There’s no getting around the use of mobile devices in marketing. People look to their phones to navigate daily life, from viewing calendars, locating new restaurants and tracking physical activity to accessing deals and simply surfing the internet. The reliance on mobile technology has caused traditional mailers to re-examine the place of print in their marketing mix.

At this year’s USPS Postal Forum, there was much buzz about marrying the print and digital worlds. The Forum provided clear and practical ways to combine these channels to give customers the ultimate way to experience a message. While the technology in some cases still has room for improvement, the ideas for incorporating a digital experience into mail programs are certainly plentiful.
Here are some examples:

Why QR codes are still relevant

QR™ codes (quick response codes) debuted more than 20 years ago in the automotive industry but are still being used today to provide a direct link to an online experience. Consumers can download a wide variety of QR code readers and, with a quick scan of a mail piece, can be taken directly to a web page. Mail pieces serve as teasers, allowing landing pages to do the heavy lifting with detailed content.

In particular, many marketers are using “Buy Now” QR codes to drive mail recipients to immediate purchase opportunities. Incorporating a “Buy Now” code on a mail piece allows the user to scan it and immediately purchase that product without having to navigate an entire e-commerce process. This approach eliminates the delay between receiving a printed piece and taking action by consumers. According to the USPS, last year 36 percent of marketers reported seeing an increase in sales from buy button integration.

How to use augmented reality in mail campaigns

Augmented reality (AR) technology emerged several decades ago but has only made its way into mainstream mobile application in the past eight or nine years. Think about sending a postcard on which you have embedded an AR code. The code itself is buried within the visual but when scanned it provides a visual experience that appears to jump right off the mail piece. This approach is ideal when seeing is believing, such as experiences in the travel and entertainment industry. The limitation here is on getting consumers to download AR readers, although that’s not likely to be a long-term obstacle.

The great thing about augmented reality applications is that they can also interact with the physical surrounding or geolocation. This could involve virtually planting a garden, trying on dresses or for a home improvement or furniture retailer, seeing how new purchases would look if actually placed within a recipient’s home. This is very exciting technology for pairing mobile devices with direct mail.

Virtual reality adds a new dimension to direct mail

When Facebook bought virtual reality (VR) giant, Oculus Rift, it opened the door to even more multiple data-driven marketing possibilities. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

“We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.”

This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.

As consumer-based VR headsets become plentiful, marketers should be considering ways to leverage this technology. Imagine a time when consumers will redeem virtual coupons, watch a product demo or even take a tour of your store when you pair VR with direct mail. As VR increases in popularity and lines between channels blur, marketers need to be ahead of the curve and early adopters serve to gain a significant advantage.

Near-field communication brings mail pieces to life

Near-field communication (NFC) is a much newer technology and may still need work on the application side. The concept: after downloading an NFC app, consumers can experience video from a printed piece, such as movie trailers, food demonstrations, interviews and other cinematic experiences. A good example that you may already be familiar with is Apple Pay, where you can hold your phone near to a sensor and it transmits your payment data seamlessly. The current limitation is that NFC apps are specific to developers (Apple® vs. Android, for example) so mailers need to hedge their bets on what technology will most appeal to their audiences.

With so many applications on the rise, consumer expectations for these experiences will only increase and mailers who aren’t considering ways to combine print with digital may be left behind.
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