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How to Use Technology for Direct Mail Marketing

Debbi Gourley
Debbi Gourley

Technological advancements are being actively embraced in direct mail.

In the competitive digital market, businesses take the help of both offline and online marketing to influence purchase intention.

Paper-based advertisements, like direct mailers, play a crucial role in influencing the purchase decision of the buyer. While direct mail is a proven marketing strategy, technology takes it to a whole new level.

It's evident that even in the wake of technological advancements, customers are actively embracing direct mail. It's no surprise why big corporations invest in direct mail engagement. The touch-and-feel experience offered by direct mail helps customers remember the brand and the product. [Are you interested in direct mail marketing services? Check out the reviews and best picks.]

By streamlining the process and utilizing the power of technology in direct mail, marketers can improve personalization and ease planning, execution, and tracking. In this post, we'll discuss how technology can make direct mail better and easy for businesses.

Direct mail: The traditional way

1. Redundant process

Traditionally, direct mail marketers handled customer data and mailing information manually. Even now, most are likely to use spreadsheets to share data with other teams. This leaves no room to track data accurately. A notably redundant process in direct mail is where the same spreadsheet passes through multiple hands. Numerous edits, revisions and updates can damage the entire operation. While necessary in some cases, such a redundant process is time-consuming and involves a lot of work. Technology can streamline the process and maintain an up-to-date system for better results.

2. Room for errors

Efficiency and accuracy go hand in hand in direct mail marketing. Assume you are managing direct mail marketing and you send out printed copies to thousands of users. This process may involve different teams within the organization and some third-party vendors for printing and logistics. How do you know the right team is managing the process? Are you confident that your mailing list is error-free?

Without the influence of technology, it is difficult to solve accuracy-related issues. Technology offers accuracy and real-time data, which are critical to successful direct mail marketing.

3. Lack of optimization

The conventional approach to direct mail marketing divides the process into three decision areas: Find the target audience, analyze their needs, and send out printed communication. In practice, a direct marketing agency runs reports and conducts discussions among teams to sort the list, as well as design and print it. They spend a lot of time on logistics. As a result, traditional practices lack room for optimization.

4. Inefficient data or resources

Data and resources are essential for a successful direct mail campaign. It is critical that marketing campaigns are designed to meet the demands of customers. Direct mail marketers process large and complex data from different sources. While the traditional approach is outdated, automation and technology advancements can be of great help.

Direct mail: The technology way

Don't be too fast in judging direct mail in the modern era. Technology can overcome challenges in direct mail marketing and create highly effective direct mail campaigns. Marketers now use technology to send direct mail from the CRM with a click of a button. They also get notifications when the piece is delivered, and they follow up to record the customer response. 

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1. Cloud-based software to manage the workflow

The rising popularity of cloud-based solutions makes managing data better than traditional spreadsheets. Cloud solutions and automation enable easy access to data from anywhere and at any time. It is helpful to track the progress of direct mail. Large CSV files and spreadsheet data can be transferred to an automated cloud system. You can avoid sending out multiple emails and follow-ups between the team.

2. Easy to customize

Content customization is easy with technology. Dynamic content helps businesses to send personalized marketing mailers according to customer age, preference and likes. This will increase the response rate. Automating this entire process requires no effort from the marketers.

3. Effective communication

Knowing the best time to communicate with your audience is very important. A trigger-based mailing system allows marketers to print and send mail to customers based on certain events and situations. For example, you can send direct mail to customers a few weeks before the big Thanksgiving sale based on their previous purchase history. Instead of sending random emails that land in the junk folder, send direct mail that improves response and action.

4. Easy to measure and optimize the process

Printed materials require proper management. It involves a lot of teams and follow-up, and the back-and-forth communication can be a daunting task. An automated system can enable effortless tracking and optimization. Overall tracking and measurement of the process will also be easy.

How top businesses use technology in their direct mail campaigns

Using technology in direct mail is critical, as it can improve profitability and keep you competitive. The good news is technology can simplify and optimize the direct mail process. Direct mail marketers and big brands use innovative technologies to streamline the entire process.

1. Audio in print

Ignore plain text and make your direct mail piece more interesting by adding audio in print. You can record a message or simply add a sound. When customers open the mail, they will hear the sound. You may have seen this technology in musical greeting cards.

2. Video in print

Video brochure takes printed communication to the next level. Surprise your customers with a video brochure and leave a great impression. Customers who are exposed to the regular direct mail will be amused to hit the play button to find what's in store for them. Video in print can get extremely creative. It is easy to insert a video screen in the printed material and play a specific video or livestream an event. With embedded Wi-Fi hotspot and video players, it can get simple and realistic.

3. Augmented reality (AR)

Augmented reality is the future of marketing because it keeps people entertained. It's flexible and interactive, enhancing the customer experience. AR gives an immersive experience to users. In direct mail, AR includes digital elements on the printed surface. The concept is simple and flawless. Users point their smartphones on the printed material and it immediately brings up information about the product and services.

  • United Mail's AR Initiative: United Mail created an interactive AR card for Christmas. The recipients of the card download an app on iPhone and Android to interact with the AR. The card had the 'wow' factor that made people want to share it with others. According to the case study, there was a massive increase in the marketing campaign. The study recorded a 106% increase in the number of downloads by iPhone users and 915% by Android users.
  • AR Movie Poster by AMC Theatres: U.S.-based AMC Theatres used AR to play trailers and display cast information to customers when they pointed their phones at movie posters in theaters and magazines.

4. Quick response (QR) code

With a quick scan on smartphones, QR codes can take the customer to the online store, product page, services or anything you wish to promote. The latest QR code is sleeker and has several marketing advantages. You can even include a QR code in your logo, image or graphics to provide a powerful digital effect. A QR code can deliver a lot of information to your users, from delivering the direct mail to tracking it. Businesses can print QR codes on letterheads, door hangers, flyers or posters.

  • QR code alarm: Another interesting example is the QR code alarm. You'll have to print code and place it somewhere that's hard to reach from your bed. You'll be able to turn off the alarm on the phone only if you scan the code. This forces you out of bed early in the morning! Isn't this an inspiring concept to use for direct mail?

5. Near-field communication (NFC)

This technology works without the user downloading an app or opening a web browser. A microchip inserted in the direct mail piece can emit short radio waves that communicate with the mobile phone to activate a digital experience. An NFC-enabled mobile device must be placed over the NFC-embedded direct mail, and the content will appear on the mobile screen. NFC-enabled product labels, smart posters, contests and discount coupons are some smart examples.

  • Samsung's digital NFC poster: Samsung made advertisement campaigns smarter with NFC posters. Touching the poster with an NFC-enabled mobile took users to the website that had all the information about Samsung's new products.
  • NFC labels by Lexus: Toyota's Lexus used NFC labels in WIRED magazine. They helped users open a new application and learn about the car maker.
  • Adidas NFC campaign: "Tap into the story" was a successful NFC campaign used by Adidas. When customers tapped on the product labels with their smartphone, it would take them to the product information page. It attracted the attention of a lot of athletes and sports enthusiasts.

6. Programmatic mail

This is a highly targeted and customized type of campaign that delivers desired results. Programmatic direct mail is designed for customers who are actively searching for your products and services. It combines digital technology and data.

After proper analysis of customer information, it is processed via direct mail to improve conversion and response. Top e-commerce websites like Amazon and eBay send an email to let customers know about abandoned carts or send suggestions based on recent product searches. Similarly, programmatic mail marketers use real-time online behavior to send printed copies to customers' doorsteps.

U.S. retail chain Target uses programmatic mail to increase sales. With more than 1,800 Target stores across the U.S., millions of shoppers walk in and leave information about themselves. With the help of data from surveys, coupons, loyalty cards, emails and other sources, the marketing team at Target analyzes the demographic profile and runs a marketing campaign for audiences.

Finally on your way to a successful campaign

Plan your direct mail campaign with the help of cloud-based software and automation tools. Store data in the cloud and use it whenever needed. Artificial intelligence can also play a major role in planning and sorting the data.

Execute the design of your printed material (flyer, brochure, poster) with the help of audio, video or AR technologies, and create dynamic content for direct mail customers.

Send printed materials to the audience with the help of direct mail automation and programmatic mail concept.

Track user response rate and improve the overall direct mail marketing plan.

The goal of every direct mail campaign is not just to send a printed copy, but to get a response. The traditional practices are time-consuming and difficult, but you don't have to employ them anymore. With the help of technology, you will find it much easier to manage the direct mail process.

Image Credit: Sirtravelalot/Shutterstock
Debbi Gourley
Debbi Gourley Member
Debbi Gourley is President and Founder at Money Mailer of San Diego, an advertising firm that provides shared mail, solo mail, and print services.