After the hustle and bustle of the gifting Holidays are over, the lull before the obligatory New Year's celebration is typically reserved for reflection. "Top *blank* of 2015" posts plague the Internet as we all recall the triumphs and tribulations of the past 12 months. Instead of joining that chorus, we chose to look towards the New Year and touch on what changes are in store for the direct marketing industry. In the spirit of progress, we'll highlight four industry trends to watch in 2016 and how you can capitalize on each of them.
DM On The Rise
As we recently shared with a group of small business owners at Pitney Bowes' Best Business Yet event, direct mail is not necessarily experiencing a resurgence in the direct marketing space; it's just getting a little bit more attention. Considering response rates and the strong ROI it produces for many businesses, it is no surprise that DM spend is continuing its trajectory of growth as an industry.
Based on estimates by the Direct Marketing Association and our own experience, we see direct mail spend increasing in 2016. Other trends worth noting are a renewed focus on strategic segmentation and a jump in DM effectiveness across Millennial segments.
USPS Gets REAL
Over the past few years, we've seen the United States Postal Service offer many different incentive programs to encourage direct mail marketing. Don't get us wrong; we appreciate postage savings as much as anyone. However, 2015 saw the introduction of a new program that we feel has the potential to really impact effectiveness.
After a successful pilot program in Northern Virginia this past year, the USPS will be rolling out a mail delivery notification service dubbed "Real Mail Notification" (RMN). This long-awaited digitization tactic by USPS promises a daily photo of your mailbox contents sent directly to your email inbox. The service will also enable direct mailers to link the image of a direct mailpiece directly to a landing page.
According to Gary Reblin, VP of New Products and Innovation at USPS, “We're doing this to enhance the mail product; mail is not a digital product, but this product is interactive. All you have to do is give me a link,” Reblin says.
RMN stands to further marry the digital and direct mail channels, and also helps keep physical mail top-of-mind during the course of a consumer's day, which is increasingly important as people are continuously inundated by other media channels.
Mobile's "First Screen" Debut
It simply wouldn't be an article about forthcoming direct mail trends without a mention of mobile integration. It's cliche, we know. And while we deliberated leaving mobile off this list out of principle (marketers have been clamoring about the importance of mobile devices for years now), we feel 2016 will be different for two reasons:
- Search volume: Google announced earlier this year that mobile searches had officially surpassed those conducted via desktop.
- Global users: comScore recently confirmed that mobile device users have officially surpassed desktop users.
We know that mobile search could very well be the next step after a recipient opens your direct mailpiece, so give careful consideration to thoughtful copy. Be mindful of long URLs, and ensure that a well-ranking long-tail keyword is a key takeaway of your DM. Also, the proliferation of mobile implies people are spending less time combing through links on search engines. This means ensuring high quality content/optimal SEO (organic) and ramping PPC (paid) to increase SERP placement can mean all the difference in making a successful direct mail campaign.
As mobile becomes the first screen for a majority of consumers, it is of paramount importance to capitalize on offline measures that drive online mobile engagement.
Tell Me A Story
Storytelling has long been considered the most effective form of creating deeper and more personal connections with consumers. In earlier years, marketers have tended to focus on cold, hard data to appeal to rational sensibilities...in turn overlooking data elements that invoke deeper connections. However, research has shown that emotion-based campaigns enjoy nearly double the ROI vs. those that appeal to rationale alone...which leads us to our last prediction for 2016.
Storytelling will continue to incorporate compelling data, but with a newfound emphasis on more visual and interactive elements; those able to convey emotion more easily. The most effective types of storytelling in 2016 will be in the form of infographics, live-feed social media platforms (Periscope, Meerkat) and real-time video that incorporate unique data elements in dialogue.
One example, Pitney Bowes' EngageOne video product, is a real-time video application that incorporates hyper-personalized data elements through automated workflows, helping businesses create truly remarkable customer experiences.
2015 was a breakout year for our organization and many of our clients. In consideration of these emerging direct mail trends and subsequent opportunities, we can't help but feel excited for what's to come. We wish everyone a safe, happy, healthy and above all prosperous New Year.