Capitalizing on a Changing Marketplace
The marketplace for customer communications is changing rapidly, creating both challenges and opportunities for enterprise mail operations. Rising cost pressures, increasing competition, privacy and security issues, government regulation and a more empowered and discerning consumer are driving these changes. Mail operations that do not adapt will ultimately fail.
Those that continue to adapt by leveraging innovations in hardware, software and data analytics will have the means to deliver a more comprehensive, end-to-end service for their organizations at a lower cost and with a higher ROI than many of their competitors.
Here are four trends affecting our industry and how to take advantage of them:
1. The Convergence of Transactional and Direct Mail. As print and mail finishing equipment becomes more sophisticated in its ability to process a multitude of formats and jobs, successful mail operations are becoming more flexible and looking for new opportunities to capitalize on their newfound dexterity. Increasingly, traditional direct mailers are looking at opportunities to process more transactional work, while many in-house transactional mailers are partnering more closely with their organizations’ marketing teams to play a bigger role in direct mail projects.
Marketing influences within the enterprise are looking for ways to lower costs and improve ROI. The mail operation can help by leveraging transactional mail for direct mail purposes. Making bills and statements more personalized, colorful, interactive and engaging helps reduce customer confusion, lowering call center expenses and helping ensure on-time payments.
These same principles can also make your bills and statements a vehicle for timely, relevant and personalized marketing messages. If you have the capability of printing a personalized message on the statement and the envelope, your open and response rates will increase. Studies show that seven out of 10 people are more likely to open a mail piece with color text and graphics on the front than mail pieces without these attributes.
2. Renewed Focus on Productivity Services. Two years ago when we talked to mailers and said, “I want to help you run your equipment more efficiently,” they would say, “We know how to do this. We’ve been running this equipment for years.” In many cases, they may have been right at the time, but that has changed in the past two years.
Today, what we’re hearing from many CEOs is, “Please help me run my equipment more effectively.” The change is being influenced by: 1) a greater focus on creating and measuring operational efficiency; and 2) new tools and technology to assist in the effort.
Thanks to improvements in the software that runs mail equipment, we’re able to provide more timely and detailed information to improve productivity. In the year ahead, as industrial Internet solutions become more accessible, we’ll be able to manage productivity even more precisely.
3. Regulatory and Compliance Considerations. Privacy and security issues, along with financial accounting reforms have led to increased regulations and compliance requirements. Mail operations that support regulated industries have an important role to play in this area.
Physical and digital technologies must be aligned to protect consumers and their personally identifiable information. Integrated solutions that streamline regulatory compliance can help, as can address cleansing and database cleansing software. Moreover, mailers in regulated industries need the ability to track a mail piece from when the data record was created through printing, inserting and sorting and on into the postal system. This allows you to meet customer expectations and provides an audit trail to prove that the right communication reached the right person at the right time.
As some in-house mailers explore opportunities in parcels, they also need to be aware of regulations around certified dimensioning and weighing. These emerging rules encourage shippers to reduce postage costs by exchanging large boxes with small boxes, small boxes with polywrap, and combining deliveries wherever possible.
4. Consolidation of Mail Service Providers. Another trend in our industry is consolidation. We’re seeing the big service bureaus and big mailers get larger. We’re seeing in-house shops take on external work to fill up their assets. And we’re seeing small, formerly specialized players entering new markets. By adapting to the first three trends we’ve discussed, your mail operation will be more likely to weather, or even capitalize on the fourth trend: consolidation.
Finally, underlying all of these changes and the best practices that will help you adapt to them, is the need to be customer-focused and omni-channel in your approach.
Today’s consumer is more empowered, with access to multiple points of global information at their fingertips, nearly at all times. They expect their interactions with businesses to be consistent and personalized across all channels from the teller’s window, to the mailbox, to mobile devices.
The proliferation of digital communication channels doesn’t mean that mail is dead. It simply means that mail needs to be smarter and more attractive—more personalized, more engaging and more tightly integrated with other components of an omni-channel communications campaign.
An Omni-Channel Approach
A widely cited study by InfoTrends found that response rates increase 45 percent when direct mail is combined with a landing page, email address and mobile marketing. The same principle applies to transactional mail. Anchoring mobile, Web and video-based communications with an effective mail piece can create more meaningful customer engagement.
Forward-looking companies are combining video technology with real-time data to deliver billing statements in new ways, providing a sound and motion experience to complement the mail piece. Including on the statement a link to a personalized interactive video (PIV) improves understanding and retention and creates additional cross-sell opportunities. PIV software transforms data and information in real-time into engaging two-way opportunities, allowing one to grow sales and streamline service with video content that customers will want to watch. Moreover, a recent study found that most people perceive brands in a more positive light after viewing interesting video content from them.
There is an opportunity for you to make your mail operation an indispensable part of an omni-channel customer engagement campaign. By staying ahead of the convergence of transactional and direct mail, leveraging software and the industrial Internet to improve productivity, helping your clients manage compliance and regulatory challenges, and working with your marketing team to deliver a consistent, personalized customer experience across all communications channels, you will have positioned your mail operation for continued success in the year ahead.
Related story: Trends in the In-plant Industry
Grant Miller is vice president, global strategic product management, at Pitney Bowes where he manages four distinct product families in the company’s global production mail business for enterprise-level clients. Grant holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Butler University. For more information, please visit www.pitneybowes.com