Direct Mail Is Back

Last week during my IMV15 presentation for “Direct Mail Is Back” we had some questions that we were not able to get to. So we wanted to address them in this blog post. If you have your own questions feel free to reach out and ask them.

Last week, during my IMV15 presentation for “Direct Mail Is Back” we had some questions that we were not able to get to. So we wanted to address them in this blog post. If you have your own questions, feel free to reach out and ask them — or leave them in the comments below!

Here are the questions we didn’t get to:

URLs on the mail piece: We used to be able to use “friendly” URLs, but our webmaster has discouraged it due to the way search engines penalize the site with multiple URLs landing in the site. What kind of URLs do you include?
We create and register a new site for each campaign. That way, the multiple landing pages are not part of our normal website. We do offer links to materials on our regular website to drive traffic there and provide more content. This is sometimes referred to as a microsite.

What would you recommend as a price point for a good direct mail piece as far as expense is concerned?
This is hard, as so much of the cost depends on what you are doing. So, instead of giving you prices that may not reflect what needs to be done, let’s look at what is the cheapest direct mail. That would be a postcard mailing to local recipients all near each other. This gives you the low cost of a card and the low cost of local postage. Specific prices will vary depending on your service area and your provider.

Are there metrics available that demonstrate a significant lift using DM as a precursor to digital follow-up (i.e. email) that justifies the extraordinary increase in costs when using DM?
That can be a challenge, as every list will have a different result. Your best bet is to run a test on your list. Knowing your results from your last campaign, you can then see if you had an increase in response or an increase in purchase amount. Who your recipients are and your offer are going to be major factors in your statistics, and can be dramatically different than a quoted statistic. Here is a case study on adding email to direct mail.

• Where can we learn more about augmented reality in marketing?
Check out these sites for more information on augmented reality:

  1. http://www.dmnews.com/augmented-reality/topic/8147/
  2. http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/35895.asp#multiview
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYd0by0PbNI
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDNzTasuYEw

Augmented reality can be really fun for recipients, as a couple of the above examples show. The cost to start this is very high, but if you do it right, you have the potential to reach many more people than you had on your mail list.

• Are QR codes really utilized much today? I feel like they are outdated already and no one uses them anymore.
It really depends on your audience and your offer. The two states with the most QR Code scans are California and Texas. So if you are mailing there you know that people are open to the idea of scanning a QR code. The best way to know if they are going to work for you is to test them. On your next campaign add the QR code and see what happens.

As direct mail is back in favor with many marketers now, you need to be even more vigilant when creating your direct mail. The only way that direct mail will continue to work is if we as marketers, send direct mail to consumers that is designed well, has a clear call to action and is targeted to the right people. This keeps recipients happy and increases your response rates.

Augmented Reality, Wearable Electronics and the Postal Service’s Future

In my previous blog post, I commented on the United States Postal Service and its announced plans for five-day delivery, discussing the importance of hard-copy communication and a commitment to deliver such communication on a daily basis. In extending this commentary, I claim no nostalgia for daily mail delivery, rather simply recognition that such communication has its unique position as a vehicle for superb brand engagement. The Postal Service is not standing still in the digital age.

In my previous blog post, I commented on the United States Postal Service and its announced plans for five-day delivery, discussing the importance of hard-copy communication and a commitment to deliver such communication on a daily basis. In extending this commentary, I claim no nostalgia for daily mail delivery, rather simply recognition that such communication has its unique position as a vehicle for superb brand engagement.

The Postal Service is not standing still in the digital age.

Last October, when the Postal Service announced its intention to raise rates this past January, it also announced its schedule for postage promotions through 2013. And in the mix is a bevy of technology-driven, multichannel “positioning” of direct mail that leverages mobile and interactive channels.

Discounts
Look at this selected line-up from the USPS promotion calendar:

  • March-April 2013: Mobile Coupon/Click-to-Call
    This promotion seeks to increase the value of direct mail by further highlighting the integration of mail with mobile technology in two specific ways. First, the promotion would encourage mailers to integrate hard-copy coupons in the mail with mobile-optimized platforms for redemption. Second, the promotion will drive consumer awareness, and increased usage, of mail containing mobile barcodes with “click-to-call” functionality.

    Provides a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards and flats sent during the established program period that include a two dimensional mobile barcode inside or on the mailpiece. The barcode must either lead the recipient to a coupon that can be stored on a mobile device, or enable the recipient to connect by telephone to another person or call center via a mobile device.

  • August-September 2013: Emerging Technology
    This promotion is designed to build on the successes of past mobile barcode promotions by promoting awareness of how innovative technology—such as near-field communication, augmented reality and authentication—can be integrated with a direct mail strategy to enhance the value of direct mail.

    Provide a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards, and flats that are sent during the established program period and include print that allows the recipient to engage in one of the following:

    • an augmented reality experience facilitated by a smartphone or computer,
    • authentication of the recipient’s identity, or
    • an experience facilitated via Near Field Communication.

To receive the discount, mailers must comply with the eligibility requirements of the program.

  • November-December 2013: Mobile Buy-it-Now
    This promotion will encourage mailers to adopt and invest in technologies that enhance how consumers interact and engage with mail, and demonstrate how direct mail can be a convenient method for consumers to do their holiday shopping.

    Provides a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards, and flats which include a mobile barcode inside or on the mailpiece that facilitates a mobile optimized shopping experience. To receive the discount, the qualifying mail must be sent during the established program period by mailers that comply with the eligibility requirements of the program

Augmented Reality
Next, in January during the media-frenzy of Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this Venture Beat post appeared, reporting on a USPS mobile app that uses “augmented reality” (subject of the August-September 2013 promotion) to integrate direct mail promotions with interactive programming on a mobile device and give recipients an enhanced digital experience with the mail piece. In augmented reality, a physical ad and an interactive ad comes together by way of an app, developed by Aurasma, rather than a QR Code. Augmented reality can be applied to any visual cues.

The apps keep coming. Associated Press then reported that Val-Pak, the company that sends blue envelopes stuffed with coupons, also wants consumer households to save money while driving. Valpak has partnered with Roximity, a Denver-based app developer, to bring coupons and deals to drivers of newer-model Fords and Lincolns who use the voice-controlled Sync AppLink connected to their mobile phone. The app allows people to hear about personalized deals from stores, restaurants and other businesses as they drive. The “coupon” appears on the driver’s smartphone and can be redeemed once the car is stopped.

Wearable Electronics
And how can you keep it all connected—the mail, the apps, the augmented reality, the mobile coupons? Why through wearable electronics, of course, article courtesy of The Atlantic Wire. The fashion verdict may be out, but the Postal Service is clearly thinking hard on how to keep mail relevant in an increasingly digital—and mobile—age.

I still maintain that the six or seven direct mail pieces I receive a day are precious real estate. They represent a tiny portion of the thousands of advertisements and brand “touches” I’m exposed to each and every day. Yet this is advertising that is largely targeted, and one with which I have a tactile experience—reading, responding, recycling as I deem appropriate. This is a powerful consideration, one that I certainly pay closer attention to. Will I be running to the app store to integrate this experience with my smartphone? Not anytime soon, but a hoodie for my iPod, ThinkPad and Samsung to tote and plug into would be nice.

Margie Chiu’s 15 Minutes Ahead: Augmented Reality – Sure, It’s Cool, but What’s in It for Me?

If 2009 was the year of iPhone apps, then augmented reality may be the darling of 2010. It’s that Hollywood technology that’s found its way into Burger King banner ads, a slew of “must-have” smartphone apps, the cover of Esquire and soon Adidas shoes. 

If 2009 was the year of iPhone apps, then augmented reality (AR) may be the darling of 2010. It’s that Hollywood technology that’s found its way into Burger King banner ads, a slew of “must-have” smartphone apps, the cover of Esquire and soon Adidas shoes.

So, what’s it all about?
AR enhances the “real” physical world with contextually specific imagery or information. The AR experience is typically triggered in two ways.

The first is through location recognition via GPS/compass-enabled smartphones or other devices. With Wikitude, for example, you can point your camera phone toward a famous landmark and see an overlay of information about the destination pulled directly from Wikipedia.

The second is through image recognition via a video camera in your laptop, desktop or phone. With the USPS Virtual Box Simulator, you can hold up a package to your webcam and the simulator helps you determine the shipping box size you need.

What are the facts?

AR has captured more than its fair share of press coverage lately due to a handful of high-profile marketing application launches and the entry of major players into the space, including Google with its Google Goggles (think search on steroids), Nokia and Apple. But is 2010 the year AR takes over? Probably not.

Penetration of webcams is still limited, and the market share of GPS/compass-enabled smartphones is even lower. The installed base for webcams is estimated to be in the 15 percent to 20 percent range. As for smartphones, despite all the excitement (and what you and your tech-loving marketing friends are toting), more than 80 percent of all U.S. mobile phones are still limited-function, “nonsmart” phones.

Does this mean you don’t need to be thinking about AR? Try again. It’s a technology that will hit mass penetration in a couple of years. Many newly shipped computers now have webcams preinstalled. And two-thirds of Americans will be getting new phones within two years — and many of them have their sights set on smartphones.

What are the opportunities?
Whether and when AR should be considered as part of your marketing mix depends on your company, brand and audience. But the following are three potential marketing applications for AR:

1. Riding the buzz wave. Want to be perceived as hip and of the moment? This is the low-hanging fruit with any new technology. This opportunity is most applicable to the entertainment industry and/or companies targeting youths and early adopters. This is a tricky area, however. Speed is of the essence, as you want to be seen as being on the “bleeding edge.” Remember, though, to hang with the cool kids, you have to be, well, cool. Halfhearted attempts without a strategy or purpose will be viewed skeptically.

2. Bridging offline and online. AR can be an opportunity to smooth sales or service friction points that result from a lack of in-person interactions. Natural fits are with beauty, apparel or home furnishings e-commerce sites. Ray-Ban’s Virtual Mirror is a good example of this. It helps consumers find the perfect sunglasses. They just look right into their cameras and “try on” different looks.

3. Enhancing the real experience. Possibilities include helping customers find their way through a store or shopping center, on-demand product information, and more. Unfortunately, the limitation of GPS indoor signal strength and the complexity of image recognition will be significant near-term hurdles. But you might be inspired by the Voodoo Festival and its custom AR app, which enables festival attendees to use their camera phones to get details about performances and navigate the festival venue.

Thinking ahead
What would you do differently if device penetration wasn’t a barrier? Are there processes or experiences that can be enhanced through AR — either made more entertaining, informative or relevant? The possibility of AR is exciting. Creatively it opens a good many doors and forces marketers to look at customers’ experiences in a different way.

Stay tuned.