This is part nine of a ten-part series of Direct Marketing trends for 2013. To read the original article with all ten trends, click here.

This is part nine of a ten-part series of Direct Marketing trends for 2013. To read the original article with all ten trends, click here.

In the 2012 Channel Preference Study conducted by Epsilon, direct mail is extolled as the top, and most trusted, channel consumers want to be reached on overall. Also noted in the study, however, was that it is becoming increasingly evident that technological advances play a role in how people choose to consume information and messaging. “Mobile device users” were 40-50% more likely to prefer email and online communications, respectively, than non-users. The study noted that three-quarters of consumers continue to prefer direct mail for brand communications, so it is clear that volume direct mail will continue to be key in consumer marketing, but expect savvy marketers to integrate other technologies, such as mobile, social and video, alongside direct mail. 

 

Insurance information and financial information is still preferred in printed form, and the growing proliferation of online banking and insurance portals will offer a unique opportunity to combine these channels with direct mail. Additionally, customer service and FAQ inquiries have and will continue to merge telephony and mailings with social media and “online chat representative” formats. As mentioned earlier in the “Channel Convergence Becomes Real” trend, a real opportunity lies with the marketers that can combine these channels and offer a seamless transition between mediums.

 

Variable print technology will allow for personalized technology pairings to coexist seamlessly with direct mail. QR usage continues to climb. As devices start to develop a more native support to QR and other barcodes, the initial awkwardness of scanning mail pieces will fade, and the deployment of effective barcode-based scanning campaigns will increase. Companies that learn how to properly leverage the convenience of quick response codes on mail pieces will see increased ROI from immediate conversion. Expect augmented reality applications and print ads utilizing tablet devices to gain steam, and demonstrate that print is an ideal pairing for smartphones and other mobile devices. Technology paired with mail will become commonplace, as the future of direct mail will only benefit from the mediums and data that it is paired with.

Cross-channel direct mail integration with marketing databases will greatly expand the idea of “tracking” mail, and will serve as a means to gather sophisticated trends and preferences across channels and allow for smarter marketing campaigns using the most effective combination of channels. Additionally, high-level marketing automation systems will integrate direct mail response mechanisms, rooted in mail-tracking and technology applications, to expand the touchpoints and conversation from the initial mailing. With the growing rallying cry of “do not track” in online, mobile and phone interactions, successful database marketing will be increasingly reliant on inferences gathered from mail-based direct marketing campaigns.

Direct Mail is an extremely versatile tool, and its continued metamorphosis into a conversation channel only serves to make it an essential part of marketing plans moving forward. Whereas direct mail has succeeded as a standalone medium for hundreds of years, look for direct mail to continue to evolve alongside technology and database architecture.

Trend 10: Big Data