Spoke in the Wheel

“The goal of any omni-channel campaign is nudging people along in their decision-making process – that means making it as efficient as possible.”

The numbers are staggering. There are more than 9 billion connected devices in operation today that generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data daily. That doesn’t take into account the many other ways consumers connect with the brands they follow.

Online. Email. Direct mail. Video. Social. Print. Today’s ever-connected customers expect to interact in their channel of choice, anytime, anywhere. And if that’s not enough, they expect these brand interactions to be personalized, on-demand, and tailored to their buying preferences.

That’s not too much pressure, right?

Here’s what we know – to be effective, marketers must have “all channels on.” “People don’t think in terms of ‘offline’ and ‘online,’ they just see a brand in all its touch points,” says Barb Pellow, group director at InfoTrends. “Oftentimes, marketers treat these touch points as a series of individual channels rather than an integrated unified whole needed to guide customers from discovery to purchase and beyond.”

In truth, there is no perfect channel. That’s why giving your customers options is critical. According to the Pew Research Center, 2.9 billion people – more than 30 percent of the world’s population – surfs the web. People send 200 million emails, conduct 4.1 million Google searches, share 3.3 million Facebook items, post 433,000 tweets, download 195,000 apps and upload 100 hours of YouTube content.

It’s easy to see why getting your brand’s story to stand out can be challenging. That’s where print comes in. Fifteen years ago, Pellow says most people would sigh when they received a letter in the mail. Fast-forward to today and that notion takes on a whole new meaning. Why? On average, people have more than 220 unread emails in their inbox at any given time.

So, in a time when we’re inundated by digital communications, print becomes almost a secret weapon of sorts. Marketers can tailor print campaigns to create more interesting and richer pieces, using paper and printing as a strategic design tool that complements the digital experience.

“From a consumer perspective, it isn’t print versus online marketing – it’s just marketing,” Pellow says.

Despite its alleged decline, print has remained a viable channel by boasting an overall 29 percent of communications spend, according to InfoTrends’ “Micro to Mega: Trends in Business Communications” report. One reason is the vast improvements made in digital print technology, which has made the print spend more affordable. According to InfoTrend’s “Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services” report, 32 percent of marketers spend more on direct mail pieces. As one major print services provider with strong marketing service capabilities said in the report, both its direct mail volume and number of jobs continues to rise.

“Shorter runs get messages out faster and are more viable,” the print services provider said.

If you’re looking for ammunition to support your case for print, look no further than the Millennial endorsement. Another InfoTrends study, conducted with Prinova, showed that 63 percent of Millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within a three-month period actually made a purchase.

In addition, 90 percent said they were more likely to look at direct mail pieces that were customized or personalized to their interests, the study found. And nearly 47 percent said the quality of printing paper had a “major” or “moderate” effect on the decision to open a direct mail piece.

“Print really is part of the mix because it stands out,” Pellow says. “Digital is saturated. Direct mail is far more persuasive than digital media.”

It all comes down to presentation. According to “A Bias for Action” report by Canada Post and True Impact Marketing, direct mail is easier to understand than digital, requiring 21 percent less cognitive effort to process. The study also found that brand recall was 70 percent higher among participants exposed to direct mail ads over digital ads.


In today’s omni-channel world, the key to engagement is not only in the campaign, but in which channels you use. On average, marketers use at least three types of media campaigns, according to the “Micro to Mega” report. More than half (59 percent) of the marketers said they combined their print and digital campaigns.

“One of the biggest things they were doing was linking print to digital media,” Pellow says. “What they were trying to accomplish was to use that printed piece to build out that omni-channel relationship with the client and move him seamlessly into an online or mobile relationship – or both.”

The print used in these campaigns included directories, catalogs, newsletters, brochures and marketing materials, direct mail, magazines, packaging, etc. One of the biggest surprises was the resurgence in catalogs, a vehicle that was nearly decimated during the past recession. For example, Lands’ End reported a $100 million hit in sales after it reduced the number of catalogs it printed.

“When a lot of these retailers stopped printing catalogs, they saw a significant change in their business – and not necessarily for the better,” Pellow says. “They found that online buying activities were prompted, in many instances, by print catalogs. Regardless of the channel you use, the content has to be relevant to the consumer.”

Print and the omni-channel world

John Sisson’s passion for consumers can be seen in his work. When you look at the award-winning digital marketing campaigns he has created for clients such as NationWide Financial and TripAdvisor, you can see how much he believes in driving engagement.

Whichever channel you use, the process must be direct, measurable and inspire action immediately. The end result, above all else, is to get the customer of his customers engaged in the product and services.

Sisson’s strategy is driven by science, including data and human behavior. “Ninety-five percent of all purchase decision takes place in the subconscious mind,” says Sisson, president of the Wilde Agency. The quote comes from the book, “How Customers Think,” written by the Harvard Business School’s Gerald Zaltman.

“I admit that I was skeptical at first when I read that,” Sisson says. “But over the centuries, we as people, have taken decision-making shortcuts – automatic, reflective behaviors. This is prevalent when you look at how many channels we are hit with today. Shortcuts have become necessary.”

The goal of any omni-channel campaign is nudging people along in their decision-making process – that means making it as efficient as possible.

The Wilde Agency’s omni-channel strategy is rooted in a five-step process that includes setting objectives, creating a data strategy, outlining the customer journey, defining the personalization method and measurement.

“Remember that the buyer has complete control of their multi-channel journey,” Sisson says. “They’re going to look at print, go online, visit social sites or ask a friend. They are going to use 5.6 channels, on average, before they make a decision. So you have to give them options. We’ve seen clients use mobile, email, social, search and print. The No. 1 driver depends on the campaign.”

Pellow believes print will continue to have its place in the mix. “Digitally printed direct mail will continue to be a growth opportunity for service providers. Data will drive direct mail, increased personalization and response rates. And while printed communications are valued, many consumers react to print, email and digital. That’s why having cross-channel touch points will continue to drive higher response rates.”

What does it mean for today’s print service providers and marketing service providers?

Simply put, the answer is this – the ability for a brand to tell a story today makes it stand out. And print helps. Today, the ability for marketers to customize print campaigns gives them the opportunity to create more interesting and vibrant pieces. By using paper and printing, marketers have a strategic design tool in their arsenals to bring the digital world to life.