Why Marketers Should Incorporate Emerging Technology in Direct Mail

Technology can be a great way to engage your customers and prospects with your direct mail pieces, connecting offline to online marketing efforts. I previously shared the USPS’s 2020 Tactile, Sensory, and Mail promotion, and today want to highlight another promotion that can save marketers using direct mail some money, as well as encourage them to embrace new tech.

Technology can be a great way to engage your customers and prospects with your direct mail pieces, connecting offline to online marketing efforts. I previously shared the USPS’s 2020 Tactile, Sensory, and Mail promotion, and today want to highlight another promotion that can save marketers using direct mail some money, as well as encourage them to embrace new tech.

The 2020 Emerging and Advanced Technology promotion from the USPS runs March 1 through Aug. 31 this year, and encourages mailers to incorporate technologies such as “enhanced” augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, Near Field Communication (NFC), video in print (ViP) featuring shoppable video, integration with voice assistants, and digital into direct mail campaigns. You can create really fun and unique experiences while getting a 2% postage discount for eligible pieces.

For this promotion, you can use presorted first class, standard and nonprofit letters or flats, but please not that you cannot use it for periodicals, bound printed matter, or Media Mail. You must meet automation requirements for letter or flat size pieces.

Since there are quite a number of emerging technologies available for this promotion, let’s take a look at them:

  • Mixed Reality: This combines both augmented and virtual experiences through a combined immersive technology that can include sight, sound, and touch.
  • Virtual Reality (VR): VR is commonly defined as a computer technology that creates replicas of an environment, real or simulated, that includes a user’s physical presence to allow for user interaction. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experiences, which can include sight, touch and hearing.
  • Digital to Direct Mail: This is also known as automated or re-targeted direct mail. It encourages mailers to produce mail pieces that create a greater connection and elicit a higher response from consumers by using dynamically printed, personalized messaging that is automatically triggered based on a digital interaction. Unlike other options in this one starts with digital behavior such as a form filled out on your website that then creates customized mail pieces that get sent to them.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC): NFC technology generally consists of embedding a small chip into a mail piece that can be recognized by a NFC enabled device such as smartphones or tablets. The interaction is initiated by touching the mobile device on the NFC embedded item or by placing the device within close proximity to it. No app or download is needed to launch this technology so it is seamless for your prospects and customers.
  • “Enhanced” Augmented Reality (AR): “Enhanced” AR provides robust features that allow consumers to engage in experiences using the technology. “Enhanced” AR also includes video animation and 3D interactive graphics playing in front of or over physical objects so they appear to be interacting with the physical object. The “enhanced” experience can also use gamification or mobile game play. Think of the popular Pokémon Go game, this can be really fun for people to play around with.
  • Video in Print (ViP): ViP is video advertising that integrated into a printed mail piece. ViP can be integrated into a printed piece in several ways including, but not limited to Integrated video screen within a printed, mail piece, Integrated Video/Picture utilizing translucent paper, Personalized Interactive Video, or Shoppable Video. These are pretty cool, but they can be very expensive so make sure if you use this you are selling high end items that make it worth the investment.
  • Integration With Voice Assistants: Direct mail can be an effective way to educate recipients about the benefits of voice branding and how to interact with voice assistants such as Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Home and Nest. This should allow for the purchase of a particular product, provides a business related “tip of the day,” etc. with the assistant.

Each of these technologies gives you a different way to draw your prospects and customers into interactive experiences that not only have a wow factor, but work to generate more business for you and increase your response rates. Of course, be sure to refer to the USPS program document once you’ve thought about what you’re interested in experimenting with, especially to review the specific requirements of each technology. Are you ready to get started?

Turn Drab Direct Mail Into Fab

Have you considered how to have some fun with your prospects and customers using direct mail? Consider trying out a scavenger hunt that’s launched with the direct mail piece — it can lead to a better ROI.

direct mail scavenger huntHave you considered how to have some fun with your prospects and customers using direct mail? It can lead to a better ROI. Consider trying out a scavenger hunt that’s launched with the direct mail piece. You can have everyone start the same way or use variable data to start them off at different locations. Are you unsure of where to start to create a direct mail scavenger hunt? Scavenger hunt options include:

1. QR Codes

You can use QR codes on print items starting with your direct mail piece. Then, lead them to strategically located posters or flyers around town or your store where they scan additional QR codes to activate new clues to the next location.

2. Augmented Reality

You can create a virtual scavenger hunt where your prospects and customers scan the direct mailer to launch the content on mobile devices in their own home to start the adventure. Since people are very busy these days, you may end up with more participation this way. It will really depend on who your audience is.

3. NFC

You can create a direct mail piece with an embedded NFC chip that can be used in your store locations to launch content to drive them to the next location in the hunt. Since Apple does not currently support NFC, your best bet is to have people take the mailer into your store to use the NFC on an android device station that you set up in your store. (This also gets them in the door to buy from you.)

4. Store

Not sure your audience is ready for mobile technology? Go with the old fashioned hunt. Send a mailer that has them start at your store and check in to get a clue. You can then drive them around the store or to other locations nearby in the shopping center.

5. Online

Create an online scavenger hunt where they can visit special landing pages you have set up for the hunt. You will send them a direct mail piece that has the initial start landing page you want them to go to. This makes it easy for people to participate from a PC or mobile device.

Get creative and have fun with this. Yes, it is a marketing tool so you will want to highlight special offers and new products or services, but keep it light and fun. When you are able to do that your prospects and customers will enjoy themselves, share with others as well as buy from you. In order to pick the right hunt for your audience, consider how they currently buy from you. If they come to your location, consider using the store hunt. Another consideration is how much of a budget you have. The least expensive options above are the store and the online. You can create a great hunt without breaking the bank.

Before you start, map out the journey your customers and prospects are going to take. You want it to be fun, not super complicated. Once you have that down you can create the special offers they will see along the way. Of course you will save the best offer for the finish. You can even set the rules so that the first 5 people get a super offer and the rest get a smaller one to entice people to engage and finish quickly. There are so many opportunities here to create a really fun and engaging hunt. If your audience has children, you can create fun for them too. Remember to get testimonials you can use for future hunts and if it is a slow media day, get your local TV station to announce it. The more buzz you have the more people will participate.

5 USPS Direct Mail Promotion Programs for 2016

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has approved the USPS proposal for five programs offering incentives to mailers to increase mail volumes.

Mail StarThe Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has approved the USPS proposal for five direct mail promotion programs offering incentives to mailers to increase mail volumes. Many are the same or similar to last year. Direct mail has many unique qualities that the following promotions try to exploit. They grab recipient’s attention and increase ROI. Which ones would you like to try out?

1. Emerging and Advanced Technology/Video In Print Promotion
March 1 – Aug. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for First Class, Standard and Nonprofit letters, cards or flats. The mail piece must incorporate any of the following technologies including: standard NFC technology, video in print (ViP), beacon technology or an “enhanced’ augmented reality. These technologies will allow the recipient to engage in an interactive experience using the mail piece and mobile devices, tablets, etc. This year’s promotion includes an option for A/B testing. Click here for all the details.

2. Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mail Piece Engagement Promotion
March 1 – Aug. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for Standard and Nonprofit letters or flats. Print elements can be incorporated into direct mail to engage a multi-sensory experience through special visual effects, sound, scent, texture/tactile treatments, or even taste. In addition, interactive features such as pop-ups, infinite folds, or other dimensional creations also qualify. Click here for all the details.

3. Earned Value Promotion
April 1 – June 30, 2016.
You can earn a $0.02 – $0.03 credit per piece of returned mail for both First Class Business Reply Mail and First Class Courtesy Reply Mail. The credits will be added to your USPS account for use in future mailings. Click here for all the details.

4. Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion
July 1 – Dec. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is only for First Class mail. Adding a color message on a statement or invoice to sell other products or services is a great idea. Remember that it must be personalized, however an image is not required. Click here for all the details.

5. Mobile Shopping Promotion
July 1 – Dec. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for Standard and Nonprofit letters or flats. The mail piece must include a mobile barcode such as a QR Code or print/mobile technology such as NFC that can be read or scanned by a mobile device and then takes the recipient to a mobile-optimized shopping website in order to make a purchase. Click here for all the details.

Many of the promotions listed above are great ways to enhance your direct mail. Check out the 2016 USPS Promotion Calendar by clicking here. I especially like the Tactile, Sensory and Interactive one because there are so many creative ways to take advantage of saving on postage and really making a great impression with customers and prospects.

All of the promotions require mailers to register for them in order to qualify for the up-front discount. In many cases, there are other stipulations after mailing as well, so make sure to check out all of the requirements for each one you are interested in.