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Dynamic Content vs. Variable Content and What it Means to Design and Production

Chris Van Houtte

As the ability to personalize direct mail messaging to each recipient has grown we’ve found there is an important distinction between variable content and dynamic messaging content.

Variable content consists of chunks of text or images that are swapped in and out of a letter based on basic 1-to-1 matches/lookups from data values representing larger market segments.

Dynamic content takes the normal amount of market segments in variable content and breaks them down even further into target sub-groups based on any combination of demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioristic data. This is where real 1-to-1 communications come to life. Dynamic content consists of not only swapping out content, but modifying formats (fonts, spacing, colors, etc.) based on more complex logic that validates multiple data points identifying specific market segments. It also allows marketers to speak more directly to their audience and tailor a message or offer so that they are specific to their needs and interests. This provides the recipient with a more personal or thoughtful letter as opposed to an obviously generic offer with blanket statements.

The results from using dynamic content can be impressive. For example, a DM News story reported that Robert Morris University achieved a 79% lift in response rates among prospective students by using dynamic content and pURLs compared to its generic campaigns.

With the increased amount of varying text and/or images, the versioning increases dramatically. So while you may have a handful of successful formats or layouts for your letters, they could each contain hundreds of versions within each layout.

Shifting to Dynamic Content Requires a New Mindset

Dynamic content shifts how marketers view their content. Instead of thinking of your marketing as complete letters, marketers should think about effective base layouts or formats and envision elements of content that can either be shared across all letters or remain specific to their many market segments. This requires robust controls and data sets to effectively develop, scale and manage the marketing content.

Intelligently creating and auditing so many versions of individual elements of content, and then tying each piece of content to one or many data values, requires a comprehensive system to prevent additional or redundant efforts (and therefore time). For example, if a marketer wants to modify one element of content, like a Call-to-Action, he or she needs to consider where that version is being used. Since the content can be shared in multiple layouts or communication channels, one edit could show up in other layouts or channels.

Proper Data Organization Makes Dynamic Content and Versioning Easier

Instead of spending numerous hours to build out hundreds of unique letters, a better solution would be to use automated systems that leverage logic (business rules) to select and build content much faster based on correlating data values. These same data values help in auditing each version. Every unique combination of data values will correlate to every unique version of a letter expected to mail. Essentially this audit criteria allows you to apply logic to automate the process of auditing letters and compare iterations of content to validate correct content and ensure all changes are made automatically.

One of the challenges that come with creating multiple versions is having consistent and single sources of data. Some companies build their data manually and in separate files. This not only introduces human error and inconsistency, but also requires extra time to develop and create the various data files. Therefore the number of versions is limited by the amount of time it takes to create the data that would drive each version. Another challenge is auditing. With potentially hundreds or thousands of unique letter versions, it becomes a time consuming task to make sure each version is correct. This is why IWCO Direct recommends and implements audit criteria to help automate the auditing and quality control process.

As you can see, dynamic content can have a tremendous impact on the success of your direct mail campaigns, but it also requires new ways of thinking about direct mail design and production. If you have questions, please let me know.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/08/14/dynamic-content-and-variable-content/
Chris Van Houtte

Author

Chris Van Houtte

Vice President of Information Technology. Graduate of Minnesota State University – Moorhead and IWCO Direct team member for more than 10 years. Favorite award or recognition: Fatherhood. Personal business philosophy: “Patience, listening and a dose of common sense are key to successful outcomes.” Loves fishing and participating in/coaching his kids’ activities. Detroit sports lover – Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Michigan Wolverines.

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