Beginning in November of 2012, SourceLink’s Matt Graham wrote a series of blogs entitled “Ten Trends to Define Marketing in 2013.” It’s been several months since we wrapped up this series, and over the next several weeks, we will be revisiting how these predictions have been panning out.
 

Trend 9- Direct mail survives, but not standalone – Volume direct mail will still be key in consumer marketing and ROI. Volume overall, however, continues to shrink and consolidation among service providers is still regular news. In even generally on-line oriented sessions, there is still respect and acknowledgement for the results of direct mail. Even if the topic was as simple as coordinated timing of direct mail and on-line offers, it seems that no one is speaking about direct mail as a sustainable standalone channel. Direct Mail marketing dollars will continue to shift to digital. Remaining dollars will need the increased lift from digital integrated programs to support high ROI.

Two emerging technologies- smart watches and augmented reality glasses have the potential to transform the way people interact with their mail. With the public release of Google Glass around the corner, and the possible Apple iWatch (logical name based on past naming conventions) on the horizon, it goes to wonder how marketers, specifically direct marketers might capitalize on these technologies. 
 

Augmented Reality Glasses and direct mail

Google Glass uses geolocation, voice command and image recognition to display relevant content (weather, directions, image search), or to perform smartphone tasks (take a picture, record a video, send a text message)… 

 

 Amazing stuff, right?

This sort of technology has much more far-reaching implications to advertisers and businesses. Direct Mail should be no exception. Google is mum (as of yet) as to how it will integrate marketing with this technology, but marketers everywhere should start to take note and anticipate how image-based recognition could span over to print. QR codes could see an additional increase in value, as the scanning would become exponentially easier with the camera mounted to the user. Also, Google will likely (in my opinion) offer advertising, perhaps through image pairing options, to marketers that will work specifically with Glass. Imagine not having to reroute your end-recipient to a product video, as they instead would have your video displayed in front of them after picking up your mailpiece. Google Glass is the ultimate in matching the tactile with the digital world. What marketers have been trying to achieve for years stands to be second-nature to augmented reality devices and wearable computing.

Smartwatches and Marketing 

Apple is reportedly developing a smartwatch that “talks” to your phone. Rather than simply being another smart device, the reputed “iWatch” would act as a Bluetooth enabled device that would make viewing emails, checking texts and getting weather updates, in addition to the time, of course, a much more seamless activity, and would take some of the awkwardness of pulling out your smartphone while engaged in conversations or on the train, etc. 

The real power in the smartwatch as the next big thing in technology is the applications in using near field communication and geolocation to access offers and promotional materials. Retailers have been trying to figure out a way to combat “showrooming” (Using a physical retail store to garner price comparisons to later check them online), and smartwatches might help enhance the in-store experience. 

From a direct mail standpoint, near-field communication and a smartwatch could make the couponing experience much more friendly. Hold your smartphone or smartwatch to a mailpiece with a communications chip embedded, and an offer or the weekly ad can be transferred and stored to your watch. While in store, the watch could recognize cues from the surroundings to display weekly specials or utilize the coupon. This same theory works for restaurants, gaming & entertainment and could branch into non-profit fundraising. Also, QR code scans could gain extra leverage when the smartwatch utilizes geolocation with the information scanned from a mailpiece to bring up all relevant offers in walking distance. In bigger cities, this has major implications, as offers can be stored over a long period of time. It is all pie-in-the sky for now, but easily could have major ripples as the technology goes more mainstream.