Top 5 Tips for Print Communications in the Digital Age
By Joe Lalli, VP, sales support, product management and market planning at Broadridge; and Jeffrey Musgrove, senior VP at Broadridge
More than 30 years ago, BusinessWeek predicted that the “digital age” would end paper use.
Well, while it is clear today that digital is a part of nearly everyone’s day-to-day life, paper still plays an important role in the way people want to communicate and receive communications.
In fact, in 2015, the Italian company that makes Moleskine paper notebooks discovered a direct correlation between its sales and its proximity to Apple stores. The more people were drawn into the digital experience offered by their latest gadget, the more they also wanted the experience of jotting down personal thoughts and notes in a physical notebook. And despite the attention paid to digital and mobile trends, consumer demand for paper is not going away any time soon.
The desire for delivery options extends to bills, statements and other essential communications, found Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends. The firm’s 2016 study uncovered younger generations — even more so than older generations — want both paper and digital copies of documents to keep as records and to use as reminders to pay bills. The group wants a paper version even when making payments digitally. The omni-channel trend isn’t changing even as consumer demographics shift.
So, is it ok for companies to stay business-as-usual as far as their printing efforts in this digital age? Not a chance.
Every day, as new innovations and digital connections engage consumers differently, the bar for customer expectations gets higher. It is not enough for a company to offer a print option only or to offer digital engagement options only. Brands need to provide both, deferring to individual customer preference around the format provided and keeping the experience consistent across all channels.
And how companies accomplish this needs to be under constant review to ensure they are keeping up with the rapid and exponential pace of change in the market today. Most companies are not in the business of engaging their customers in this way. They sell a product or service — providing print and digital communications may not be their core competency. That is why it is critical companies utilize platforms that offer the scale, insights, ingenuity and flexibility to help them make access to communications faster, better and less costly.
What follows are the top five tips for companies to keep in mind in order to accomplish the ever-trickier challenge of increasing engagement by delivering relevant communications based on consumer preference:
- Know that your customers expect options. The customer is king in today’s business environment, and they want companies to cater toward their individual preferences on how, what, when and where they receive communications. The only way for brands to effectively offer this is to be sophisticated enough to manage huge datasets and flexible enough to convert data from those files into consistently branded formats that can be printed and sent or shared through a variety of digital means (e.g., email, websites, SMS, mobile applications, cloud storage systems, etc.).
- Technology is the key to speed and efficiency. As you look to enhance your communications, do not just throw resources at the problem. Adopting innovations — such as gaming technology, by way of CTUs and GPUs, that manage huge datasets to automation that can help remove unnecessary manual processes — will cut the time, energy and investments the company needs to spend on resource management while simultaneously speeding up delivery. Adopting technology advancements lets you spend more time and attention on your core business.
- Data must be viewed differently. Without being able to contextualize data or seamlessly translate data into various different formats for different devices, it is useless. Customer experience requires customization, so your communications need to be smart enough and fluid enough to adjust the look and feel based on insights garnered about your customers and prospects. To accomplish this, your systems need to be able to aggregate data about an individual from across disparate internal systems and to fully understand how to customize content for that customer’s needs.
- Packaging also counts. Finding better ways to sort through data and determine ways to bundle and scale your communication approaches offers huge cost efficiencies. For example, on the paper side, understanding timing and geographical delivery patterns could help you bundle printed communications to decrease mailing costs. Understanding delivery patterns better can also help identify when to check in with customers through digital channels to further improve their experiences without increasing your costs.
- Think of innovation as a verb. Technology and product roadmaps are integral to decision making. Implementing a new technology without an upwardly compatible and scalable solution is not enough. Every time you introduce a new piece of technology, it should have an 18-month roadmap that centers on market- and customer-driven enhancements. You must also invest the time and effort needed to keep refining the approach as new technologies and opportunities emerge.
In today’s fast-moving age, the way companies approach essential customer communications — whether print or digital — must continuously evolve. By staying in touch with and ahead of the latest trends and supportive innovations, companies can build better customer engagement today while preparing for what comes tomorrow.