The Value of Print: An Omnichannel Strategy for a Multi-Channel World
Updated: Feb 28
Common phrases heard from marketing professionals: “We do all our marketing by email, so we don’t need to direct mail,” and “We have a website, so I don’t need to print, and we use social media, so we don’t need to do direct mail.”
We live in a multi-channel world with digitally connected devices that are always on. We receive marketing messages, ads, and alerts from many platforms, devices, apps, and websites. There are five generations in the workforce making buying decisions for consumer and B2B products and services. Marketers must define and deploy omnichannel strategies to engage with their various customer segments in the channels the customers prefer for different types of communications.
Marketers must do more, across more channels, to create customer engagement along the buyers’ journeys for their products and services. The value of print is leveraging data and digital technologies across social media ads, apps, paid search and other digital channels. Creating highly relevant print drives further customer interaction. High value print that drives customer engagement includes personalized and highly targeted direct mail that is relevant, engaging, and other highly personalized print applications.
Many print service providers have experienced declining print volumes across many types of applications as content has moved to the web and mobile apps. Yet, certain print volumes are growing, including personalized direct mail, catalogs, books, packaging and wide-format signage. Several research and case studies demonstrate that direct mail continues to be more effective in driving response, conversion and multi-channel interaction than email alone or digital ads alone. The USPS conducted a study that demonstrated that direct mail campaigns required 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital advertising and participants’ recall was 70% higher if they were exposed to direct mail rather than a digital ad.
Many large school districts across the country are reversing the move to exclusively provide tablets and digital content, returning to physical textbooks. Why? The research is clear. Students of all ages retain and recall information more effectively when they have printed materials than when they read material on screens. Printed books provide value and results in improving learning outcomes.
Catalog Mailers are Back
For many years, large and small retailers reduced the number of pages, frequency, and mail quantities of printed catalogs. Emails increased and many consumers were and continue to be overwhelmed by emails — even from brands they buy from and like. Consumers have opted out or completely ignore emails. Inkjet printing has fueled a surge in increasing the frequency and versioning of printed catalogs. Large and specialty retailers saw significant drops in sales when they eliminated print versions of catalogs. While email engagement is measured in seconds, direct mail, and catalog engagement is measured in minutes. And the only commodity in our omnichannel world is attention.
Great print and well-designed catalogs and direct mail create engagement and demand attention that drives e-commerce sales. Retailers are using demographic and spending data to optimize when to send catalogs and direct mail focusing on key times such as holidays, life events — such as moving — or targeted direct mail for abandoned e-commerce shopping carts that spur spending.
Informed Delivery — Enhanced Value of Mail
The USPS Informed platform provides the ability to increase the value of mail and create engagement in an omnichannel world. Informed Visibility enables marketers to leverage delivery timing to send targeted and timely messages through email, SMS, and apps to increase the effectiveness of mail. Informed Delivery enables consumers to see an image and click on a digital ad for physical mail arriving at their mailbox. Both offerings are increasing the value of mail and bridging communications in an omnichannel marketing strategy.
Print Embellishments Create Interactions
The ability to enhance and embellish print to provide both an attention getting visual and tactile experience is exploding with options. Digital technologies, metallic inks, specialty substrates, and finishing now enable creatives to design amazing printed pieces that people want to touch, hold, and read. Print offers the unique ability to cut through the noise and grab our attention to create a physical experience and "wow" factor where people want to engage with print.
Augmented Reality (AR) now has a place in many omnichannel marketing strategies across vertical markets for both consumer and B2B product offerings. Ikea was the first major retailer with an AR-enabled catalog in 2014, but not the first retailer with an AR app. AR enables print to drive a user experience to rich media audio, video, and specific digital content. AR is enhancing the customer experience and the ability to share stories and engage with products, brands, and additional content. The value of print changes when the printed piece is the AR marker and the AR experiences can change over time while linked to the same printed piece. Print with AR is driving engagement, loyalty, and education.
4th Industrial Revolution
At the National Postal Forum in May 2019, Jakki Strako, CMO at USPS, shared examples of how new technologies with 5G, AI, AR and robotics are driving the 4th industrial revolution. These technologies will change how we interact with devices and information, as well as how we produce and buy products and services. Print and mail still have an important role in communications, and the value of print will continue to evolve as our communication habits change. Highly valuable print will be defined by how it drives interactions in other channels.