On Wednesday, my colleague, Matt Shanahan, provided an overview of his PRINT 17 experience. During the show, he led an IWCO Direct operations team exploring enhanced technologies that will drive even more efficient and effective direct mail production for our clients. While the ops team was taking a deep dive into technology, I spent my time at PRINT 17 listening to economists, strategic planners, and industry leaders to get a better understanding of the trends that will be driving the print and mailing industry over the next few years.
This year’s show reinforced a common theme we’ve been discussing over the past few years on SpeakingDIRECT: The print and mailing industry hasn’t been an analog industry for quite a while. We’ve become a provider of data-driven services deeply integrated into today’s multichannel marketing campaigns.
Direct Mail is a Critical Component of Multichannel Campaigns
Barb Pellow, group director with Keypoint Intelligence (formerly InfoTrends), observed that direct mail continues to be “big business,” citing a recent Winterberry study showing $46 billion was spent on the channel in 2016. She observed that direct mail is an important component of direct marketing, but noted that integration with other channels is critical. She described the typical omnichannel marketing campaign as using three different media channels.
Andrew Paparozzi, chief economist with Idealliance, described the future of the print and mailing industry as “personalized, integrated, communications programs” that complement print and mail with digital experiences. He said it’s about integrating capabilities to help clients communicate more effectively with their customers and prospects. While this means we may see a diminished role for print as a standalone medium, we will also see an enhanced role for print as part of integrated multi-media communications. Paparozzi went on to observe that communication channels are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive.
Both Pellow and Paparozzi commented on the growing importance of making all marketing communications (including print and mail) more personalized and relevant. Pellow cited studies showing that, while consumers like mail, they want to be treated as individuals. As consumers, we have come to expect increased relevancy in marketing messages that can be driven by the use of data analytics, and we are less responsive to non-personalized messages. Paparozzi predicted that technologies for capturing, linking, analyzing, and sharing data will continue to grow, creating new opportunities for personalization.
Connecting Print to Digital and Back Again
Matt Swain, group director at Keypoint Intelligence, commented that while the future of multichannel marketing involves connecting print to digital channels, it also involves connecting digital channels back to print. He highlighted recent U.S. Postal service efforts, such as Informed Delivery, as examples that tie the two together. He also described a recent experience moving to a new internet provider as disjointed, reflecting the many internal data silos maintained by the supplier. One example of the provider not having a full corporate view of his business was the many print and digital messages he received welcoming him onboard, all with different salutations and renderings of his name. Swain ironically noted, “Nothing makes you feel like a valued customer more than being addressed as ‘Dear Valued Customer.’”
Pellow cited a 2016 InfoTrends study showing more than three-quarters of marketers responding considered delivering more personalized print communications to be important or very important. She said marketers should focus on leveraging direct mail as part of improved cross-channel customer communications experiences. Paparozzi made a similar point, saying service providers need to understand the current communication needs, options, and preferences of our clients’ customers―as well as how those preferences may change in the future.
My biggest takeaway from PRINT 17 was that print and mail have a bright future, but it’s a future firmly anchored in data and multichannel marketing campaigns. Looking for guidance to help plan your next data-driven marketing campaign? Drop us a line. We’ll be glad to assist.
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