This week the British Direct Marketing Association (the DMA) held an event – Mail Matters – in London, to share the results of some research sponsored by Ricoh. It revealed some fascinating insights into how the brand owners and their agencies who commission, design and coordinate direct mail campaigns feel toward this marketing channel.
Many research studies into direct mail as a part of the marketing mix have demonstrated very clearly that direct mail holds a special place in the hearts and minds of consumers. Its uniquely tangible properties help to generate an emotional response that other media struggle to match.
Most research has focused on consumer attitudes and behaviour. This new research though looks for a different perspective. Direct mail just doesn’t happen unless both brand owner and their agency together make it happen. So, while the consumer picture is relatively well documented, the research told us what these other vital stakeholders, the marketers and agency decision makers, think about it.
The Mail Matters research we sponsored told us that while the well known, young ‘digital natives’ in their agency roles are naturally completely at home in the digital marketing arena, it seems that many are not yet fully switched on to what is possible with direct mail, or advertising mail as it is sometimes called, today. For example a strong majority of respondents described both better personalisation and image personalisation as innovations that would enhance the effectiveness of mail. As we know, however, this functionality is a long established feature of direct mail, but it becomes more exciting as a result of the possibilities generated by the smart use of data insights.
Encouraging mail recipients to go online is a key goal the research shows, and there are many technologies to facilitate a smooth transition from the paper page to the online world. Ricoh’s interactive print solution, Clickable Paper is one of the newest. What the research suggests is that some marketers and agencies are either persisting with the limited functionality of QR codes or not deploying any bridging technology at all. It is also worth noting that 72% expect more innovation to integrate print with digital media; and I am sure that this will be a big part of the future of direct mail.
Very positively, there is a powerful core of respondents who trust direct mail in their campaigns because of its proven effectiveness and strong ROI. And while postage costs may be a barrier to some, the returns available are clearly the decisive factor for many others. And at Ricoh we believe this group will grow as the communications and commercial factors in favour of direct mail in the mix become even more compelling. For while data analytical techniques, such as those available through Ricoh’s Precision Marketing service (for example the MarkSim market segmentation tool which was used to analyse this research), are enabling better segmentation and more accurate targeting, direct mail production is becoming more cost efficient. The latest high speed inkjet systems, like the ground-breaking Ricoh ProTM VC60000, are bringing a new level of print quality to complement their well understood variable data capabilities. And at the same time Ricoh’s new cut sheet devices, the ProTM C 9100 and ProTM C7100 series, bring new levels of capability in terms of media range and special effects, ideal for direct mail jobs that demand impact and stand-out.
So, at Ricoh, we are seeing a new dawn for direct mail. With marketers and agencies alike moving toward greater understanding and harnessing of its power, coupled with the technology available to enhance response and optimise cost efficiency. It’s an exciting time to be in the direct mail field. For alert print services providers in particular, who can seize the moment, helping their clients fully capitalise on the opportunity and the technologies available now.