How Direct Mail Fits in an Omnichannel Strategy

Many times, marketers look at direct mail as an old-school choice that does not fit well in an omnichannel world. This is just not true. Direct mail helps you integrate online marketing with the physical world. Research shows people like and trust direct mail across all generations.

Many times, marketers look at direct mail as an old-school choice that does not fit well in an omnichannel world. This is just not true. Direct mail helps you integrate online marketing with the physical world. Research shows people like and trust direct mail across all generations. Direct mail is the tangible component of your omnichannel strategy. It is a physical piece that draws attention and then is remembered better than marketing that’s in digital channels.

When customers and prospects get a mail piece that ties to multiple channels, not only is your branding more effective, but your engagement goes up. Why? Attention spans are shorter, people are inundated with ads all day, and they are very busy in this fast-paced world, so reaching them multiple times across channels gives you more opportunity to get them to buy from you.

So exactly where does direct mail fit in an omnichannel strategy?

  • Start — Direct mail can be the start of your campaign. Use it to drive customers and prospects to specific online landing pages. Then create triggers for other channels, based on mail delivery date, landing page visits or lack of action.
  • Middle — So after you have sent out emails, display ads or any other marketing channel message, you can then use direct mail as a mid-campaign push to action. Then your follow up will be with other channels, based on either their response or the in-home dates.
  • End — Lack of response does not necessarily equate to lack of interest, so ending with direct mail is a very popular method. Direct mail is a driver of response. You can time it to distribute after a set number of days from other channels or be triggered based on lack of response to other channels. Direct mail as the last touch allows a final push of your campaign that can easily be saved until they have time to respond and can be given to others to increase your exposure.

Because direct mail is a good fit in any phase of your campaign, you should include the channel to help boost your sales. Now, let’s look at a real example of how IKEA uses direct mail in an omnichannel strategy. IKEA is known for its catalogs that come to life when scanned with a cell phone to show you how its furniture will look in your home, but did you also know that it’s using email and social media in conjunction with the catalogs, not to mention TV and radio ads? Each channel feeds into the other and allows them to build up audiences across all channels, which increase sales.

Direct mail doesn’t have to include an AR or VR experience like IKEA, but it does need to tie into your online content and other channels. You want the flow for customers to be the same, no matter what channel they respond to, so create a workflow that accomplishes this. Of course, what they see first is based on where and how they respond; however, the overall flow should be driven by triggers based on what each person is doing along the way. Customer experience is the key to great omnichannel marketing. You can no longer put your money into just one channel, because you will not get enough bang for your buck. Omnichannel marketing allows you to create a complete campaign based on ease of use for your customers. Every customer is different so allowing them to respond in the most convenient way for them increases your ROI. Are you ready to get started?

The Future According to Facebook … Is Terrifying

In a lot of ways, I feel like marketers are still catching up to what the Internet has done to marketing. But a couple weeks ago, at the F8 developers conference, Facebook announced plans to totally upend what the Internet is, blur the lines between our offline and online lives, and basically take us all one step closer to The Singularity … And I don’t think marketers are going to be ready for that.

In a lot of ways, I feel like marketers are still catching up to what the Internet has done to marketing. But a couple weeks ago, at the F8 developers conference, Facebook announced plans to totally upend what the Internet is, blur the lines between our offline and online lives, and basically take us all one step closer to The Singularity … And I don’t think marketers are going to be ready for that.

The Facebook Plan

The Facebook Future: Zuckerberg's 10-year roadmap.
The Facebook future: Zuckerberg’s 10-year roadmap. … Am I the only one who finds the word “planning” under “AI” a bit ominous?

The plan put forth at F8 is not exactly sinister, but many do see it as a bit creepy. Over the next 10 years, Facebook is dedicating itself to solving certain problems:

  1. Connectivity for Everyone: Facebook is working on two systems that would improve wireless Internet access in cities and provide it in rural areas.
  2. Applied Artificial Intelligence: This would allow real-time processing of things like translation, image search, real-time video tagging, and other capabilities that aren’t remotely possible without advanced machine learning.
  3. Social Virtual Reality: This is the one causing the most visceral reactions. Using the Oculus Rift headset, Facebook plans to make social media much more of a virtual social-visit-like experience. The tip of the iceberg of that is Facebook Spaces, which would let you and a friend chat via cartoon avatar in the real world via VR. Facebook promises this is only “0.1 percent” of their plans for virtual reality, but it’s an indication of how they plan to use it to pierce the veil between the online and real worlds.
  4. React Native: Facebook’s open source, cross-device development platform is built to allow designers to create apps for anywhere with a base on Facebook.

Isn’t This Great for Marketers?

On the surface, there is a lot of potential to Facebook’s vision of the future. Everyone gets access to your website, there’s AI to help you monetize them, virtual reality spaces to let your sales people (or bots) talk directly to customers as if they were meeting in person, and all your favorite technologies can build for the platform.

The gap from where we are now to there is really wide, though. There are aspects of the online world that are currently truly interactive in real-time, but for the most part the Web today works at the speed of typing. In most cases, your audience is reading something that you had the chance to think through, proof, check for lible, etc.

Everything Facebook is describing here will work in truly real time, more like an actual conversation. All the AI is made for real-time processing, and the VR spaces are literally real-time conversations.

So what will a world like that look like? Surely there will still be crafted, designed marketing, but will you have to have a sales person available via VR to take every order? Or are you counting on virtual assistants to be able to carry on a real-time conversation with a live human being? Chatbots have come a long way, but this functionality still seems further off.

I feel like in some ways the Facebook future for marketers is actually less automated, and would require more free personnel to do the interacting.

So my question is, how many of you are thinking about integrating AI, or preparing for virtual reality at all at this point?

I have a feeling the answer is close to zero. But technology is about to force all of us to think that through very soon.

The New ‘New Media’ Is Coming

The first time I saw a 360-degree video on Facebook, I didn’t know what it was. It was an immersive WWII recreation with tanks and explosions and soldiers running past. I didn’t even realize I could turn my phone to change the view. I wondered why it seemed like everyone had run behind me, had no idea I was just pointing the wrong way.

The first time I saw a 360-degree video on Facebook, I didn’t know what it was. It was an immersive WWII recreation with tanks and explosions and soldiers running past. I didn’t even realize I could turn my phone to change the view. I wondered why it seemed like everyone ran behind me, had no idea I was just pointing the wrong way.

That was before I wrote this blog post about Megadeth turning their album into a virtual reality dystopia. Before I started seeing Liberty Mutual and The Jungle Book 360-degree video ads on Facebook that have to be viewed on a phone, tablet or 3d viewer (so this next video is to view on one of those, not your computer).

Before i went to Adobe Summit and saw a 360-degree camera sitting on the stage between Tom Middleditch and Steve Hammond during the “Sneaks.” Adobe gave Cardboard-style VR viewers to VIP attendees to check out the VR experience.

That’s just a few of the companies coming out strong behind virtual reality video (without even getting into the Oculus Rift, which is on sale now). But VR isn’t the only “new media” worth considering. Alone it’d just be another fad, there’s more.

TV-Digital Ad Spend, Emarketer, 2016For example, TV ad spending has begun to decline, and is being surpassed by online display spending. That’s hardly surprising, since TV viewership has also been on the decline, especially among under-50 viewers. At the same time, streaming video viewership is up, with half of Americans partaking.

That streaming viewership isn’t staying on the TV, either. Much of it is happening on personal devices. According to the “App Annie Index: Market Q1 2016” report, entertainment revenue from mobile apps such as Netflix and HBO Go more than doubled from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016.

And streaming video is gaining capabilities. Beyond 360 videos, which are interactive by necessity, Facebook has also introduce videos that are interactive on any device. That’s barely a video anymore, it’s more like a video game.

Gaming is also becoming a bigger part of the overall media picture. Nielsen reports that 50 percent of Americans 13 and over play games on mobile devices. That goes equally for men and women, and the average age of those gamers is 36. (It’s good to know my wife and I aren’t the only ones fiddling with mobile games while we watch TV on a random weeknight. But then the games we’re playing are both TV-related: Star Trek for me, and Simpsons and Family Guy for her.)

Over the past five years, the big shift in media has been to streaming entertainment and enabling streaming everywhere, from the living room TV to your train ride to work. Better mobile networks and bigger screen devices enabled the latter. A range of home media solutions — from smart TVs to video game consoles and dedicated streaming media devices — connected the former.

Now, the emerging new media are more intimate and individualized. VR viewers (many of which use your phone as the screen) don’t just bring the entertainment to you, they pull you away form your environment to put you into the immersive entertainment experience. Increasing use of streaming apps on mobile, especially paid streaming apps, brings you to exactly the media you want to watch. And that’s not a platform meant for sharing. Interactive video is not, by nature, “2-player co-op.”

This all reminds me of the Walkman effect in the 80s. Our shared media experience is quickly becoming the personal media experience.

So what will the new media advertising experience look like? These screens don’t have enormous side rails to fit ads, and interrupting ads will ruin the immersive experience. Where does that leave marketers?

I have no idea. But I know it’s coming.

The New Direct Marketing

Direct marketing, at its simplest, is marketing to a targeted list of prospects and customers, making an offer to generate direct response, measuring it and repeating it (with refinements). The thing is, today many, many different channels allow you to do that — from the classic direct channels, to typically brand channels, to crazy channels that have never really been used for marketing before.

Dr. Evil: Marketing W/ Frigging LazersDirect marketing, at its simplest, is marketing to a targeted list of prospects and customers, making an offer to generate direct response, measuring it and repeating it (with refinements). The thing is, today many, many different channels allow you to do that — from the classic direct channels, to typically brand channels, to crazy channels that have never really been used for marketing before. (Seriously, Alexa is a speaker from Amazon that users can use to shop from home through audio and voice recognition, we ain’t in Kansas anymore.)

What do you make of these new channels? Have you had success marketing on social media? What about augmented reality, or 3DVR? The Internet of Things?

The Internet allows you to market across borders and over seas. Have you been able to do that successfully?

That’s a lot of potential … whether it’s potential opportunity of waste is hard to say. And it probably depends on the specific opportunities for your business. When does it make sense for a company to leverage home appliances as part of an Internet of Things marketing strategy? Are you the company it makes sense for?

I can’t answer those questions for you, but I’d like to hear how you’re thinking about them yourselves. What is “The New Direct Marketing” to you?

We are talking about a lot of these topics tomorrow at Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk. If you want to hear what some fo the industry’s top experts think about The Internet of Things, taking your marketing global, crowd-funded marketing and more, click here to register!