Smart Printers Embrace Omnichannel, Not Just Multichannel, Marketing
Have you moved from multichannel to omnichannel marketing? If not, you might be giving your customers great opportunities to engage with their customers, but not always the best ones. Multichannel is a critical aspect of any marketing program, but it’s maturing into something more.
What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel? Integration. At its simplest, multichannel marketing is just that — utilizing multiple channels to increase a target audience’s interaction with a brand. Omnichannel marketing takes those channels and integrates them so that the customer gets the same branding, messaging and experience, regardless of channel used. Ideally, the customer’s experience in one channel will follow them to other channels, too.
The challenge for commercial printers is that this level of integration is difficult in a siloed environment. It is best managed through a centralized platform. Ideally, the printer would be managing all of the channels through their own system or be fully integrated into the client’s system.
A good example of integration done well is Inkit, a Minneapolis-based startup that offers real-time “automated” direct mail. Inkit integrates with omnichannel software platforms like Iterable, HubSpot, Sailthru, LeanPlum and Braze. Marketers set up campaigns in one of these platforms and, when a direct mail piece is triggered through an event determined by the marketer (such as an email unsubscribe or a 30-day period of inactivity), the system automatically generates a personalized direct mail piece that is placed into Inkit’s queue.
There are no minimums, so postcards can be generated and inserted into the queue in real time.
“Imagine, marketers can log into a platform that allows them to design a direct mail piece as quickly as they do any other element of an omnichannel campaign, with the format, branding and messaging synced across all of their channels,” Michael McCarthy, founder and CEO of Inkit, explains. “Direct mail, email, SMS, push notifications — everything — are generated from the same system.”
Inkit isn’t just any API integration for creating template-based direct mail. It is built from the ground up to work in a programmatic environment.
Instead of its clients mailing batches or producing individual campaigns, specific actions trigger different types of mailers that enter the workflow in real-time on an ongoing basis. Billing is recurring on a monthly basis based on the number of pieces mailed.
In addition to its proprietary workflow, Inkit’s edge, McCarthy notes, is speed. Many of its customers are finding that they aren’t getting the results they want from digital marketing alone. In fact, many of Inkit’s customers are seeing consumers disengage from email marketing. But while they see the value of direct mail, the lead time on direct mail has been prohibitive.
This was the case with NatureBox. The company understood the benefits of direct mail, but had been disappointed by direct mail campaigns it ran in the past. “Our company tested direct mail primarily as an acquisition channel,” Carly Coleman, director of retention for
NatureBox, notes in an Inkit case study. “We used more traditional direct mail campaigns, which had very long leads. In order to target our customer base, we needed a program with shorter lead times to keep our messaging and targeting relevant and to iterate quickly.”
Working with Inkit, NatureBox set up a campaign to generate direct mailers based on event triggers in its CRM (customer relationship management) system. The results? Clients who received the direct mail had a 35% lift in orders and a 60% lift in revenue per customer. Over the five- to six-week redemption period, 8.9% of the postcards sent were redeemed by NatureBox customers.
IP Targeting Hits … Everywhere
Another channel increasingly integrated with direct mail is IP targeting. DUKE Print and Mail Solutions has developed its own platform, Enhanced Direct Mail, which triggers follow-up touches based on when the direct mail hits. Cleveland-based DUKE tracks all of its mail pieces for its own internal use. If a customer uses its Enhanced Direct Mail service, this information can be used to trigger follow-up touches by phone, email or Web targeting.
“For every piece of mail that leaves here, we know where it is going, when it hits and the time of day it hits,” Brent Evans, direct mail manager for DUKE, notes. “Once that happens, our system can trigger any number of actions, the most frequent of which is IP targeting.”
Evans explains that, based on a consumer’s Wi-Fi
connection, the system can determine where the person lives and their IP address. This also identifies the type of device they are using to connect.
“Say you are the March of Dimes,” he says. “Once the direct mail piece hits, the next time that person goes online, an ad comes up about the March of Dimes. Or, if you are following up with phone calls, the landing of that postcard triggers the system to load that person’s phone number into the dialer so that they receive a phone call from a customer service rep shortly thereafter. That one piece of mail can trigger a variety of actions or even multiple actions.”
Compu-Mail, in Grand Island, N.Y., integrates direct mail with IP targeting and telemarketing, as well. It calls its omnichannel marketing service “Omni DM.” This service integrates “high response” direct mail, call tracking and digital retargeting through Google and Facebook.
Omni DM starts with personalized, fully variable direct mail campaigns that drive customers to a designated URL. Customers can use mail tracking to monitor the progress of their mailings from predicted in-home dates to delivery confirmation. Marketers can also assign local or toll-free numbers to campaigns that
allow them to track calls, listen to recorded calls, and check for quality in their lead reception and sales processes. Those who
don’t take action on the Website are followed with 90 days of retargeting with Google and Facebook (including Instagram) ads.
How Can You Compete?
Programmatic direct mail or retargeting based on IP addresses isn’t for everybody. For printers not looking to go this route, their focus is often on deep-dive analytics to improve results in the channels they do manage. They also lean heavily into their industry knowledge, which allows them to develop programs specific to their clients’ industry verticals in a way that industry-non-specific solutions do not.
“For our financial services clients, for example, we have a proprietary tool we utilize to parse data from their systems to help create omnichannel programs that are specific — not only to their industry — but to each individual recipient,” John Mashia Jr., president and COO of Liverpool, N.Y.-based IMS Inc., explains.
“For example, based upon the information we gather from multiple sources on a financial institution’s customer, we would know that the individual has a mortgage with another financial services company or a home equity line of credit. We want to help our client capture that business, as well. We develop a targeted marketing plan to do that, and utilize the data to drive the program.”
Data can be used not just to identify prospective target audiences, but to craft incentives for each recipient of these omnichannel touches. “If you have a credit card with our financial services client, we could utilize transaction data to develop a targeted program that aligns with your purchasing habits to incentivize you to respond,” Mashia points out.
It is in the world of data and industry knowledge that printers like IMS thrive. “In the verticals we serve, it is important to become extremely knowledgeable,” he says. “We must thoroughly understand our customers’ strategic plans. It is important for us to comprehend exactly what their end game is, whether that is driving revenue, deepening engagement with their customer bases or supporting community initatives.”
In fact, when IMS produced a six-month test for a $100 million financial services organization, its omnichannel, data-driven approach yielded a 3.73% response rate (5.83% to new households) and an overall ROI of 842%. (See sidebar on page 34.)
Test, Test, Test!
Critical to omnichannel marketing is test, test, test. Especially with digital channels, it’s easy to create A/B testing to see which channels pair best with direct mail for different target audiences and different campaigns.
“One of the first things I’ll ask our clients is why waste the money on something that doesn’t work?” Evans, of DUKE Print and Mail Solutions, says. “Let’s test and see what works. We can turn a piece of mail in a few days, and in terms of digital follow-up, if you have a direct mail list of 30,000, we can break it up into test groups. Let’s do 10,000 IP targeting, 10,000 email retargeting and 10,000 telemarketing. Things are always changing. What worked today might not work tomorrow.”
By doing customer profiling and precise targeting first, this also allows clients to carve out inefficiencies so they can re-
allocate marketing dollars to more effective channels. “Instead of mailing 50,000 pieces, for example, you might mail 10,000 through better targeting. And what the customer saves by not printing those 40,000, they can put into email marketing, telemarketing or IP targeting,” he notes. “Ninety percent of the time, our clients get better results and ROI than mailing 50,000 and walking away.”
The results speak for themselves. By just spending additional “pennies on the dollar,” Evans regularly sees lifts between 20% to 40%.
In a loyalty environment, Rachel Wedlund, a blogger for Inkit, has seen companies generate as much as a 60% lift in revenue per customer simply by sending postcards reminding customers of their loyalty balance paired with a bonus offer to “spend the points soon.”
Performance marketing agency Merkle has also reported that marketing campaigns that use direct mail and one or more forms of digital media experienced a 118% lift in response rates compared to using direct mail only.
Still, this doesn’t mean that printers should encourage clients to use direct mail for every campaign, even if it keeps their presses busy. In an omnichannel campaign, direct mail has to be used for the campaigns for which it is likely to get the highest return. Iterable, for example, recommends that direct mail be incorporated into the programs of retailers for reaching disengaged customers, reactivating lapse customers and building loyalty programs.
McCarthy, of Inkit, notes that, while big companies are slower to respond to new technologies, smaller, more nimble companies are flocking to this approach. “Anecdotally speaking, big companies move slowly,” he observes. “They are still trying to figure it out. It’s been interesting see how small businesses are getting into direct mail because they aren’t getting the response rates from other channels.”
Don’t shy away from e-commerce companies, either. The omnichannel approach is winning even digital-based companies to direct mail. Among Inkit’s customers? Primary, Bite Squad, and Procter and Gamble. “Even e-commerce marketers are increasingly finding that they can’t drive the conversion or retention volume they need through online marketing alone,” McCarthy concludes.
Multichannel still has a place in the world of marketing, but the results of true omnichannel marketing are giving it the squeeze. Omnichannel requires more data, more integration and more investment than multichannel marketing alone, but the results are worth it — both for your clients and for you.