Why you should reprogramme your direct mail approach

Erwin Busselot, Director Business Innovation & Solutions, Ricoh Graphic Communications, Ricoh Europe

Ricoh Europe, London, January 20 2023 – Highly effective programmatic mailings are becoming a more impactful communication method as brands explore creative ways to meaningfully connect with their customers.

Interest is being driven by several factors from legislation and Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS), to recipient trust.

In Europe recent legal updates are restricting personalised digital marketing by means of cookies. They include the Digital Services Act, fully applicable from February 2024, along with the Digital Markets Act (DMA) passed in December 2021. As a result, there is the need for alternative targeting options for personalised advertising. This presents a unique opportunity for programmatic mail.

In response, the Programmatic Print Alliance was formed by f:mp. (Fachverband Medienproduktion, the German association of media professionals) and industry specialist Maertterer. The aim of the alliance is to develop innovative pilot projects.

It is a timely initiative as more companies are now adopting programmatic communications to improve customer engagement and boost their return on marketing investment (ROMI). According to Statista the 2021 value of the programmatic advertising market in Europe (which includes programmatic direct mail) stood at €68.13 billion, up from the previous year’s €53.98 billion.

Part of this growth is due to the fact a huge 87% of consumers view mail as believable. And, while it is trusted across all age groups, it is one of the most trusted channels for Gen Z. For this generation, born between 1995 and 2010, the smartphone has become a key source of information but, interestingly, they consider data-driven programmatic mail a “disrupting technology”. For them, it’s astonishing that a similar personalised experience as on their smartphones can also be achieved by print.

Also shaping future opportunities is the decision by Great Britain’s Royal Mail to allow for programmatic mailings to qualify for bulk discounts following pressure from the Strategic Mailing Partnership. Unlike a mass mailing of thousands of catalogues which already enjoy postal discounts, programmatic actions are sent in smaller batches in direct response to customer activity. The discounted mailing rate applies when a mailing house sends out fewer than 4,000 items daily, the usual threshold for discounts. A minimum of 50,000 items are required to be sent in a 12 month period for those that sign up before 3 February, 2023.

Modern programmatic direct mail marketing works by delivering the same level of automation expected for digital campaigns to the physical mailbox.  It automates most of the processes associated with traditional direct mail campaigns including data analytics, segmentation, building the list of recipients, data cleansing, designing, printing, and sending the mailer. It integrates direct mail campaigns with other marketing activities, as the ultimate goal is to create effective cross-channel campaigns. The mailer often marks the starting point of a customer journey, which ideally ends on a landing page, where conversions (equalling orders) can be achieved.

Sometimes programmatic mail can also start once an email marketing sequence ends. For example, an abandoned shopping basket prompting an email after a few hours, a reminder after a few days, and then a piece of direct mail with an incentive after a week. Adding the physical direct mail step grabs attention and helps improve ROAS. It enhances a brand’s connection with existing customers and fosters fresh relationships.

Other benefits include:

  • Transaction success – personalised messages and offers keep customers engaged, increasing the likelihood of repeat sales and higher ROI.
  • Effective targeting – identifying consumers engaged with on the website based on their needs and interests.
  • Triggering attractive offers – communicating the right offer to the right individual at the right time based on their purchase history and other activities.
  • Increased opening rates – effective and relevant interaction via personalised direct mail based helps reach the target audience and increases opening rates.
  • Online and offline data use – the segmentation of the audience based on attributes such as gender, location, age range, affluence, and purchase history, can create personalised communication with highly crafted content. It also ensures the real people who are interested in the communication are being contacted.

There are a number of ways digital high speed inkjet and toner technology can produce highly targeted print. They include the ability to use individualised data, the creation of personalised tailored content and the application of Digital Print Enhancement to capture attention and prompt engagement.

Discover more about these and other ways to make programmatic direct mail a successful element in your communications offering.



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