Personalization, Omnichannel Strategies Drive 2020 Direct Mail

AccuList’s direct mail marketing and mailing list clients embrace a channel that, despite perennial death notices, continues to outperform in terms of response, but mailers must also rely on evolving strategies for success in 2020.

2020 Success Depends on Data-Driven Personalization

Research consistently shows that personalization bumps up response. Most recently, in a 2019 NAPCO Research report on direct mail personalization, 44% of respondents saw personalized print marketing campaigns increase response by 16% on average, while Canon Solutions research found that adding a person’s name and other personalized database information (along with using full color) can increase the response rate of direct mail campaigns by up to 500%! So it’s no wonder that the recent Printing Impressions article by senior editor Toni McQuilken cites a number of leading marketing and print industry leaders stressing that data-driven personalization is the route to 2020 direct mail success. For example, Maureen Powers, president, Direct Marketing Group at RR Donnelley, asserts, “Personalization is more important than ever before, including with direct mail…We are using the direct mail channel to drive the customer experience through communications such as coupons and personalized offers. We’re also changing how we help our clients message their clients based on individual customer preferences and their point in the customer journey.” Likewise, Jim Andersen, executive chairman of IWCO Direct, stresses the shift toward variable data printing of smaller runs of targeted, personalized direct mail with digital tie-ins: “Today’s direct mail is more effective, relevant, and timely thanks to more sophisticated audience selection and segmentation. This technology uses digital print to personalize every component of a mail piece, including letters, inserts, cards, and call-to-action reply devices that connect the physical mail to an online, digital marketing experience.” 

Customer-Demanded Omnichannel Campaigns Mate Mail With Digital

For Andersen, mail personalization must be part of the omnichannel approach that customers demand today: “One of the biggest opportunities in the direct mail space is providing effective and efficient solutions to consumer demand for personalized, relevant messaging integrated across all channels. Insightful use of data, combined with the flexibility of digital print production, allows marketers to seamlessly integrate tactile marketing in their omnichannel campaigns.” Summer Gould, of Target Marketing magazine, has cited three already-proven ways to combine mail and digital:  1) online display ads that match direct mail data files to an IP address to target specific people by displaying cookie-free banner ads on web pages; 2) Facebook ads that match direct mail data with Facebook data to send targeted ads (see our Facebook Match services); and 3) e-mail matched with direct mail audience targeting to keep offers fresh, deliver response reminders and make added special offers (see our Digital2Direct services). The mail-digital mating can be taken even further to a union of programmatic automation with mail. Printing Impressions cites the example of Brodnax 21C Printers in Dallas, where Jim Singer, managing partner, describes their innovative program: “We take raw XML data to drive intricate, complex direct mail campaigns, including ongoing on-demand digital printing campaigns for local store marketing applications. Every night at midnight we get a massive amount of data, and the automated workflow we built for this programmatic offering” kicks in to generate direct mail campaigns and send them to production.

Data Quality Has Never Been More Paramount

These trends to more personalization and omnichannel integration rely on marketing data for segmentation and targeting, of course. Plus marketers must adjust for growing regulation of data security and privacy. All make data quality a top direct marketing priority in 2020. Yet too many marketers feel overwhelmed by the torrent of omnichannel “big data.” A Forrester Consulting 2019 survey revealed that, while 82% of companies place a high priority on refining data quality, more than a quarter of all marketing campaigns were hurt by substandard data in the last 12 months. Clicktale 2019 surveys of marketing and customer-experience professionals found almost a third of marketers don’t feel they’re effective at utilizing their web and mobile data, over half (54%) said they “don’t believe they have a strong understanding of their customers’ behavior across digital channels,” and 20% reported feeling like “they will never truly understand why their customers buy.” Check out this 10-step data-quality strategy from VisionEdge Marketing if you are looking for a place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

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Personalization and Privacy Trends Highlight Need for Data Strategy

As data brokers, the AccuList team keeps a close eye on the many issues affecting the data strategies of our direct marketing clients. Data privacy is going to be one of those issues. While many of our U.S. clients are not affected directly by the European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR), U.S.-based consumer-data privacy efforts have now resulted in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), with other states likely following that model and federal legislation on the horizon. Regulation is only one of the data complications facing marketers now that omnichannel data personalization has become essential for targeted response and ROI. So what strategies will help prepare for data market changes in 2020?

Data Privacy Demands Customer Focus Across Silos and Sources

Companies face complicated decisions when combining first-party data collection, user-level data from the big digital platforms (Google, Facebook and Amazon) as well as second- and third-party data in ways that balance consumer privacy with smart (and customer-demanded) personalization. A post in AdExchanger by Briggs Davidson, a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, outlined some key steps for coping with a marketing data landscape that now includes regulation like CCPA. He advises starting with a focus on the customer in collecting, organizing, storing, and activating data across all silos that may need to meet data-privacy compliance, such as marketing and IT. Then when it comes to first-party data, prepare to shift marketing strategies to ensure consumers have a reason to share their data, delivering value to build trust. Davidson predicts creation of data clean rooms, or a separate analysis space for combining first-party data with platform-level customer data under strict privacy controls before usage. Marketers also will need an even closer embrace of media analytics to support a unified customer view, and use of new tools, such as Google’s Ads Data Hub. Finally, marketers will need multidisciplinary teams—for example Google’s upcoming restrictions on DoubleClick ID will boost the need for tech pros for unified customer views within Google—as well as partner collaboration in collecting and storing customer data.

Personalization Power Is Driving Marketing Data Trends in 2020

Hyper-personalizaton is expected to drive data marketing in 2020, according to a useful infographic put together by European digital platform firm Qualifio, which found that 83% of marketers say creating personalized content is one of their biggest challenges. Why? Because personalization now requires: 1) new tools to collect and analyze first-party data for compliance with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA; 2) an omnichannel purchasing journey and analytics for a single customer view; 3) incorporation of new technologies such as voice search (50% of Google searches are expected to be voice searches in 2020); and 4) meeting rising customer standards for personalized promotion and service. In fact, 70% of the customers surveyed want an immediate response to their questions or complaints, which is fueling artificial intelligence  (AI) and machine learning (ML) initiatives. Marketers surveyed are already moving to meet personalization challenges, with 78% of European companies completing a GDPR compliance assessment and 65% using omnichannel efforts to personalize customer journeys, per Qualifio’s data. For those U.S. marketers still hesitating to commit to personalization, check out these statistics on improved response, ROI and brand loyalty for e-mail, mobile, e-commerce and digital ads. Direct mail personalization, from name-only to variable images and text, has a proven track record of success, too; in fact, a 2019 survey by NAPCO Research found 44% of responding marketers said personalized direct mail increased response, on average, by 16%.  

Data Quality Key to Privacy, Personalization, New Tech Initiatives

Data quality will be even more key to data strategy in 2020. It is paramount in meeting consumer data privacy regulations, for example, where validated contact data is required to avoid consequences ranging from compliance penalties to brand damage. Effective omnichannel, targeted marketing also requires data quality. A Forrester Consulting July 2019 report revealed that while 82% of companies place a high priority on refining data quality, more than a quarter of all marketing campaigns were hurt by substandard data in the last 12 months. Plus, the high-tech analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) that marketers count on to boost personalized customer interaction also depend on data quality. A majority of enterprises engaged in AI/ML initiatives (78%) say these projects have stalled—with data quality as one of the culprits for 96%—according to a new study from Dimensional Research. That’s why CMO Kristin Hambelton, of Marketing Evolution, urges marketers in a recent Forbes magazine post to take these basic steps for improved 2020 data quality: 1) prioritize data quality and create a comprehensive initiative that includes not only processes and technology but defined positions responsible for data verification, collection and cleansing policies; 2) define and verify high-quality data in terms timeliness, completeness, consistency, relevance, transparency, accuracy, and representativeness; 3) organize disparate data sources with unified marketing measurement, breaking down silos to develop a holistic customer view across sources and channels, and to form actionable insights. 

 

 

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.

Make Clean Data a Top Priority for Effective B2B Marketing

As business-to-business marketers craft their fiscal 2020 budgets, it’s important that complex issues such as analytics, automation or AI do not distract from a core investment for achieving ROI: clean data. Certainly, AccuList stresses to all its list hygiene and management clients, whether for house lists or rental prospecting lists, the importance of data quality for targeting and response, and a recent blog post by b2b data management firm Synthio confirms the basic steps for data hygiene.

Start With a Clear Data Plan

When 94% of B2B companies suspect inaccuracy in their databases, any marketers who do not prioritize data hygiene have their heads in the marketing sands.  That starts with a data plan. A good data plan will decide on the data-quality key performance indicators (KPIs) needed to achieve business goals. The plan will survey existing contact and account data and determine how to measure health in terms of data accuracy and completeness and how to maintain data hygiene tracking on an ongoing basis. It will look to see if there are important parameters for KPI success that the existing data does not address.

Standardize, Validate and De-Dupe Contact Data

What are the basics of data health and hygiene? Before cleaning data even begins, marketers need to check that important contact data at the point of entry or download is standardized. This will make it easier to catch errors and duplicates and to merge data from multiple sources. There should be a standard operating procedure (SOP) that defines fields, formats, and entry or upload processes to ensure that only quality, standardized data is used. The next step is to validate the accuracy of the data. Although a manual process might work for a small database, and there are tools and imported lists for cleaning data, advanced data hygiene is probably best handled by experts like AccuList, which can match contact addresses against USPS verification standards and change of address databases as well as update e-mail address changes. With standardized, validated information, data sets can be seamlessly merged and purged of duplicates. Why worry about duplicates? Duplicate records hobble CRM efforts, waste dollars in marketing campaigns, undermine the Single Customer View essential for targeting and response tracking, damage customer relations and brand reputation, and result in inaccurate reporting that can mislead marketing strategy.

Append Missing Data Parameters

Most b2b house databases have data for each record, such as contact first and last name, e-mail, company name and business address. But complete data for all records may be spotty, and some desired data may be missing altogether, such as title, phone number, company annual revenue, tech stack, purchase history, etc. Wouldn’t it be great for targeting and response to fill in the blanks? Data appending can enhance a house file with hundreds of variables from outside lists, including business “firm-ographics” on revenue, industry, employee numbers, etc.; opt-in e-mail, and telephone numbers. Self-reported LinkedIn data is another source that can be used. For more detailed data cleaning tips, see Synthio’s full article.

Research Shows ABM, AI, Analytics Drive B2B Marketing Success

A new report based on business-to-business marketing data from Salesforce Research, Forrester Research and the Information Technology Services Marketing Association shows how technically sophisticated top-performing B2B marketers have become in order to woo today’s demanding clients. “B2B marketers are increasingly using a mix of account-based marketing (ABM), artificial intelligence (AI), and analytics to connect the right customers with the right content at the right moments,” concludes B2B Marketing Trends: Insights From the Frontline released in June. To enlighten our B2B clients, AccuList can pass along a few key findings.

Unified Data Vital to Personalization Demand

Today’s business buyers demand personalization: 69% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs, and 60% of business buyers are comfortable with companies applying relevant personal information in exchange for personalized engagement. B2B marketers are not quite up to speed yet, however, with only 46% of B2B marketers reporting a completely unified view from customer data sources. This is true even though most marketers agree that personalization improves brand building (92%) and customer advocacy (80%). The high-performing marketers have invested in customer data and are reaping the rewards, with 66% of high-performing teams saying they are satisfied with their ability to use data to create relevant, personalized experiences. In contrast, the under-performers are way behind, with only 7% satisfied with their use of data.

High-Performing Marketing Teams Use ABM

Account-based marketing (ABM) programs are collaborative efforts between marketing and sales teams, designed to focus attention on high-value customer accounts. High-performing B2B marketing teams are much more likely to collaborate effectively with sales teams on ABM programs (54%) compared with under-performing marketing teams (34%), according to the report. Because of the value of ABM programs, one-third of B2B marketers are currently planning to build them into their existing marketing automation platforms. Among B2B marketers using ABM, the ABM programs now account for more than a quarter of their total marketing budgets. Why? Nearly half of ABM users say the programs deliver higher ROI than comparable marketing methods: 77% of ABM users are achieving 10% or greater ROI, and 45% of ABM users are seeing at least double ROI compared to other marketing methods. ABM ROI is not a slam-dunk however; the top four challenges reported include getting data and reports to track results, personalizing marketing to key account contacts, getting adequate budget to support programs and resources, and developing customizable, scalable campaign assets. To further leverage ABM, many marketers have added, or plan to add, technology platforms such as website personalization to serve relevant content, predictive analytics to select accounts, and business intelligence or ABM data aggregators to measure results by account, etc. Also gaining in popularity is use of chatbots or conversational interfaces, while traditional efforts such as personalized, dimensional direct mail integrated into digital marketing continues to bolster ABM, too.

Growing Use of AI by B2B Marketers

Some 69% of business buyers expect personalized “Amazon-like” customer experiences today, per the recent B2B report. As a result, AI usage among B2B marketers grew 23% in 2018, with the majority of these marketers using AI within marketing platforms to optimize mid-cycle engagement. B2B marketers are using AI to facilitate online experiences with offline customer data, to drive next best offers in real time, to improve customer segmentation, to create dynamic websites and landing pages, and to personalize overall customer journeys, as well as a number of other goals. B2B marketers are also beginning to use AI technology beyond their marketing automation platforms; for example, almost half of B2B marketers use connected devices, and one-third added voice-activated personal assistants (such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa) in 2018. Register to download the free “B2B Marketing Trends: Insights From the Frontline” for more data on other B2B marketing trends.

Is Your Direct Marketing Realizing Personalization’s Potential?

Every direct marketing effort today starts with an assumption of personalization. In fact, with today’s tech advances in digital data, marketing automation, AI, variable data printing and more, the simple “Dear FirstName” personalization of yesteryear has been replaced by goals such as “hyper-personalization” and “personalizaton at scale.” Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative recently put together an infographic for MarketingProfs to illustrate the potential of personalized marketing for those who still think appealing to “FirstName” is enough.

It All Starts With Good Data

Before summarizing Feldman’s infographic, we would point out that, as data brokers and data services providers, AccuList is especially interested because personalized marketing relies on up-to-date, enhanced, accurate data to deliver on the promise—the right message, to the right person, at the right time—whether for customers or prospects. Customer outreach and the customer-based analytics for targeting prospects require collecting data from as many sources as possible: CRM, web activity, e-mail, direct mail, mobile apps, second- and third-party demographics, social media, and multichannel advertising. And then that data must be combined and maintained in a regularly hygiened customer data platform. Haven’t gotten there yet? You’re not alone. Only 5% of marketers have attained a single customer-data view that allows launching personalization across channels, per the infographic.

Why Invest in Personalization? Buyers Demand It

So why worry about an edge gained by just 5% of competitors? When 78% of Internet users say personally relevant content increases their purchase intent, and 81% of consumers say they want brands to know them better and to know when (and when not) to approach them, any brand that is ignoring that demand for personalization is ignoring the bulk of their potential market. What do customers and prospects want? Feldman’s infographic breaks it down into “four R’s” based on research: Recognize, Remember, Relevance and Recommend. People expect to be recognized by name and to have their preferences remembered so that brands can make suitable recommendations and send relevant offers.

The Payoff Is Big in Financial and Brand Clout

The bottom line shows why the “four R’s” matter. Studies find that personalization can cut acquisition costs by up to 50%, lift revenues by 5%-15%, and increase the efficiency of the marketing spend by 10% to 30%, per the infographic’s sources. Plus, in a competitive market, personalization will woo the 60% of shoppers who prefer to do business with brands that provide personalized, real-time offers and promotions. This is especially true if the customer experience is consistent across channels. With omnichannel personalization, studies show that marketers can achieve the multiple goals of boosting response, improving customer experience, increasing brand loyalty, driving revenue and delivering creative consistency across channels.

Omnichannel Personalization Includes Direct Mail

While discussions of one-to-one marketing often focus on digital efforts, traditional direct mail also has benefited from the technology trends driving personalization. Of course, a postcard or an envelope are, in a sense, always personalized by name and address for delivery, but inside the envelope or mailer, a letter, reply card, lift note, coupon, etc. can be personalized even more extensively. For example, a personalized pre-filled reply card has the advantages of both increasing response by cutting recipient effort and ensuring reply completeness and accuracy. More important, with enough quality data on recipients and modern variable data printing (VDP), messaging can be modified for each recipient based on database/list information such as purchase history, demographics/firmographics and online activity. A business-to-business campaign can be tailored by industry, title, association membership, online visits and more. A retailer can use product purchase history to craft discount offers, up-sales and cross-sales. An auto insurance mailer can leverage policy expire date, owner age, vehicle information, online quote requests, etc. to create a timely, personalized offer. VDP can even tailor graphics to fit individualized content. Plus, printing a personalized url (PURL) is one option that can take a curious recipient to a personalized online landing page with a pre-populated form and select offers. Or unique QR codes can be printed to take each recipient to a custom, personalized web page. There’s no reason for direct mail to remain stuck in the “Dear FirstName” era of personalization!

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.

Make Sure You Have a 2019 Data Hygiene Plan

As marketers prepare to launch their 2019 campaigns, they should make sure that a complementary data hygiene plan is in place, and certainly AccuList USA data services stand ready to aid in ensuring the quality, up-to-date, enriched data essential for achieving marketing results.

Why Does Clean Data Matter?

Marketers don’t want to join the 88% of U.S. companies whose bottom lines are hurt by dirty data, based on Experian research. The top areas impacted by poor data practices are marketing (66% of companies) and lead generation (80% of companies), according to DemandGen. Dirty data leads to poor targeting and ROI for marketers, reduced revenue from customer acquisition and retention, wasted company resources and misdirected strategy. To avoid that fate, marketers need a plan to regularly fix any customer and prospect data that is incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete, incorrectly formatted, duplicated, or irrelevant, plus to enrich the database via appending of relevant but missing customer parameters.

Developing a Data Cleansing Strategy

Pete Thompson, founder of DataIsBeauty.com, has put together a useful primer for developing a data hygiene plan. Start with the basics: Decide what data is important for business decisions and estimate the ROI of data quality improvement. Then review existing data processes: types of data captured, where it comes from and how is it captured, the standards for data quality, how errors and issues are detected and resolved, etc. Other questions include the main sources of errors, methods for validating and standardizing data, methods for appending or combining multiple sources, automation used if any, accountability for data quality, and measurement of data ROI.

Key Elements of a Data Hygiene Plan

Without going into detail, the basic steps of the data plan will start with creating uniform data standards, preferably applied at the point of data capture. Then develop a data validation process, applied either when data is captured or, if that is not possible, at regular intervals for data already entered. After data has been standardized and validated, you can append missing fields by cross referencing with multiple data sources. Streamline the process through automation tools and scripts, saving time and money and reducing human errors. However, while it may be tempting to start with automation, Thompson cautions against putting the cart before the horse; success requires having data standards and a proven validation process in place before automating. And then set up a monitoring system of the hygiene process, whether automated or not, via random test samples and back testing, and implement periodic checks.

For regular monitoring, or overall scrubbing without an automated regimen, experts suggest a quarterly hygiene review for databases of 100,000 records or more, and semi-annual cleaning for smaller databases. Based on our own years in the data business, we think the best advice from Thompson and other experts is to enlist the services of data processing pros when hygiene is due!

Check out more details from Thompson’s data hygiene plan.