Prep for 2020 Marketing With Clean, Personalized, Predictive Data

As 2019 closes, AccuList’s data services clients have a year’s worth of multichannel customer, campaign and sales information to analyze and inform 2020 plans. So what are the big trends that the data pros foresee will deliver maximum ROI?

Data Hygiene Issues Remain a Priority

Clean, up-to-date, quality data is still the basis for good marketing analyses and campaign planning. A November Business2Community post by marketer Dan Moyle helpfully summarized the key data cleansing tasks that businesses need to undertake to hit the ground running in 2020. After all, it’s estimated that 20% of the average contact database is dirty, so this is not a trivial effort. Increasing marketing efficiency, response and customer loyalty, requires removing data errors and inconsistencies. Start by monitoring data for issues such as duplicates, missing information or bad records to figure out how and where they are occurring. Then standardize processes at each entry point. Next validate the accuracy of data across the database by investing in data tools or expert data services, and commit to regular cleansing and maintenance of data quality. Identify and scrub duplicates. Once the data has been standardized, validated and de-duped, improve its analytic value by using third-party data appending sources (to flesh out demographics, psychographics, firm-ographics, purchase history, etc.) for a more complete customer picture. Establish a feedback process to spot and update, or purge, incorrect information, such as invalid e-mail addresses identified by a campaign. And communicate standards and processes to the whole team so that they understand the value of clean data in segmentation targeting, lead response, customer service and more.

Using Data for an Agile, Personalized, Customer-Centric Edge

Data trends figured prominently in the 2019 Martech Conference and a recent article from martech firm Lineate highlights a few keynotes, such as the role of data in personalization. When a 2019 RedPoint Global survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers finds that 63% expect personalization as a standard of service and want to be individually recognized in special offers, personalized marketing is clearly a competitive essential. Expect to see use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) increase in 2020 as personalization tools. Machine learning is when a computer is able to find patterns within large amounts of data in order to improve or optimize for a specific task. For example, for more personalized offers and messaging in acquisition, this means using ML to recognize if people from certain areas are more likely to respond to a specific offer or which past high-response special offers may resonate in future . Personalization is also key to the customer-centric experience proven to drive long-term retention and brand loyalty–as opposed to getting the same message again and again. When personalization is combined with elimination of data silos and creation of a single customer view across channels, marketing becomes especially powerful. Indeed, integrated database development and the elimination of data silos are also key to the growing “agile marketing” trend. Agile marketing breaks down team silos (which assumes breaking down data silos) in favor of teams focusing on high-value projects collectively. According to a 2018 survey by Kapost, 37% of businesses have already adopted agile marketing, and another 50% said they haven’t yet become agile but expect to be soon.  

Taking Data Insights From Retroactive to Predictive

Looking ahead to 2020, marketers should also consider adding predictive modeling to their toolkit if they haven’t already done so. Why? A study by ClickZ and analytics platform provider Keen found that 58% of marketers using predictive modeling experienced a 10%-25% ROI lift, while another 19% saw more than a 50% uplift. While retroactive campaign data can be very useful for reporting and results analysis, it’s not always as good for informing future multichannel directions, for optimizing media investments, or for quick execution and performance assessment. In fact, nearly 80% of Keen/ClickZ survey respondents felt they’d missed opportunities because of slow or inaccurate decision-making using non-predictive data reporting. For example, standard data analysis often fails to span all channels (e.g., online video vs. store-level programming) and mistakenly gives most credit to last-click channels such as search or transactional activities. In contrast, the Keen/ClickZ survey found marketers using predictive modeling boosted results in multiple areas, including a better understanding of the target audience (71%), optimizing of touchpoints on the customer journey (53%), and improving creative performance (44%). Predictive modeling also can help businesses synthesize large volumes of data, a key concern for many; in fact, 38% indicated their current measurement solutions do not support the scale of their data.

 

Promotional Products Market Faces New Challenges

Many of AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients have been able to ride corporate buyers’ profits to an average 1.3% annual growth rate in the last five years through 2019, reaching $17 billion in U.S. revenues this year, per IBISWorld market research. But a number of challenges, requiring innovative solutions, lie ahead.

Tariffs, Amazon, Economy May Challenge Growth

Continuation of the tariffs imposed in the U.S.-China trade war are likely to have a direct impact on the promotional products market, where the vast majority of products come from China, creating rising product prices and uncertainty, even though most suppliers and distributors have continued to post sales gains this year. One of the options that some companies are already taking is a shift to sourcing from countries outside of China, such as Vietnam, per the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). Meanwhile, the promotional products market is facing competitive challenges from the entry of big online competitors such as behemoth Amazon. Market execs have told ASI that they believe the entry of the e-commerce power threatens to potentially cut out suppliers and distributors by positioning itself as the lowest-cost provider from a product and freight perspective. Their worries include Amazon opting to partner with only select suppliers and distributors; selling direct through its platform; and/or using its search presence for rankings that create winners and losers, and force up advertising expenses for all. Web-based distributors and large online stores are on the front lines, but all promo products firms fear competing with the e-commerce giant’s buyer expectations and immediate delivery and return services. Finally, the potential of an economic slowdown or even recession has some nervous, too. To prep for that possibility, promo product pros say they are putting more stress on prospecting and networking, distributor-supplier partnering to reduce costs, and lower-ticket items with good repeat business.

E-commerce and Technology Will Be Key Drivers

ASI recently interviewed 10 leading suppliers and distributors in the promotional products market for their visions on handling such challenges over the next 5-10 years. The good news is that all foresaw continued growth, albeit with increasing consolidation and online dominance. For example, Mark Simon, president/CEO of distributor HALO Branded Solutions, forecast: “Technology will drive every aspect of the industry in the next 10 years. Buyers will require more robust and more diverse methods to select and purchase products, and follow their orders throughout the order life cycle… Our industry must keep pace with the enhanced buying experience other channels are providing to stay relevant.” E-commerce will be the standard, benefiting big players but leaving room for niche firms as Mark Freed, President/CEO of distributor Genumark, predicts: “I see continuous growth from the large online players that provide a fast, painless, accessible solution for clients looking for simple, inexpensive drop-shipping. I also see continuous growth and consolidation for multifaceted large distributors providing a suite of features that meet a variety of complex requirements for sophisticated clients, which could be related to logistics and fulfillment, quality and compliance, off-the-charts creativity and relentless customer service. There will still be a place for smaller, boutique-size distributors, but they better have a niche like specialized knowledge of the client’s industry or unbelievably innovative ideas.”

Bigger Roles for Data Analytics, Personalized Service, and Creative Marketing

Meanwhile, in the expanded digital environment, data management will loom large; Sharon Eyal, CEO/owner of supplier ETS Express, asserts that “in the next five years, a reliance on data will be more important than ever… We look at how many orders we have in production, which materials are being used, which items are being ordered, which types of decoration, etc. and then we expand and contract in departments as needed.” Up against Amazon, personalized customer experience will be key, too; Jana Schmidt, CEO of distributor Harland Clarke, stresses the “need to provide a personalized, frictionless experience to businesses as clients seek to promote their brands. There’s separation between having an e-commerce presence and truly building the online buying experience.” And creativity will count for even more; Debbie Abergel, chief strategic officer of Jack Nadel International, says, “There will also be a growth of creative promotional agencies – the rise and marriage of creativity and custom. Think about corporate clients that invest in giving their clients and employees a true brand product experience; not price-focused, but looking to build their brand name.” She cites the interest in reusable straws as an example. Read more predictions for the promotional products industry.

Data, Technology, Personalization Top Event Marketing Trends

Because AccuList helps trade show and conference marketing clients with market-tested direct mail, e-mail and telemarketing lists and services, we naturally watch trends in event marketing closely. Overall, the good news is that, even in a digital world, live events and face-to-face experiences retain their power, with over 40% of marketers saying live events are their most important marketing channel. Plus, event marketers have more tools (and challenges) as they move into 2020.

New Technology Tools Build Buzz and Engagement

A post by marketing guru Michael Brenner for Marketing Insider Group cites a number of technology trends that event marketers can use to boost attendance, engagement and ROI. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can improve efficiency at all stages of event planning and marketing, from ticketing and sales to personalized promotions and automated event follow-up, while augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can provide more immersive and engaging experiences to event-goers, for example by demonstrating a product (such as a luxury apartment) that is difficult to do at scale or by engaging attendees like the Coca Cola-hosted VR that let participants be a football player in the World Cup. Interactive video is also being increasingly used to build buzz on social media before events and to increase personalized interaction at events.

Up-to-date, Quality Data Literally Drive the Show

Marketing technology now provides access to real-time event data that can enable marketers to evaluate everything from attendance numbers and attendee satisfaction to which talks and topics are the most popular. Long-term, accurate information about registrations, ticket sales, and attendee demographics can help create effective audience-building and exhibitor sales campaigns. Indeed, many marketers find their biggest problem is being overwhelmed by a flood of data, ranging from audience attraction (website visits, social media clicks, registrations);  on-site engagement (RFID metrics, mobile app engagement); post-show follow-up (attendee opinions, costs, ROI); and auxiliary data (CRM, membership data, attendee interests). The key to prioritizing and analyzing, notes event marketing and tech agency Freeman, is to 1) centralize, standardize and integrate data; 2) decide on goals (such as attendee satisfaction, exhibitor ROI, or reduced attendee and exhibitor churn); and 3) define the metrics that best measure achieving those goals. Remember you only manage what you measure, so a focus on growing an overall attendance number can miss the more important goal of getting the right people to attend. Based on analysis of attendance or exhibitor patterns in the data, marketers can then segment data lists in direct marketing for better targeted response and ROI.

Using Data for Personalization Now Seen as Key

For all marketing channels, digital and off-line, personalization is the new requirement. As Brenner’s post notes, because they believe it’s so effective at increasing event marketing ROI, 9 in 10 event planners use some form of personalization. His article includes a useful infographic from a 2017 Eventsforce study on the ROI of personalization which shows that not only do 73% of event planners believe that personalization and data-driven marketing are a priority but 89% personalize event invitations via names, content and links; 71% personalize event communications via e-mail content and landing pages; and 58% personalize registration via different forms for different audiences. Other areas of personalization include event site experiences and give-aways; push notifications and concierge services on apps and mobile; agenda scheduling and networking; and personalized survey questions. As far as collecting the data needed for personalization, the most effective tools are rated as registration systems (84%), CRM/marketing systems (62%), surveys (29%) and event apps (29%). Lower-rated options include social media, interactive screens and kiosks, and interactive technology such as RFID badges. For more, see Brenner’s article.

Ticketing and Giving Trends Are Positives for Performing Arts

Heading into 2020, AccuList’s performing arts marketing clients can take advantage of positive trends in both fundraising and ticketing sales according to recent studies.

Performing Arts Giving Holds Steady 

While the Giving USA 2019 report released in June showed declines for many charitable giving sectors from 2016 to 2018, arts fundraising stood out by remaining relatively flat. Adjusted for inflation, giving to arts, culture, and humanities increased 11.1% between 2016 and 2017, declined 2.1% between 2017 and 2018 (though a 0.3% increase in current dollars) and ended up with a cumulative increase of 8.7% between 2016 and 2018, thanks to 2017 donations that reached the highest inflation-adjusted amount for the sector on record. Underneath the numbers are three important lessons for our performing arts clients, as fundraising counsel Alexander Haas points out in a recent post. First, a focus on high net-worth individuals via upper-level membership programs, project-related major gifts, and targeted marketing campaigns is likely to pay off, as proven by 2018’s 2.6% increase in gifts of $1,000 or more, and the fact that, of the 90% of high-net worth households giving, a quarter focused on arts donations. Second, targeted campaigns and quality donor lists are essential as fewer individuals give and a greater percentage of philanthropic revenue comes through larger gifts. Finally, online giving can be a boon to performing arts; for example, the Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 Charitable Giving Report showed that online gifts represented 9.5% of overall giving to arts organizations in 2018, and the 5.8% growth in online giving to the arts outpaced other nonprofit sectors by four times. Making online giving a convenient option for donors and members is one way to offset the decline in smaller gifts.

Marketing Innovations Help Ticketing Upward Trend

An October Reportlinker market research report forecasts a 5% compound annual growth in ticket sales from sporting events, movies, concerts, and performing arts events in the 2020-2024 period. While sporting events and concerts popularity is a key driver of growth, the research also credits a number of innovative marketing strategies for pushing ticket revenue, such as flash sales, early-bird offers, access codes, public discounts and adoption of mobile applications to make tickets more readily available to consumers. The integration of analytics with online ticket platforms–to automate services, to enhance more efficient back-end operations, and to better track and monitor consumer preferences–is also seen by researchers as a positive for ticket sales growth. Meanwhile, the secondary ticket market, especially in sports, is projected to have an even higher 9% compound annual growth rate in the same period despite a rise in fraudulent activities and artist opposition. A positive on this front is the adoption of blockchain to keep track of buyers and sellers in the secondary ticket market, helping to prevent fraud by scalpers, bots and touts.

For more detail on performing arts giving trends see the Alexander Haas post.

 

Positive Industry Trends Buoy Museum Marketing

AccuList’s museum marketing clients can take heart from a number of trends that are boosting museum appeal to visitors and donors, according to a recent report on the museum industry from ticketing solutions provider Acme Technologies.   

Demographics, Political Angst, Tech Innovations Boost Museum Interest

Demographics favor museum marketers, the report notes. The baby-boomer generation, the most populous generation still living today, is made up of the most loyal frequenters of museums and galleries among generations, while data shows the tech-savvy millennial generation, which demands stimulation and interactivity, is being wooed by modern museums’ innovative tech and design. Museum appeals are even benefiting from our contentious politics today as conflicting media, heated partisanship, and rapid social change drive the public to seek out museums as safeguards of knowledge, culture, and history. Finally, technology trends are transforming museums from halls of dusty relics to efficient institutions using novel and interactive solutions to improve visitor experiences, with digital systems integration, VR, and greater disabled accessibility for example.

New Tactics Help Museum Marketers Leverage Trends

The Acme report notes a number of tactics that will help museum marketers leverage the demographic, cultural and technological trends in their favor. For one, galleries, zoos and other foundations can integrate traditional displays with innovative tools that allow audiences to experience collections in new ways. For example, the Netherlands’ Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is using Virtual Reality to provide a unique view of the famous painter’s works, while the Cleveland Museum offers a digital map that visitors can access via their smartphones to navigate exhibits. Social media is another boon for savvy marketers. Instagrammable selfies are becoming intentional features in museum tours as an attractive souvenir that visitors create themselves. An example is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Snap + Share” show about social media, photography, and “selfie culture” influence on art. One interactive hit is an artwork that encourages visitors to snap a selfie with their head in a freezer, and tag the museum in the resulting Instagram post. Finally, museum and zoo marketers are increasing reliance on data-driven decisions. Data analytics offer insight into museum-goer trends for strategies that widen audiences and increase donations. The report cites the example of The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain, which hired data analytics provider Synergic Partners to analyze tourist visitation trends for a special Picasso exhibit. Information gathered showed the most common nationalities of visitors, and allowed the museum to better cater to their needs and expectations. For more marketing trends and examples, see the full museum industry trend report.

Catalog Marketing Retains Its Retail Clout

Consumer retail catalogs, far from fading away with the growth of e-commerce, have continued to deliver for our omnichannel retail clients. A Multichannel Merchant blog post earlier this year cites a number of reasons why retailers should consider expanding, reviving or initiating a catalog marketing effort, especially with an eye to upcoming holiday spending.

Catalogs Boost Engagement, Response Across Channels

Catalogs are not, as some assumed, favored only by older buyers, while younger buyers focus on digital channels. In fact, research has shown that 65% of millennial target buyers have made a purchase influenced by a catalog. Today’s lower mail volumes combine with the unique visual and tactile qualities of print to make catalogs stand out in terms of engaging interaction for younger generations, boosting response over online display and even e-mail. Retailers who integrate catalogs with stores, websites and mobile in omnichannel acquisition campaigns boost response and conversion overall. For example, researchers have found that 20% of first-time customers make a purchase on a retailer’s website after receiving a catalog.

Technology Allows for Personalized Targeting, Fulfillment

Today’s more sophisticated data analytics and marketing technologies let marketers track spending habits and response across channels to better leverage catalogs as part of omnichannel marketing campaigns. Retailers can not only use use variable data printing to personalize catalogs based on demographics and purchase behavior but can then use intelligent fulfillment technology to integrate targeted catalogs and samples into the existing fulfillment operation to expand brand marketing opportunities. To capitalize on online response to print catalogs, retailers can use innovations such as quick codes applied to printed catalog products for easier online purchasing. And they can use nimbler, on-demand printing to offer repeat customers a catalog built to their unique interests. Warehouse technology then can put the right catalogs in the right customers’ hands quickly and seamlessly. Certainly, retailers should consider how leveraging technology will make holiday catalogs into better sales drivers. For example, as the Multichannel Merchant post notes, retailers with order packing software in place can simply assign an SKU to a catalog or a pending holiday “Buyer’s Guide,” include the SKU in order packing software rules, and pack a catalog in each shipment as part of a holiday campaign, boosting brand recognition and repeat customers.

Avoid Segmentation Missteps to Boost List ROI

List segmentation is key in targeted direct marketing, which is why the AccuList team offers clients help in defining best-performing customer segments via predictive analytics services and data management services. Over the years, we’ve learned that the secret to success is as much a matter of strategic mindset as technical expertise. A recent MarketingProfs article by Mitch Markel, a partner in Benenson Strategy Group, makes that point by identifying some of the common strategic errors that can trip up a segmentation effort.

Obvious Parameters and Old Strategies Dig a Rut

Marketers need to be aware that segmentation models can slip into an ROI rut. Use of obvious profiling parameters and assumptions is one reason. Certainly, demographics (or firmographics), stated needs, and past purchase behavior are essential in grouping for likely response and lifetime value, but people don’t make decisions solely based on these factors. Markel urges research that also looks at fears, values, motivations and other psychographics in order to segment customers or prospects not just as lookalikes but also as “thinkalikes,” which can be especially helpful in crafting personalized content and messaging. Markel cites the examples of car buyers grouped by whether they value safety over performance, and food purchasers sorted for whether they stress healthy lifestyle or convenience. Past success is another reason segmentation can get stuck in a rut. Because segmentation requires an upfront investment, marketers tend to want to stick with proven targeting once the segmentation study is completed. But today’s hyper-personalized, digital environment has accelerated the pace of change in markets, perhaps shifting customer expectations and preferences away from an existing segmentation model. Markel advises an annual “look under the hood” of the segmentation engine to see if segments are still valid or need appending/updating. An annual audit can avoid the expense of a broader overhaul down the road.

Big Data Blindness Ignores Potential Audiences

One outcome of segmentation based on existing customers is blindness to potential audiences. Segmentation research often uses the existing customer base and surveys of people that marketers assume should be targeted. This can create marketing campaigns that miss groups that Markel calls “ghost segments,” people who could be among a brand’s best prospective customers. Markel suggests a periodic look at non-customers for conversion potential as one way to capture these “ghosts.” And, of course, if a new product or service is in the works, research should ask whether it will attract new groups differing from the existing customer profile. Another reason ghost segments are common is that marketers, overwhelmed by the task of sifting “big data,” fall back on whatever data sets are handy. Markel suggests that it would be better to bring in big data at the tail end of segmentation. He advises analysts to start by creating segments using primary research, add existing customer “big data” to target those segments more efficiently, and then plug segments into a data management platform for insights on other products, services, interests, and media that may correlate.

Analytics Miss Without a Companywide Strategy

Finally, Markel stresses that a segmentation study that ends up residing only with a few marketing decision-makers will fail to live up to its ROI potential. Customer and prospect insights have relevance for multiple departments and teams, from sales to customer service to finance. In order to deliver a seamless, personalized customer experience, Markel suggests creating 360-degree customer personas and promoting them throughout the organization. Management can start with workshops to educate employees on the use and importance of those personas both for their departments and the organization, and then can schedule check-ins to show team members the resulting benefits of segmentation and targeting implementation. If segments are made relatable, it will ensure they are used and embraced across the organization.

Tech & Data Trends Spur 2019 Fundraising Opportunities

Despite 2019’s many challenges for nonprofit marketers, including competing for attention with political fundraising noise, trends in data analytics and technology offer good news for AccuList’s fundraising clients.

Fundraising Can Leverage Digital Innovations

Consider trends highlighted in this spring’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in Oregon. For example, nonprofit tech pros reported success using Digital Wallets, such as Apple Pay, Paypal and Google Pay, to make donating easier for donors and to increase conversions. AI and chatbots are another boon cited by tech experts, not just because they free up staff from time-consuming interfaces but because they can be used to segment audiences and tailor communications to boost donor acquisition, value and retention. Meanwhile mobile text messaging and mobile giving not only continue to grow in use, but nonprofits are learning to leverage SMS to trigger response, scale donor relationships and engage and motivate communities more fully. Online giving continues its growth path, but there are now more online giving services and their offerings are expanding. For example, Give Lively has free online fundraising tools for text-to-give, peer-to-peer, events, and integration with social media platforms such as Facebook. Finally, virtual-assistant voice services have entered the fundraising arena; for example, Amazon’s Alexa now can help donors verbally contribute up to $10,000.

It All Comes Back to Targeted Data

But for tech innovations to be effective, quality data and data analytics are essential. For example, fundraising efforts can use data to identify and segment those groups of current or inactive donors more likely to increase their donation dollars or flag donors to tap as future legacy donors. And data analytics can combine with real-time marketing automation, triggered e-mail series and variable data printing of personalized direct mail for improved donor acquisition. While the task of data collection and analysis can seem overwhelming, nonprofits don’t need to vacuum up every bit of big data for better results. The key is to collect and track the information in the donor database, or to select the key response factors to target in prospect lists, which are most likely to lead to success. Beyond the basics of name, address/contact, gender, age and date and amount of last donation, data targeting can be enhanced with parameters indicating donor capacity (the ability to give) and donor affinity (the willingness to give). Indicators of donor capacity include personal income/wealth measures, real estate ownership, business title, stock ownership, etc., while donor affinity parameters include the RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) of the donor or prospect giving history, past relationship/interest in a specific cause or affiliated appeal, and political affiliation and giving. Check out this article on donor data from Candid’s Philantopic blog for data management tips.

Beware Assumptions About Donor Data

A good database policy also includes regular hygiene and updating as well as an ongoing check for knowledge/data gaps. Classy, the online fundraising software provider, suggests challenging assumptions of donor knowledge by making sure analytics can deliver on these questions:

  • When are donors most likely to donate?
  • What is the average donation amount?
  • What is the average donation amount?
  • Are there different types of donors?
  • What is the reason for donation?
  • How does the donor liked to be thanked?
  • What is the donor’s communication channel preference?
  • What value does the donor get from donating?

See the rest of Classy’s suggestions on using data for fundraising.

Latest Data Shows Direct Mail Is Still Alive, Well and Effective

Some marketers theorize that “direct mail is dead” about as often as “Game of Thrones” fans theorize about the fate of favorite characters. So for all of AccuList’s current and future direct mail list and data services clients, here is current proof that direct mail is alive and well, and still a key direct marketing tool.

Marketing Mail Enters 2019 on a Growth Path

The U.S. Postal Service reports that revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2019 (October-December 2018) was up 2.9% to a $19.7 billion total over the same prior-year quarter. A decline in First Class Mail dollars and volume was more than offset by Marketing Mail’s 4.9% increase in revenue, up by $218 billion, and 4.8% bump in volume, up by 1 billion pieces, combined with Shipping and Packaging revenue growth of 8.7%, up by $516 million, and a 5.4% volume bump, up by 93 million pieces.

Mail Response Outpaces Other Channels

We’ve reported it before, but it bears repeating because it explains why direct mail is still an important marketing tool in this digital age: The 2018 DMA/ANA Response Rate Report shows an average direct mail response rate of 9% for house lists and 5% for prospect lists, stellar rates compared with response rates of 1% or less for e-mail, social media, paid search and display ads. In fact, lower mailbox volumes actually have helped turbocharge mail response in an era of digital promotional bombardment, from e-mail, to online ads to mobile ads. Consider that, each day, an average of 107 e-mails per person are received globally and an average 63 ads per person are viewed, but only an average of two pieces of mail are received per person. It’s clear which channel gets the audience attention and why 75% of households read or scan their direct mail ad materials daily, per a USPS 2016 study. Not only was direct mail the top purchase influencer among Baby Boomers, even beating out family and friend recommendations, per a 2015 MarketingCharts study, but even younger, digitally addicted generations are fans of direct mail, too. According to USPS studies, 77% of Millennials pay attention to direct mail advertising, 90% think direct mail advertising is reliable, 57% have made purchases based on direct mail offers, and 87% of Millennials say they like receiving direct mail. Direct mail works or an even younger group of consumers as well: 69% of 18- to 24-year-olds prefer reading print and paper communications over reading from a digital screen, per paper-producer Sappi.

Mail Wins by Being Trusted, Engaging and Personal

How can direct mail work so well across generations of consumers? First of all, in an age where trust in advertising is at a minimum, 76% of consumers say they trust direct mail when they want to make a purchase decision, and trust it more than digital channels, per a 2016 Marketing Sherpa study. Direct mail is also more engaging, memorable and persuasive, per neuroscience studies. In fact, a 2015 Canada Post neuroscience study of direct mail found that direct mail’s motivation response, its persuasive power, is 20% higher than digital media’s motivation response. Finally, in an age when personalization is expected and demanded, direct mail can harness multi-channel databases to machine learning/AI, variable data printing and behavior-based triggers to produce timely, highly personalized messaging, images and offers, way beyond the old first-name addressing of the past. Need more convincing? Check out direct mail solutions provider Compu-Mail’s slide show of 35 direct mail statistics for 2019.

Digital Data Feed Publishers’ Subscription Growth

AccuList helps business periodicals grow audience via direct marketing, and, as always, good customer and prospect data is at the root of marketing success. Consider a case study from The Economist, named one of the eight best business magazines of 2019 by The Balance reviewers. It isn’t only content that makes The Economist stand out. It’s a data-based audience-building strategy that has quadrupled subscription revenue over the last three years.

Customer Data and Predictive Analytics

Facing challenges in growing subscriber and advertising revenue, The Economist contracted with a customer data platform, Lytics, to shift from a print-focused to a digital subscription strategy based on customer data management, per a recent What’s New in Publishing (WNIP) post. For example, the publisher used data analytics to create content hubs, or individual pages that display digital content based on a reader’s interest for particular news topics. Tactics also included displaying offers based on the reader’s subscription status and predictive engagement score, meaning their likelihood to subscribe, derived from other readers with behaviors like theirs. And the online Economist gave readers featured content based not just on topic interest but also on behavioral scoring so readers got the type of content they wanted in the way they wanted to read it. Yet another example was a campaign for a free “Back to School Megatech” eBook, that produced a 9% click-through rate for targeted audiences.

Payoffs in Acquisition and Retention

In addition to a 4X bump in The Economist‘s subscriber revenue, the data-centric effort decreased cost per acquisition by 80%, tripled digital subscriptions, and increased time-on-site and engagement measures, per the WNIP case study post. The development of ongoing and adaptive customer profiles using machine learning went beyond simple demographics to allow for individually tailored and timed advertising and engagement strategies, such as predicting when a reader is more receptive to certain kinds of advertising or content. Retention strategies also were improved by predicting when subscribers were likely to stop visiting or subscribing.

Leveraging Data and Content for Growth

The Economist is not alone in embracing a digital subscription and data-management publishing model. The New York Times used similar strategies to boost digital subscriptions and revenues last year, even creating nytDEMO (DEMO stands for data, engineering, measurement, and optimization) as a collaboration among members of The Times data, product & design, technology, and advertising groups. The nytDEMO team offers brand marketers AI-based data tools such as “Project Feels” predicting emotional response to content and “Readerscope” identifying reader/interest audience segments. While other print and digital news operations were cutting back in 2018, The New York Times Co. used data-driven strategies to generate more than $709 million in digital revenue, with online subscription revenue up nearly 18% from 2017 and digital advertising up 8.6%. Out of its 4.3 million paid subscriptions for digital and print in 2018, more than 3.3 million people paid for its digital products, a 27% jump from 2017. Those results prompted executives to set a new target of more than 10 million subscriptions by 2025. And since NYT execs believe successful data marketing relies on quality content marketing, the revenue gains will be plowed back into content development via increased investment in newsroom and opinion operations.