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automation, AI, variable data printing and more, the simple “Dear FirstName” personalization of yesteryear has been replaced by goals such as “hyper-personalization” and “personalizaton at scale.”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!

New Survey: Online Marketing Pumps Offline B2B Sales

AccuList’s many business-to-business marketers—including business/industrial supply catalogs, business periodicals, trade shows, and recognition/incentive products—should be investing in a 2019 omnichannel marketing plan to maximize the online impact on offline buying, at least according to the latest research from Boston Consulting Group and Google. An optimal, best-practices mix of digital engagement channels—such as search, display, video, social media, e-mail and websites—with traditional print catalogs/mail, sales calls and brick-and-mortar stores can increase the marketing contribution to sales by 3% to 8%, BCG has found.

Decision-Making Starts Online, Even for Offline Buys

On average, two-thirds of B2B buyers of industrial machinery, industrial supplies, and packing and shipping products and services indicated in a new BCG survey that their purchase decisions had been significantly influenced by digital, even though the majority of buying journeys end with an offline purchase. The survey revealed that some 58% of industrial-machinery purchases were significantly influenced by online activity, even though 100% of the purchases were made offline. For industrial supplies, 88% of buyers performed some form of online research prior to purchase, while 69% then purchased online and 31% purchased offline. Packing and shipping buyers were more evenly divided in online-offline buying preferences, with 54% digitally influenced, 42% purchasing online and 58% buying offline. But it is the differences underneath the online influence data that reveal the opportunities for boosting sales. For example, spending to boost online branding ads/engagement can pay off when 75% of online industrial machinery researchers said that they consider two or more brands at the start of their buying journeys, compared with 55% of those who engage in offline research only. At the same time, 58% of industrial-machinery buyers said that they begin their online search with a product, rather than a brand, in mind. For these researchers, the manufacturers’ websites become primary points of influence.

Nurtured Online Researchers Make More Follow-up Purchases

One of the more encouraging findings in the BCG study was that online business researchers make more follow-up purchases, especially if there is engagement post-sale. When manufacturers of industrial machinery engage their customers digitally after an initial sale, those customers are three times as likely to research supplementary products, twice as likely to purchase them, and three times as likely to repurchase the product. Buyers of industrial supplies engaged digitally post-sale are eight times as likely to purchase a supplementary product of the same brand and twice as likely to repurchase the same product. Effective after-sales digital marketing activities include promoting online account sign-ups, encouraging app downloads, maintaining regular contact through e-mail or “nurture” communications, and ensuring a positive overall customer experience with the product or service.

Measurement Is Key for an Optimal Online-Offline Mix

For the best marketing return on investment, B2B marketers need to measure impacts and influences across the entire buying journey to connect digital marketing expenditures and tactics to offline sales. BCG found that measurement innovators use a variety of techniques—such as customer research, marketing-mix modeling, multi-touch attribution modeling, matched-market testing, and direct match-back approaches. For example, multi-touch attribution (MTA) is a modeling approach that attributes sales to the marketing activities that contributed most directly to revenues, using predictive models and artificial intelligence to derive statistics-driven attribution weights.  Direct match-back uses unique identifiers to tie a sale directly to the marketing activities that generated it at the individual or transaction level. Unique identifiers include credit card information, mobile tracking, in-store beacons, cookies, e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

Read more of the BCG study for survey details and success examples. And ask the AccuList team how we can help via our range of digital marketing services and Digital2Direct program, which combines targeted direct mail with social media ads or e-mail.

2019 Trends Open Doors for More Direct Mail Success

Direct mail lists and data services are core to AccuList USA’s business success, so each year we research which trends our direct mail marketing clients will want to embrace for maximum response–and which trends are fading in effectiveness.

Digital Ad Tune-outs Offer Mail Opportunities

Digital issues can create direct mail opportunities, points out direct mail agency Inkit, noting that customers are tuning out digital advertising, whether e-mails, banners or social media promos. In fact, eMarketer estimates that 30% of all Internet users will use ad blockers in 2019. One way to offset the drop in digital ad effectiveness is to beef up direct mail campaigns. Note that ANA-DMA research shows that 84% of millennials take the time to look through their mail and 64% would rather scan for useful information in the mail than e-mail. Plus, 41% of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers report enjoying catalogs. That engagement translates into higher response rates for mail than for any other media, per the 2018 ANA-DMA Response Rate Report, with 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists.

Snail Mail Can Join the 2019 Video Boom

While digital ads are being ignored, digital video is booming; Inkit reports that Cisco projects video will encompass more than 85% of all Internet traffic in the U.S. by 2020! Direct mail doesn’t have to be left out. Thanks to print technology–QR, AR, Video-in-Print and Near Field Communication (NFC)–paper promotions can jump on the video bandwagon and further boost their own mail response.

2019 Demands Personalized, Cross-Channel Campaigns

Customers in 2019 will expect marketers to personalize offers and deliver a seamless experience across channels, Inkit asserts, requiring integration of online, e-mail, direct mail, social media, mobile, and in-store campaigns. In fact, retailing research recently found that close to 90% of retailers say integrated cross-channel or omnichannel marketing is key to success. AI is one way marketers are getting a handle on messaging across channels and at different points in the buyer journey, which can help decide timing and targeting of direct mail. Meanwhile, for mail, variable data content printing and enhanced database targeting and segmenting can deliver the personalized relevant messaging that will be a basic of 2019 marketing.

Take Variable Data Printing to the Next Level in 2019

Yet when it comes to printing and personalization, there are some popular direct mail practices that need to be ditched this year, advises direct marketing agency Darwill. For example, using a 4-color master shell on which variable content is laser-printed in black and white has become old-hat given that new inkjet presses can create endless 4-color versions for a more targeted and engaging campaign. Along the same lines, the custom maps laser-printed in black and white can be replaced by full-color variable maps that are more personalized, eye-catching, and likely to drive leads.

Use Envelopes to Intrigue Outside; Put Tailored Offers Inside

This year, instead of revealing all details of a promotional offer on the outside envelope to drive opens, Darwill advises that a promotional pitch that is visible but not fully revealed on the envelope is likely to work better–a sneak peek at a personalized offer. Then once the recipient opens the envelope, he or she better not find one-size-fits-all content! Luckily, with today’s full-color inkjet technology, a letter or a coupon can now be varied based on a recipient’s past shopping patterns or demographics.

 

 

 

New Marketing Trends Bolster Food Gifting Growth

One of AccuList USA’s areas of specialization is providing mailing lists, data services and marketing support for the food and wine gift market, and so we keep an eye on emerging trends in this growth industry. In fact, food gift sales will approach $20 billion in 2018, up 4% over last year, per the “Food Gifting in the U.S.: Consumer and Corporate” report for 2018-2020 by research firm Packaged Facts.

Holiday Sales Dominate, But New Trends Push Overall Growth

Marketing dollars will naturally focus on year-end sales, since, while consumers and businesses are giving food baskets across a wider variety of occasions today, ranging from anniversaries to graduations to birthdays, Christmas is still the food and wine gifting mainstay. More than half of the 130 million consumer food gifters purchasing in the last 12 months bought during the winter holiday season. But how can food gift marketers push sales growth year-round? One key factor will be continued innovation that creates exclusivity and artisanship, avoiding the commoditization that drains profit with discounting, notes the report. To support that kind of brand power, marketing efforts will need to embrace the kind of story telling that creates a sense of authenticity and uniqueness and builds a gourmet brand image. Capturing the high-end boutique buyer can require a softer sales approach that aims at building knowledge and trust, say via featured recipes as an example. Food gift marketers also need to continue expanding gifting occasions beyond holidays, not only for consumers but also for the lucrative corporate market, by pushing work anniversary and thank-you gestures for example. Finally, while the food gifting market is heavily dependent on older, high-income consumers, tapping into millennials will require a more omnichannel approach that takes into account millennial ordering preferences, stresses the Packaged Facts report.

Embracing Omnichannel Marketing Options

An omnichannel wooing of millennials will combine direct mail/catalogs with e-mail, social media and e-commerce strategies. While traditional direct mail continues as a food gifting workhorse, a strong online presence and SEO strategy is especially essential. Luxury biscuit gift company Biscuiteers provides an example of how it matters: The company increased their website traffic from new customers by 90% and SEO revenue by 77% in 6 months by optimizing category landing pages for different types of food gift buyer and season. E-commerce goes hand-in-hand with a good e-mail strategy. For example, the venerable Hickory Farms brand decided to improve the quality of its customer data and create a more agile e-mail campaign process by integrating its marketing and commerce tech to trigger consumer journeys and automated e-mail sends. E-mail inbox placement this year rose to 94%, almost 10% above industry standard, plus e-mail list growth improved. Hickory Farms CMO Judy Ransford explained to CMO magazine that the smarter list management “helps us deliver e-mails at the frequency customers want, and to make sure the content quality is better. This year we’ve seen a huge improvement and not such high attrition rates as a result.” Social media also has become a must-have for food gifting via leading platforms like Facebook and Instagram for consumers and LinkedIn for corporate prospecting. That should increase gift-basket marketer interest in AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct program, which is designed to link targeted direct mail with Facebook ads or e-mails to the same recipients.

Who’s Winning in 2018 Gift Basket Ratings?

By the way, marketers looking for successful food gifting models should check out Top Ten Reviews’ 2018 ratings. We’re happy to note that our client Wine Country Gift Baskets’ Gourmet Choice Gift Basket was awarded best overall value for 2018 in a test of 11 gift baskets from the leading gift basket companies. Top-rated winners delivered on value for the price in terms of food and wine taste; presentation; ease of payment; delivery speed, options and geographic coverage; range of baskets; special options such as kosher, vegan and organic; offers of extras such as add-on wine, tea, books, puzzles, etc; and, of course, quality customer support. To read more, see the review of best gift baskets of 2018.

 

Learn How to Integrate Direct Mail & E-mail for Max Results

Even though omnichannel has gone from marketing buzzword to marketing given, AccuList USA’s retail, catalog and e-commerce clients can still face challenges in getting the most ROI from direct mail and e-mail integration. A recent MarketingProfs post offered a collection of stats and tips that can help.

Direct Mail Adds Important Punch to Campaigns

For those who doubt the power that traditional mail can add to a digitally focused effort, the article cites a few important facts about snail mail’s bottom line punch.  For example, campaigns that use two channels together, such as direct mail and e-mail, have been shown to get up to a 35% lift over those using a single channel, per IWCO Direct data. The younger generation may be very digitally savvy, even addicted when it comes to social and mobile, but recent studies from the U.S. Postal Service prove mail’s sales power: A whopping 57% of Millennials make purchases based on direct mail offers! Other USPS studies show why mail works so well regardless of age: People spend more time with physical advertising, have a stronger emotional response and remember the physical promotion better than digital efforts. Plus, beyond the ability to use direct mail’s sizes, formats and tactile designs to grab attention, today’s print technology makes it easy to link a printed piece to digital channels via QR codes, near-field communication (NFC), and augmented reality (AR).

How to Improve Integration of Direct Mail & E-mail

So how do you get the most out of a direct mail-e-mail marriage? Here are some ideas from the MarketingProfs post’s authors, Dennis Kelly, CEO of direct mail automation tool Postalytics, and Nancy Harhut, a creative director who has worked with leading brands such as Google, Adobe, McGraw-Hill, and Nationwide Insurance:

  1. Consider delivering critical information in both channels to reinforce the message.
  2. Have each communication build on the previous one.
  3. Use direct mail to emphasize a key message or break up the expected routine.
  4. Ensure both e-mail and direct mail adhere to the same graphic standards and reflect the same voice so each piece reinforces and extends your brand promise.
  5. Use direct mail to initiate a conversation with people whose email addresses you do not yet have, or with those who have repeatedly not responded to your email

For more on workflows integrating direct mail and e-mail, see https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2018/34741/best-practices-and-tips-for-integrating-direct-mail-into-email-marketing-campaigns

 

Shoppers Demand Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategies

Omnichannel marketing is the rule for today’s retailing. While print catalogs continue as a vital merchant tool, with 42% of households reading catalogs per the U.S. Postal Service, integration of multiple channels–including online, mobile and social with direct mail–is now essential to our catalog and e-commerce clients’ success. Unfortunately, while the majority of consumers expect to shop seamlessly across all those channels, only 7% of retailers provide the unified “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere” experience that customers want, per the recent “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey” by BRP Consulting, a retail management consulting firm.

Omnichannel, Cross-Device Shopping Is Now the Norm

Marketers just can’t afford to ignore that the majority of shoppers now interact with promotions, educational content and purchase services via multiple channels and devices. According to the same BRP study, three in five (62%) consumers surveyed said they check online reviews/ratings before visiting a store, yet just 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research! Shoppers now rely on mobile to continue the digitally supported buying process in-store, with nearly 60% of shoppers looking up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores, per Retail Dive’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Also per BRP, nearly three out of four (73%) of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction, going beyond an estimated delivery date to include when the order is being prepared, date shipped from the warehouse, etc. Plus customers expect an automated return process, with 68% of consumers surveyed telling BRP they are more likely to choose a retailer offering an automated returns process.

Analytics Need Complex Channel/Device Attribution

Merchants can leverage customers’ cross-device penchant to optimize acquisition and conversion, argues a Direct Marketing News article by Pierre DeBois. But they must keep in mind that, while the opportunity to boost ad frequency and content persuasion across channels is huge, smart management is required to avoid turning targeted promotion into a bludgeon. As Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, highlighted at the 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times…believe me I get it.” The first place to start is good omnichannel analytics to understand the contribution of each channel to ROI and its place in the customer journey. Only then can merchants cost-effectively tailor targeting and investment to maximize sales. One useful analytics tool is Google’s Unique Reach report, which displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad, and combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics, suggests DeBois.

Using Images and Chat to Direct the Customer Journey

Good omnichannel analytics also can improve use of image and video content to maximize the proven effectiveness of image/video in digital engagement, to answer the customer demand for education, and to direct prospects through the sales funnel. However, quantities of images bombarding customers across multiple channels can overwhelm and confuse, so both media curation and a content mapping strategy aligned to the customer journey are needed. One example of a targeted image strategy is use of an “image story” feature on a social media platform to orchestrate images and/or a short video, notes DeBois. Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments are all image story features. Because the majority of consumers research products and services online now, marketers also can gain an edge over competitors by offering customer-facing elements such as chatbots. In contrast to apps, which may be used only for a few discrete tasks and then ignored, a chatbot’s programmable assistance can provide both engagement and continuing response performance improvement.

For more, see the Direct Marketing News article.

Want E-mail Marketing Success? Here Are Some Basics

E-mail is a key part of most omnichannel marketing strategies, and AccuList USA supplies data and support for a growing list of e-mail marketing clients. Yet dodging spam filters and reeling in responses from crowded inboxes is an ongoing challenge. A recent Direct Marketing News article laid out some basic tips on how to get the most out of e-mail marketing:

Data Is Key to Deliverability, Targeting

As a data broker, AccuList USA naturally stresses that data matters. The DM News article listed data last among its tips, but we’ll put it first. Even the most well-crafted e-mail will end up in spam folders if delivered to an e-mail list with too many duplicates, outdated addresses, missing permission hygiene, spam traps, etc. Quality e-mail data is essential to deliverability, which means regular cleaning and updating of house lists, or carefully vetted rental lists (sponsored e-mails) for prospecting. Quality data is also key to the targeting that maximizes response, using segmentation and personalization to tailor offers and messaging to specific audiences and individuals.

Make Good First and Last Impressions

Once an e-mail lands in the inbox, the subject line, a brand’s first impression, impacts open rates.  While there are few absolute guidelines, be aware that 50-70 characters in length is the “sweet spot” for readability, per the article. In those few characters, the subject line needs to quickly convey an offer/value and tone that intrigue the audience. Beyond avoiding words and symbols likely to trigger spam filters, A/B testing is usually the best way to find which subject line leads to higher open and click rates, as the article advises. While focusing on a first impression, too many e-mail marketers forget the importance of a closing impression. For example, after gaining response and conversion, marketers can use transactional e-mails (e-mails acknowledging a purchase, donation, sign-up, etc.) to expand customer/donor value by offering a reward (discount on next purchase as an example), a loyalty program, a newsletter, social links and more.

Design With Mobile in Mind

When it comes to design, the key to success today is the ability to translate across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Remember, research shows that more than two-thirds of consumers access e-mail through their smartphones! Other common general guidelines include formatting within standard dimensions and fonts, creating a layout with quick-scan logic and clear call to action, optimally sized images with alt text in case of blocking, and personalized or even dynamic content.

Embrace Social Media and Sociability

E-mail isn’t usually the only method for connecting with an audience, or necessarily the channel preference of all recipients. That’s why e-mails also should highlight social media buttons, invite readers to share content, or urge them to visit appropriate social pages and profiles, notes the article. Meanwhile, with personalization, humanization and authenticity as benchmarks of today’s marketing, e-mail marketers should avoid generic messaging and deliver content in a tone that speaks to the target audience yet remains in line with a consistent brand voice across channels.

For more detail, see the complete article at https://www.dmnews.com/channel-marketing/email/article/13034539/6-email-marketing-tips-to-stand-out-in-the-inbox

Skeptical of Marketing Tech Buzzwords? You’re Not Alone

To help support direct marketing clients, AccuList USA tries to keep up with the latest in marketing technology and tactics, and so we’ve been bombarded along with clients by advice on how to seize opportunities with personalization, “big data,” omnichannel, real-time marketing, and, most recently, artificial intelligence (AI). Marketers struggling to find room in real-world budgets often worry that they’re falling behind in an escalating martech arms race! New research by Resulticks—a survey of over 300 marketing pros across industry verticals—offers interesting perspective.

Big Expectations: Big Data and Personalization

“Big Data” was the hot topic at the 2013 DMA Annual Conference, with 50% of marketers enthusiastic about investing. But making practical sense of those data torrents turned out to be more difficult than expected. Resulticks finds that only 16% of today’s marketers have fully implemented big data solutions, 20% have given up on the concept, and just 27% rank big data as a top priority now. Part of the problem is overhyped, underperforming martech platforms, per the survey, with 21% of marketers complaining that vendors overpromise and underdeliver. In contrast, personalization—meaning targeting that goes beyond basic attributes such as name to deeper parameters such as purchase history and online behavior—has done better in fulfilling expectations, with 60% of today’s marketers reporting full or partial implementation. The only fly in the ointment: Tech investments have not always kept pace with enthusiasm, and only 20% rate their software ability to deliver personalization as “excellent.”

Technically Challenged: Omnichannel

Back in 2014, one study found almost half of retailers saying they were going to commit to an “omnichannel” approach. Unlike multichannel marketing, where marketers touch customers at multiple points on their journey, the ambitious goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a seamless customer experience across all channels. Resulticks finds that only 9% of today’s marketers describe their approach as omnichannel, compared with 63% who use a multichannel approach. Technical barriers explain omnichannel’s failure to thrive. Only 35% have fully or partially implemented the required software platforms for omnichannel, and, among those who have bet on platforms, 58% rank vendor execution as “poor” to “fair” (compared with 13% who give their omnichannel software “excellent” marks).

Enthusiastic Embrace: Real-time Marketing

There’s a better report card for the “real-time marketing” that rapidly uses data across channels for more timely, targeted engagement in the customer journey. Resulticks reports that 49% of marketers rate their real-time marketing ability as “good” to “excellent,” that half say they have fully or partially implemented real-time marketing solutions, and that 47% say real-time is a priority for their organizations today. However, many marketers may need to adjust their definition of “real-time” if they want to compete for customers’ expectations; 47% are defining real-time as responding in an hour or more (with 20% taking a day or more), compared with the 12% delivering true real-time response in the milliseconds.

New Kid on the Block: AI

Social media giants have been betting on AI, and marketers are following their lead, with one study showing more than 50% planning to adopt AI in the next two years. However, Resulticks’ survey finds almost half (47%) of the marketers polled already rate AI as overhyped. Here’s a big source of that skepticism: 43% of marketers believe martech software vendors overpromise and underdeliver, and 69% rate their vendors’ ability to execute AI as “fair” to “poor.”

To download the study report, go to https://www.resulticks.com/marketingflabtofab.html