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Brilliant Communications

Personalized Direct Mail, Theory or Reality?

by Candice Russell | January 25, 2013 | 2 Comments

Digital Image by Sean Locke<br /><br />
Digital Planet Design<br /><br />
www.digitalplanetdesign.comYesterday I received a direct mail piece from my local grocery store which immediately caught my attention. The mail piece was personalized on the outside with my name in color, and it promised great deals and coupons on the inside. I opened it right away.

I was quickly disappointed when I looked at the contents, however. Not a single coupon in the mail piece was for something I would actually buy. There was $2 off a 12 pack of soda. Is that a good deal? I have no idea because I never buy soda.

As a consumer this mail piece did nothing but frustrate me. Every time my family shops at this grocery store we use our “rewards card,” so they literally know every single item we purchase. If the purpose of the mail piece was to get me to try a new product, the data stewards at this company should know from my buying habits—organic produce, no prepackaged meals, hormone free milk, etc.—that I would never purchase soda. If they had offered a new, all natural pomegranate juice I might have been interested.

If the purpose of the direct mail piece was to get me to shop at their store then they have missed their mark again. We shop at their store approximately two times every week, so sending a direct mail piece to my home to entice me to go to their store was a waste of their marketing dollar. Or even worse, if I use a coupon to save money on an item that I would normally have purchased at full price then they have wasted their marketing dollar while at the same time getting one less dollar from me.

Personalization in the Physical and Digital Era

I see marketing information and advice on Big Data and “the year of the consumer” practically everywhere I turn. As marketers we are all in violent agreement that every communication should be personalized, that you need to marry physical and digital, and that you should strive to create a more personalized, uniquely relevant experience for each and every customer. But how do you make this all possible?

It is easy to envision how a marketer can personalize digital communications, and I see examples of it every day. Last night I decided I wanted something to read and five minutes later I had purchased and was reading a new book on my Kindle. The entire experience through Amazon was extremely personalized—starting with the list of recommended books based on my prior purchases. As a consumer this is extremely helpful, and it keeps me coming back.

But what about physical communications? Since studies and surveys all show that physical communications are more effective than digital, then why are physical communications lagging behind when it comes to personalization?

Are physical communications lagging behind because marketers haven’t realized yet that today’s physical communications can actually be digital? I don’t mean that your physical communication is suddenly going to start looking like something from one of the Harry Potter movies. What I do mean is that with today’s technology it is now possible to treat physical communications just like you would treat any email or online communication. You can completely customize all of the content in any piece of direct mail, and with today’s high speed production print and mail technology you can cost effectively create visually powerful direct mail—or transactional mail with a marketing component—that is personalized to the same extent as an online communication.

What do you think about the endless possibilities of personalization in direct mail? Do you have any examples of direct mail that really felt personal and encouraged you to take action?

If you have any questions on how Pitney Bowes solutions can help your organization create an entirely digital workflow, please feel free to ask here. We can help you make it possible.

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  • Candice Russell

    Thanks James, I appreciate your comment. I agree that the important and often missing piece is leveraging the data that is out there.

  • James Brooks

    You nailed it Candice. This is the era of endless opportunities in direct mail. In the information age, those with the best information, or more importantly, those who maximize the best information will win. Imagine the impact and the quantifiable results if that mailer full of coupons had been filled with offers relevant and of value to you.