Print Direct Mail (PDM) is often thought of as the grandfather of customer communications. In the world of ever-more sophisticated digital marketing, many have come to view it as a waste of money and effort. However, new research from the Royal Mail suggests this view overlooks the unique impact direct mail can have on a customer.

According to its survey of 1,000 consumers, six in ten people say they treat printed letters more seriously than email. Interestingly, 75 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds said they look forward to seeing what’s in their mail, which is perhaps surprising given the natural association we make between millennials and digital communications.

Clearly, there is still huge potential for print communications to have an impact, but brands need to inform their plans with robust data analysis to ensure print is playing the right role in a wider omnichannel strategy. Gone are the days of mass mailouts, in today’s world all communications needs to be targeted and relevant to have the greatest chance of being read.

Make it personal

According to market research group Infotrends, 59 per cent of brands don’t personalise their print communications. This would be considered incredibly bad practice if the same was said of social media communications. Responding individually to customers with queries rather than using stock responses helps brands establish relationships and makes conversations personal. Why should brand’s print communications be any different?

The reality is that the print world should harness customer data and it’s clear that there’s a significant opportunity to steal a march on competitors for those marketers who are willing to make print targeted. 

For example, insights into factors such as a customer’s marital status, hobbies and day-to-day schedules can all be gleaned through an analysis of their spending habits. In order to ensure print is effective, brands should be using this insight as best they can to make correspondence relevant and personal. 

Right place, right time

The success of print communications, like any other medium, is to align it with a customer’s behaviour. While the logistics of print correspondence, creates an added challenge, preplanning can ensure that customers receive communications at the right time and place.

For example, a leisure-based communication may receive a better reception if it was to land on a Saturday than those that land on Monday morning. Conversely, regulatory or transactional-based communications like terms and conditions, printed bills or invoices should really reach customers mid-week rather than at the weekend. This makes forward planning crucial.

The design, paper, size and shape of print communications should also to be as closely aligned to customer preferences as possible as well as the reason behind the communication. Many think of printed communications as A4 printed documents, brochures or formal letters. However, brands can be incredibly innovative when it comes to how these are designed and what they’re printed on.

This may lead to different prints all under a single campaign idea being distributed simultaneously. However, it’s an investment that bears fruit – Royal Mail’s survey found that 92 per cent of people have an emotional response to mail that they find valuable, and of this group 92 per cent say that as a result they have gone on to take action.

Rapid response

While planning for the desired customer mind-set on receipt is a must, lead-times do vary and are generally getting shorter. One of the major misconceptions about print is that it is long lead only, or slow to activate. However, joining with an outsourcing provider can help brands quickly turn these around to suit quick-fire communications.

This is especially powerful for brands with loyalty rewards schemes. For example, brands could take advantage of news events, a change in weather or anticipated product launches as a way to alert customers to how they could spend loyalty reward points. By tailoring these to the individual, marketers can establish a personal relationship between brand and consumers, making print much more effective.

Creating value

Print isn’t dead. Digital communications may have taken precedence in a lot of scenarios, with good reason, but as part of an omnichannel approach, and when deployed in the right way at the right time, it can create valuable customer touch points that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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