Quad, RRD, IWCO Direct Provide Insight Into 2015 Direct Mail Market, Look Ahead to 2016
The direct mail piece has an amazing tale to relate. Throughout the past 20 years, as the Internet has become a game-changer in the way information is presented and disseminated, the humble-yet-effective mail still has bragging rights as one of the marketing space’s premier vehicles.
Yet amid postal rate increases and constant bombardment from other marketing channels, the direct mail space cannot rest on its laurels. Dan Thornton, president of Chicago-based RR Donnelley’s Response Marketing, says that the over-arching challenge facing many of the firm’s clients is catching consumers’ attention in the face of all the information they receive in their day-to-day activities.
Attention deficit is not the only disorder that plagues the mailing community. Other challenges, Thornton notes, include continued postal optimization, data security, developing creative campaigns that improve ROI and successful integration of multiple approaches in direct response campaigns. Here is how RR Donnelley approaches each issue:
• Postal optimization. Given that postal costs account for a large chunk of clients’ cost structures, increases can and will impact the number of mailing pieces that reach the stream. RR Donnelley enables marketers to take advantage of deeply discounted postage prices by analyzing and ranking files by USPS carrier routes.
“Through our vast Logistics network, we can utilize drop shipment process centers to provide more precise in-home dates, reduced delivery times and overall postage reduction,” he points out.
• Data security. With data breaches garnering mainstream news attention, becoming a trusted caretaker is no small feat. RR Donnelley offers various levels of security depending on client need, developed over time and based on customer input.
• Campaigns to improve ROI. The printer’s production platform provides clients with the flexibility to seamlessly test new ideas in copy and design new offers to drive increased responses.
Audience Communications Platform
On the equipment end, RR Donnelley has invested in a robust platform—rrdConnect—for creating, managing and executing effective audience communications. This analytic campaign automation tool helps drive omnichannel communication delivery and integrates customer information from many sources in an efficient and workable communications platform.
“rrdConnect enables communications to be seamlessly delivered to target audiences in an integrated, optimized, comprehensive and ultra-personalized way via hard copy, email, Web and mobile formats,” Thornton adds. “Our goal is to help clients deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time—every time—with advanced data analytics, cutting-edge technology and deep experience in virtually every vertical.”
Thornton firmly believes that print service providers who can help customers drive a consistent message across multiple channels will be in the best position to succeed in this space. That will require tailoring precisely targeted, personalized messaging directly to each individual, then hitting the when and where marks on delivery. Looking ahead, it will require an even greater commitment to digital communications channels, in tandem with print.
“We have led the way in developing or applying personalized communications with innovations such as RR Donnelley’s powerful ProteusJet high-speed digital print platform, which provides full color, variable customization that drives relevant, vibrant communications,” he contends. “Cost savings from in-line production combined with variable text and imaging allow for maximum postal optimization, which translates to important postage savings for our customers. Clients can reach an audience of millions with the touch of one.
“RR Donnelley offers multi-channel solutions that create automated, data-driven communications, easily combining email, print, Web and video in exciting and cost-effective ways. Integrating direct mail, email, personalized URLs, variable video and social media components into automated multi-touch, multi-channel customer prospecting and engagement programs, RR Donnelley helps clients engage their customers and prospects.”
Jim Andersen, CEO of Chanhassen, Minnesota-based IWCO Direct, points out that one of the more common issues that confronted customers in 2015 was the challenge of identifying the best opportunity for improvement in their campaigns, and then making it happen. Another puzzle was determining the optimal media mix needed to acquire new customers and to retain existing ones.
“These challenges resulted in sometimes volatile shifts in volume when a solid strategy and testing plan were lacking or missing,” Andersen points out. “We met these challenges by expanding our Proprietary Intelligence model, which provides proven solutions for data, synergy, creative and analysis to support all marketing channels, especially direct mail.”
IWCO Direct has garnered a reputation for being an intelligently aggressive equipment investor, and 2015 was certainly no exception. The firm added a pair of production inkjet presses: a cutsheet Océ VarioPrint i300 and a continuous-feed Océ ImageStream 3500, both from Canon Solutions America.
The new equipment, combined with the aforementioned Proprietary Intelligence model, enables clients to merge consumer data with creative strategies to produce more personal and relevant direct mail offers for increased return on marketing investment.
“One of the greatest challenges marketers will face in 2016 is being able to accurately model the business impact of their marketing spend,” Andersen observes. “This gets even more challenging with the need to accurately attribute touches across channels to understand where their return on marketing investment is coming from.
“The expansion of our data, strategy and analytics services will help clients identify their key performance indicators and measure them accurately,” he adds. “In addition, there will be a new focus on adding direct mail to the channel listing for programmatic buying. The digital print platform and a proven workflow solution will be table stakes for entering and owning this market. The continued expansion of our digital program and data services will be critical success factors in 2016.”
Capitalizing on Production Efficiencies
As marketers recognize the potential of direct mail to produce even better returns on investment, capitalizing on production efficiencies is key to yielding shortened cycle times and cost savings. This requires a migration of programs from one platform to another, notes Scott Harvey, senior vice president of sales for direct marketing at Sussex, Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics.
“Introducing different workflows associated with each production methodology, although extraordinarily beneficial, can be unsettling for some clients,” Harvey says. “Relying on a solutions partner like Quad, with a vast platform to maximize efficiencies and the cost-effectiveness of direct mail marketing coupled with proven strategic insights, delivers a process that is as seamless as possible.”
Harvey points out that the complication for Quad/Graphics’ clients is understanding and managing format complexity with quality and expected response rate. Quality, personalization type and cycle time can change for each program, so Quad looks to assist customers with building their marketing calendars.
“We manage the complexities, so expectations meet results,” Harvey remarks. “Leveraging an analytic review of workflow that ensures efficiency increases productivity, reduces costs and ultimately allows for seamless coordination and faster speeds to market. Analyzing current project workflow and tailoring optimal solutions reduces the amount of schedule time and streamlines processes to provide a more automated way of print ordering, proofing and campaign execution.”
Additional cost savings and schedule compression can be achieved by fully leveraging Quad/Graphics’ mail optimization network, Harvey says. “Given that postal-related costs make up a significant percentage of every direct marketer’s campaign budget, obtaining the most advantageous sortation scheme is vital. Quad offers best-in-class delivery solutions to maximize those cost savings. Connecting our industry-leading mail optimization platform that ensures lowest total cost of delivery and optimal performance on in-home dates, coupled with our vast variable printing platform, not only drives efficiencies, but instantly impacts bottom lines.
“Our integrated approach to commingling and co-palletization is an industry first, but many of our clients are not familiar with this new process and the benefits it provides, including improved in-home delivery performance and cost savings,” Harvey adds.
Quad/Graphics’ 2015 investments included bolstering the firm’s delivery optimization. A system and facility upgrade was executed at its Midwest and East Coast commingling supercenters to fully integrate its commingling and co-palletization process into a single pass. This upshot is an improvement of in-home delivery performance while reducing all associated costs of mail delivery, with a primary focus on postage reduction.
Major Investment on Tap
Quad/Graphics will soon be announcing a major investment in variable printing technology, one that will enable marketers to apply database analytics in their direct mail campaigns “like never before,” according to Harvey.
As the calendar flips to 2016, Harvey believes those marketers who find synergies, standard workflows and processes to execute against multiple channels simultaneously will enjoy the most success. Customers will continue to rely more and more on Quad/Graphics, he says, based on the company’s vertical market expertise and its ability to uncover and execute proven strategies of effective content delivery within each market.
“As the host of multiple marketing thought leadership events including Camp Quad, we examine the industry challenges and opportunities facing marketers in an age of rapidly evolving communication channels and changing consumer media consumption habits,” Harvey notes. “And Quad’s Postal conference demystifies all things postal, ensuring attendees have a clear understanding of ways to lower postage and delivery costs while increasing relevance and improving in-home performance. We introduce practical and applicable insights our clients can implement immediately and ongoing for remarkable improvements in their campaigns.” PI