Uniting the Inbox and the Mailbox Creates Better Customer Communications
With postal rates increasing in January 2019 and paper costs continuing to rise due to closing mills and decreasing supply, organizations are anticipating that their print and mails costs – one of their biggest operational costs – are about to get even bigger.
It is only natural that companies turn to digital in their effort to cut down print and postage costs, but approximately 60% of consumers still prefer print. How do you balance the fine line between cutting costs without sacrificing the customer experience?
The answer lies in providing your customers with communication choices – from print to digital. At our recent webinar, I shared the latest print trends that companies can leverage to optimize their budgets, as well as ways to use print and digital together as customers gravitate toward digital experiences. These trends can help you manage rising print and mail costs while supporting your CX and digital strategies.
5 Print Trends to Watch
Now is the time to revisit your print communications, and below are five trends that can take these communications to the next level.
- Think Outside of the (In)Box
The printing industry is getting increasingly creative. With packaging techniques like 3D folds, organizations are experiencing impressive customer engagement results from their direct mail efforts. For inspiration, check out the “Fold of the Week,” which highlights how print can provide a physical, interactive experience for customers. These innovative print techniques are finding their way to mailboxes and capturing customer attention – and that may be in part due to overflowing inboxes.
- Start with a Blank Canvas
Transactional mailers are continuing to move to white paper printing versus preprinted forms, enabling flexibility, cost savings, and inventory reductions. By starting with the end in mind, on-demand printing allows companies to print just what they need while also providing the ability to incorporate timely customer messaging. This trend is supported by the decrease in costs for color and significant improvements in inkjet printing technology. We’re likely to see this trend grow.
- 3 Things Consumers Want from Your Communications
Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends asked consumers, "How can your providers improve the transactional communication that they send you by mail?" Following are the top three consumer responses (for the U.S. and Canada):
- Make them easier to understand
- Make them relevant
- Personalize the content
What’s interesting is when you look at the survey results for the 55-plus age group (also those most likely to receive printed communications), they agreed with the first two – make them easier to understand and relevant – but they favored “combine multiple communications into one mailing” as their third response. Essentially, this group favors convenience over personalization.
- Double Dipping across the Demographics
Double dippers – consumers that receive both paper and digital communications – are often the most likely go paperless, but, in the meantime, they are often the most costly because they are receiving both print and digital communications. So, why are these customers still receiving the paper version if they already have the digital version?
Keypoint Intelligence asked U.S. and Canadian consumers this question and the graph below summarizes their responses.
Interestingly, for millennials, they shared the same top two – they want a hardcopy for their records and they use the printed bill as a reminder to pay; however, security fell from third place to fifth. Their third top reason was "I have not asked my provider to stop sending it by mail” and their fourth reason was, "My providers don't have a paperless option." Essentially, they are open to going digital; they just haven’t gotten around to it or their provider hasn’t gotten around to it. This is low-hanging fruit … pick it!
- Redesign Communications to Capture Attention
Communication redesigns are allowing companies to reimagine the entire customer experience and evaluate their communication goals. For example, what actions do you want your customer to take after receiving the communication? Is there a relevant offer that customers can take advantage of, thereby growing loyalty and revenue? Do you want to leverage print to promote digital enrollment and convenience?
A redesign offers the opportunity to start from scratch and execute on your priorities. You can also add copy to the back of pages – a great opportunity for targeted messaging. Additionally, companies can take advantage of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) incentive to household communications; that is, for the price of one ounce, you can include up to three and a half ounces of content into one envelope and pay the same one-ounce postage rate. These benefits are driving companies to revisit their print and mail strategies while introducing ways to incorporate physical and digital together.
Marrying Print and Digital
Based on the trends above, organizations are in a position to create a more strategic alignment between their print and digital communications. Here are a few ways to unite the inbox with the mailbox for a better customer experience.
Informed Delivery: 12M Consumers and Growing
One of the ways the USPS is going “phygital” – combining print with digital – is with their Informed Delivery service. After a consumer signs up for Informed Delivery, they receive an email with a digital image of what's being delivered to their mailbox. The service provides companies with the ability to do an image replacement; instead of showing a low-resolution, black-and-white image of what's coming in the mail, they can incorporate color and graphics. Plus, the image replacement is located at the top of the email, giving companies a way to get their marketing message front and center. When Informed Delivery launched in 2017, 75% of overall consumers were interested in the service with 88% of millennials indicating their interest. This demonstrates consumers’ desire for an integrated, omnichannel experience. Today, approximately 12 million consumers are currently using Informed Delivery, with 2 million of those users joining in July and August 2018, alone.
Augmented Reality (AR) Bridges the Gap
No longer thought of as a sci-fi experience, we’re seeing AR in various applications (e.g., printed catalogs that come to life by using a mobile app). AR capabilities are now widely embedded into the hardware and software of mobile phones, reducing what was once a barrier. We’re also seeing AR used on the outside of envelopes. This not only drives customer engagement, but it also qualifies the organization for an upfront 2% USPS postage promotion discount that will be back in effect for 2019.
“Go Paperless” Strategies
As noted above, many organizations are redesigning their print communications in order for them to complement their digital counterparts and grow adoption. We’re seeing many “go paperless” strategies on print communications: messaging on the inside and outside of envelopes; QR codes linking directly to an enrollment page; video being used to introduce a new bill design and paperless messaging.
We’re also seeing the use of negative consents, which requires consumers to opt-in for paper (e.g., "Your bill is going paperless; you need to opt-in to continue to receive paper by this date.”) More consumers are getting comfortable with this approach as long as they are provided with a strong digital experience. I share more on negative consents in my recent article, AT&T’s Game-Changing Paperless Approach. While shifting to a negative consent is likely to impact First-Class Mail volumes, it also gives companies a way to differentiate themselves with the materials they do mail (i.e., fewer competing messages in the mailbox vs. inbox).
Looking to the Future
In 2025, what will a bill or statement look like? A strictly digital experience? How do we enhance and optimize the print experience? I’m launching a new podcast series, “Reimagining Communications,” where industry experts and passionate practitioners will discuss what’s next in communications.
About Matt Swain
As Managing Director and Practice Lead for Broadridge Communications Consulting, Matt Swain brings invaluable market research and consulting expertise to clients relative to benchmarking, customer experience optimization, and digital transformation.
Prior to joining Broadridge, he spent more than a decade at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends where he was a member of the senior management team with global responsibility for business development and customer communications advisory services. Swain is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology and holds a Master’s degree in Print Media.
Matt Swain is a recognized Customer Communications industry thought leader. From delivering keynotes around the world to defining best practices, hundreds of well-known companies have relied on Matt’s expertise and research for their current and future omni-channel communication initiatives.
As Managing Director and Practice Lead for Broadridge Communications Consulting, Matt brings invaluable market research and consulting expertise to clients relative to benchmarking, customer experience optimization, and digital transformation.
Prior to joining Broadridge, Matt spent more than a decade at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends where he was a member of the senior management team with global responsibility for Business Development and Customer Communications advisory services. Matt is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology and holds a Master’s degree in Print Media.