Why Direct Mail is a call to Digital Engagement
Harness the sea change in consumer behaviour to maximise engagement.
by Gary Howard
Like all forms of advertising and communication, a mailer or a mailed pack is the delivery mechanism to prompt a call to action. We take the approach that a mailed piece is the same as any form of digital activation, with the intent to encourage the recipient to act, predominately online. Post-pandemic, mail has seen somewhat of a renaissance, always a more trusted form of communication with high rates of engagement compared to digital channels, but a behavioural change in the use of QR codes has provided the opportunity to reinvent the use of mail when used to both recruit new customers, donors, members advocates and subscribers.
The letterbox has become an open, clutter-free, media channel
Data, technology, and automation
Precision has operated successfully for over 27 years and as all successful businesses operating within that time frame, innovation has helped sustain us. Data, technology, and automation enable us to provide a product that remains as relevant in 2023 as it did in 1995.
In today's world, a physical product must also be dynamic and interactive so that any engagement can be measured and a return on investment correctly attributed. Data-fed technology created by our own development teams has transformed our business and the market we operate in.
Precision Connects™ - A web-to-mail platform that combines acorn-profiled data on 27 million households, creative automation to provide brand-protected and editable templates, an image library, a PDF upload tool, and print-ready file generation. Data drives the technology, including the ability to include unique QR codes as a variable image. The QR Code is loaded with data that is tracked and reported on, in real-time. Our Connects platform is used by 18 of the top 20 Housebuilders in the UK, Octopus Energy, Good Energy, The Labour Party, Royal Mail, Subway, some of the leading Universities and Higher Education facilities in the UK and even Royal Mail uses the platform for their AdMailer service.
Precision Engage™ - With changes in how both ERP and CRM platforms process printed documentation, many now generate a ready-to-print PDF as a single customer file. We developed Engage as ERP/CRM plugin to deliver a continuous and automated workflow from PDF to post bag. Singular customer PDFs are a more secure alternative to data transfer but are not mail-sorted and missing the codes needed to become a mailable product. Engage processes thousands of files in minutes programmatically creating a bulk file, ready to print and mail. In addition, we have included the ability to provide dynamic streaming of inserts per customer ID. This process enables us to continually call on files until it is time to process, meeting stringent SLAs and maximising postal discount opportunities. Organisations that currently benefit from Engage include Octopus Energy, Good Energy, The National Education Union, Leep Utilities, The YHA, The University of Cambridge, numerous Charities and The Street Group.
The ability to scale production to deliver, time-sensitive, complex mail packs.
Smart is a word often used. AI is taking that to a whole new level but in terms of producing high and, for that matter low, volumes of mail packs in an efficient, accurate and secure way that is also sustainable, we use technology. On average, Octopus Energy sends 30,000 mailers of differing page lengths and complexity per day. In 2022, the demands changed rapidly due to the energy crisis and the acquisition of Bulb, and often at short notice. The ability to double/treble the number of mailers sent daily became a regular occurrence but the SLA remained the same and, in some cases, delivery times were reduced.
We didn’t add any more hardware, we didn’t employ any more people and we didn’t add cost, we operated flexible working patterns to increase utilisation and output and continued to fine-tune automated processes to ensure we didn’t fail. Like-for-like production doubled from 3.2m to 6.3m.
Printed mail delivers the greatest level of personalisation, data segmentation guides the personalisation, and creative automation delivers both content and image localisation to increase the relevance of the piece. This is proven to increase engagement, response, and returns. We combine data with powerful publishing software to make this both viable and affordable. The Strategic Mailing Partnerships Platinum award was awarded to the Subway mailers that contained the following attributes.
- 6 million mailers
- Across 2000 + stores.
- To an audience within a 10-minute walk time to their closest store.
- Local store info and body copy.
- Multiple meal deal promotions at differing price points.
- Each has its own unique QR codes to measure:
- Meal Deal
- Price Point
- Data + Time
- 30 million unique QR codes.
Instore redemptions increased from 0.78% for a door-drop to 14% for direct mail. Loyalty registrations enjoyed a 38% conversion rate.
The Greenest Business in Suffolk
If the energy crisis taught us anything it was that it is best to reduce the amount of energy used, do away with fossil fuels as an energy source and be as self-sufficient as possible.
Our print and mail production facilities are solar powered - we have doubled our solar energy production with a further 100kw solar PV system being installed by Autumn 2020. We run an EV company car and forklift fleet to further maximise the use of the solar power we generate. Throughout our building, we’ve installed low-energy LED lighting and use vegetable-based inks on our print presses and FSC or PEFC-certified paper. Furthermore, our mailing film is manufactured from potato starch, which can be recycled in a standard compost bin. And our proactive supply chain shortening has allowed us to further reduce our carbon footprint. Recycling is our obsession and we have smashed the recycling rate compliant with ISO 14001. We’ve even sown a beautiful wildflower meadow to encourage local wildlife.
By July 2023, we will be a zero-emissions business.
The reengineering of mail to make it both sustainable and cost-effective.
Our commitment to sustainability goes beyond what could be considered standard measures. It must be a philosophy that extends through our supply chain and the product we offer to our clients.
Our basic principle is to reduce the number of impressions, inserts and content contained within a mailed piece to reduce its size, weight and therefore carbon footprint. This delivers the added benefit of reducing the cost of each mailer. With attention spans reducing and distractions plentiful, we suggest that less is more where content is concerned. More so, the prime function of mail is to prompt action and to drive the recipient to find out more about you and guide them through to the purchasing funnel without friction or distraction.
We apply the principles of Nudge Theory and ask the client if their message is Easy to understand and act upon, Attractive enough for them to want to get involved, would they know anyone else that had taken part to make it Social. Is it Timely? Often this relates to other advertising they had subconsciously seen or a news item they had become aware of.
A simple example relates to the customer acquisition campaign devised for Good Energy. As with most renewable energy retailers, Good Energy is in the business of installing solar panels on our rooftops. The campaign we came up with was not a new idea but a highly effective one as it ticks many of the Nudge Theory principles. We sent a (fully recyclable postcard with a protective varnish and not a laminate) to households in the same area, with a simple set of messages:
- We are installing solar panels in your area. (Naming the location)
- The homeowner will save up to £900 a year.
- They will earn money by selling energy back to Good Energy.
- To find out more, scan the QR code for a no-obligation quote.
- Leading to a localised, mobile-friendly landing page.
The cards are sent out 3 weeks prior to the planned installation providing time for a successful sales conversion to be included within the existing work schedule.
Instead of a generic leaflet or brochure plus a cover letter, a simple one-piece postcard with a clear and valuable call to action drove the recipient online and we could track the engagement back to the postcard through the unique and dynamic QR code.
The combination of experience, an active and determined approach to sustainability, and a deep understanding of the power of data and how that can be complemented by technology and workflow automation coupled with positive human attributes that include caring about the world, our people and our customers, has served us well. We have seen remarkable growth once the shackles caused by the pandemic had been lifted and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our talented team. We are flexible and nimble and would be delighted to be considered as a potential partner.
Precision Marketing Group.