Print's Role in an Omnichannel World
In 1995, Cece Smith and her husband, Barney Smith, opened a traditional commercial print shop. Today, she is also the CEO of San Antonio-based Toolbox Studios, a full-service marketing and branding firm that specializes in print, social media management, Web design and development, and more. Five years ago, their print business model made an incredible transformation with the addition of an HP Indigo digital press and a trip to Dscoop.
After seeing the level of personalization that could be accomplished on the HP Indigo, Smith believed that she had the proper tool to print personalized marketing materials, but she still needed a tool to help build the business. That’s when she came across MindFire at Dscoop and decided to take the leap by adding the marketing automation software. To solidify the fact that her company was no longer just a commercial printer, the company then bought Toolbox Studios.
Smith explains that customers often come to her seeking to grow their businesses, but they don’t understand the merits of multichannel communications with consumers or have the tools to launch something on their own.
That’s where omnichannel marketing comes into play. Smith explains that Toolbox offers omnichannel strategies to customers as a tool to bring together various platforms that can be measured in real-time. Clients can see where leads are coming from and what forms of media are the most effective for their respective audiences.
MindFire allows Toolbox to work with customers to develop a marketing plan and measure the results, accurately and effectively.
“We use it as another tool in our toolbox,” she says. “It brings together the whole media plan. It’s very strategic.”
One thing that Smith points out is that some companies fall victim to the belief that print is dead and want to develop marketing plans focused solely on digital communications, but Smith warns against this.
“I strongly recommend print, and not just because I own a printing company,” she laughs. “For example, I have proof from other campaigns that postcards work. I warn [customers] that, when you take print out of the mix, you are trusting in deliverables that you can’t be sure where they’re landing.”
Print and digital communications can and should be complementary aspects of a comprehensive, omnichannel marketing campaign. Gina Ferrara, senior analyst at Madison Advisors, explains that despite the fact that consumer preferences are different and may change depending on the vertical, brand or product, there still needs to be consistency across all means of communication.
“Every touch point should be consistent and complementary to the others,” she says.
Ferrara points to the illusive millennial as an example of why print and digital communications need to be developed as a close-knit partnership in a marketing strategy.
“They’re the digital native generation,” she says. “However, despite the fact that they’re ‘mobile first,’ they do like to receive direct mail. So that’s an opportunity for marketers to use printed communications as another channel in an omnichannel marketing strategy.”
As Smith explains, it’s no longer possible to say that you can target specific demographics with a particular type of communication because there are so many platforms and consumer preferences. However, there are ways to track how a consumer has engaged with your brand and then meet them there.
“When you use PURLs [personalized URLs] on direct mail, and [recipients] go to the PURL but then abandon it,” she says, “at least you know that they visited the microsite. You can retarget them with a second postcard and make it even more personalized.”
Using tools, such as PURLs, can be an invaluable resource in making sure that the print aspect of an omnichannel marketing strategy works harmoniously with the digital aspects of the campaign. However, the print component needs to be creative and targeted to the recipient. But, most importantly, it needs to be relevant.
Ferrara stresses that, for this reason, “data is king” and should be used strategically across all channels. Not only can it be used to segment your markets for personalized communications, it’s essential in ensuring data consistency and access across all channels of an omnichannel campaign. She also suggests that any data collected should be stored in a centralized location so that it is available across all channels, creating transparent lines of communication between print and digital.
Ferrara gives an example she’s seen before in which an individual with a mortgage, checking and savings accounts, and a home equity loan from a financial institution receives a statement from the organization with a promotional offer for a home equity loan. However, the consumer is not eligible for the home equity loan — and it’s being marketed at a lower rate than the rate the homeowner is currently locked into. This frustrating circumstance could have been avoided if the data about the customer had been shared across all channels. Software, Ferrara says, is critical in bringing together all of the information needed to develop cross-platform marketing solutions that work together.
That’s why Toolbox uses software to make sure all aspects of the omnichannel marketing campaign work together and that it maximizes each customer’s investment. She explains that with marketing automation software, a marketer can measure what they’re doing well and adjust their strategy accordingly, “almost on a daily basis.” This can help to narrow down a campaign and bring focus to where dollars should and should not be spent, which is invaluable.
“Marketing dollars are always thought of as an expense, but if a marketer can show his/her CFO how many dollars were spent and what revenue was generated [as a result], it’s no longer an expense,” she says. “It’s an investment.”
PebblePost is another company using software to marry print and digital communications into seamless marketing campaigns. The New York-based company uses real-time input from how a consumer engages with a brand online and then responds with a personalized piece of direct mail. The technology, called Programmatic Direct Mail, pushes personalized pieces of direct mail into the mail stream within 12 to 24 hours of consumer engagement. Consumer engagement can come in the form of a customer typing a search term into a retailer’s website, placing something in a cart but not finalizing the order, filling something out on the site or even unsubscribing from the company’s email list.
PebblePost uses software to collect data and match the consumer and their address, usually provided by the retailer, and sends this information to its print provider by the end of the day. It’s a timely and tangible reminder for the consumer that they engaged with the brand.
The personalized direct mail can be set up to include a promotion or discount, and can even be segmented further by offering different promotions or discounts to specific markets. On average, PebblePost is generating a 20% response rate and a 40% conversion rate of that 20%. Retailers working with PebblePost typically see 15x return on advertising dollars spent coming back to them in the form of increased revenue.
In the digital age, it may seem counterintuitive to focus on print in an omnichannel campaign, but David Cooperstein, advisor at PebblePost, points out that marketing emails get deleted and consumers use ad blockers. Consequently, it’s crucial to reach out to the consumer with a printed piece of marketing material sent to their mailbox, which is a relatively clutter-free environment. A personalized direct mail piece that is highly relevant to the consumer, based on the time that they last engaged with a brand, is very effective.
Smith, of Toolbox Studios, advises printers to transition to a business model that offers strategic tools for clients to meet their customers on all platforms that they frequent. Otherwise, you’ll get left behind.
“If printers don’t change, they’re going to disappear,” Smith concludes. “You have to change the way that you go to market. Print is not dead, but you have to be prepared to show examples and give statistics that prove its viability. The only reason people think print is dead is because they can’t feel the pulse. But, if you start [using these tools], you’ll feel the pulse of the consumer.”