s place in the buying cycle, demographics or location. Offers can be matched to customers’ interests and buying habits. Personalised URLs and dedicated Web pages can further drive the customer toward a sale or improve the customer experience. For example, a QR code in a bill could link to a video that explains the contents of that bill to a new customer.
Using variable data colour print, it’s possible to customise virtually every part of a mailing — text, images and backgrounds — with variable, targeted messages. Vibrant, colourful personalised graphics can be based entirely on individual customer data. Variable data print also allows marketers to respond immediately to an opportunity: No press time is spent waiting for pre-printed shells to be ordered, and there are no forms to become obsolete when the content needs to change. Printing in one step is a great advantage when time to market is critical.
Colourful, inside and out
Colour plays an important role in getting mail opened, read and acted upon. Inkjet colour systems have transformed print and mail markets through their high production speeds and lower unit production cost. But many of these systems are cost-effective only for large mailing operations, leaving smaller and mid-size operations to work with monochrome toner systems.
Fortunately, a new generation of high-quality colour inkjet systems is allowing mid-volume operators to move to 100 percent variable data colour printing. These systems allow for a white-paper-in, full-colour-out workflow that eliminates the need for pre-printed forms and allows one machine to do the work of several. They also allow for full CMYK colour at a cost comparable to monochrome systems.
Newer printing systems are also allowing businesses to turn the everyday business envelope into a whole new medium — one that may have the highest readership of any in advertising, because no one discards the mail without first looking at the envelope. In fact, adding colourful and relevant information to the outside of the envelope increases open rates by 250 percent.
“Variable colour makes all communications more compelling,” Marks says. “It enhances messages, highlights important information and allows for greater customization.” Colour graphs, pie charts and sliding scales are best practices for getting your message across quickly. Other technology can improve engagement by allowing you to fold documents in unique ways and include items like loyalty cards and magnets in mailers.
Colour, targeting and personalisation are some of the most important creative tools for enhancing the value of the mailing and shipping channel for your clients. Enabled by the right technology and know-how, these tools can lift response rates and ultimately help you maximize lifetime customer value using your mailed communications.