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Digital Overload and the Opportunity for Print

Over a quarter of all internet users were blocking ads on their devices in 2019, and that number is expected to increase over the next few years. Digital fatigue is at an all-time high. It’s important to ask yourself — are your customers and prospects truly engaging with your online presence? Is your online ad spend even reaching your intended audience?

Today’s uncertain times have only underscored the need to get granular with your marketing strategy, but determining how and where to spend your advertising and marketing dollars can be complex. Marketing pioneer John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” This could not be truer in today’s highly competitive world of advertising. Marketers can no longer rely on vague conclusions — they must be able to precisely account for every dollar spent and calculate the return on that investment. For that reason, wise marketers seek opportunities to plan for their audience’s every action and reaction based on marketing spend.

Marketers have largely shifted their focus from traditional print to digital marketing. However, even though more people are online than ever before, the current business climate means that advertisers are struggling to reach consumers.

Digital exhaustion has set in. Due to the sheer amount of online content, digital ads are losing their effectiveness, even among “digital natives.”

The market has become unstable, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to accelerate this instability. When it comes to getting noticed in today’s business environment, digital print might actually be a better solution than digital marketing. There are two primary reasons for this:

  • Digital fatigue has intensified as stay-at-home orders and ongoing concerns about public health have prompted more people to take their face-to-face interactions online. This increased dependence on virtual technology has brought on a sense of cognitive overload. In addition, consumers become more wary about the security of their digital information every time they hear about another data breach.

  • As is the case for many industries, the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 has hit print providers hard. It is now more important than ever that marketing initiatives reach and resonate with their intended audiences as many print providers struggle to overcome deferred purchases and a general decline in demand.

The Rise of Digital

Worldwide, there are nearly 2.5 billion active users on Facebook, 1 billion on Instagram, and 330 million on Twitter in a typical month. Social media and electronic/digital advertising are transforming the way we consume content. What’s more, online search is on the rise. Google alone handles a reported average of 3.8 million searches per minute, equivalent to 2 trillion searches a year. With so many eyes online, it’s natural to think that digital marketing and online advertising are the best investment. Even so, there is an interesting and growing tension between marketers and digital marketing. As a result, it may be time to rethink today’s communication touchpoints.

Ad Blockers and Spam Filters

Many consumers have a negative attitude about the interruptions they face while online, but some are taking this a step further and using ad blockers to improve the browsing experience. Trust may be at the root of the cynicism toward digital marketing. Purchasers put a lot of credence in company and product reviews, but these reviews can be altered and might therefore be misleading — some might be sponsored, others might be made up, and poor reviews might be removed. In addition, online search activities are commonly tracked or traced, and there’s always the risk that personal data might be sold to others. Data privacy is very important to today’s consumers, but a study commissioned by the American Association of Advertising Agencies reveals that just 4% of consumers believe that advertisers and marketers practice integrity.

E-mail, just one in a long list of digital marketing channels, remains the most widely used. Even if it seems like the most logical choice for marketing, today’s spam blockers prevent many e-mails from ever getting to the intended recipient’s inbox. Furthermore, the average consumer is inundated with e-mail and will often mass delete messages after only glancing at the subject lines. End-users who find marketing e-mails annoying can easily set up their own spam filters. It’s no wonder that bounce-back rates continue to climb.

Print Captures Attention

Even in today’s digital age, the tried-and-true direct mail channel has proven incredibly effective. The average American can be exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 pieces of advertising in a typical day, creating a state of “ad blindness.” Simply put, consumers have conditioned themselves to tune out advertisements because they encounter so much digital noise on a daily basis. Direct mail is a much less cluttered channel. This might be part of the reason that it continues to receive high marks in terms of customer engagement — the physical medium enables consumers to engage on their own terms.

Consumers cite direct mail as one of the top channels in driving engagement. Engagement can be measured in several ways, and one of these is readership rates.

According to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent Annual State of Marketing Communications research, consumers review a greater share of their direct mail (70%) before discarding it than they do digital marketing messages (60%).

Steps to Help Your Customers Improve their Clients' Engagement

As noted earlier, printed direct mail may play an even more important role in today’s uncertain business climate. Here are some tips for helping your customers improve engagement with their clients.

1. Highlight Print’s Cost-Effectiveness During Economic Shifts

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Marketing budgets will occasionally take a hit. Printers must curtail their marketing budgets from time to time, but customers will still want to hear about how their services can help them. The impact of direct mail relative to its cost makes it a great choice in any economy. It also enables printers to adjust your messaging to specific audiences, making it easier for their offerings to remain relevant to customers’ changing needs and challenges.

2. Don't Just "Spray and Pray"

More isn’t always better. It’s important for printers to focus their marketing on the customers that will provide the best ROI. Taking the time to identify the customers and prospects that are most likely to engage can pay dividends. Establishing a highly focused marketing database of recent buyers, frequent purchasers, or big spenders will often yield better results than marketing to anyone and everyone.

3. Create Visually Appealing Content

According to the 2018 State of Attention Report, 49% of respondents admit they have become more selective about the content they consume. In addition, 63% of these same respondents say that they let content find them rather than seeking it out themselves. The underlying message from this data can be applied to direct mail, brochures, or newsletters — print providers can leverage the capabilities of today’s digital presses to create content that “finds” their customers. Ricoh, for example, can help you create printed communications with eye-popping embellishments for increased visual appeal.

4. Leverage Digital Marketing with Direct Mail

In today’s highly competitive business environment, it’s important to remain top-of-mind among your customers and prospects. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s State of Marketing Communications research, consumers — especially younger ones — want the brands that they do business with to contact them frequently. In fact, over three-quarters of total consumers wanted to be contacted on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis by the brands and businesses that they had relationships with. Strike the right balance between online communications and direct mail, then make sure your customers and prospects understand how you can address their needs and solve their problems.

5. Embrace Technology

Even though direct mail is a more traditional form of marketing, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be leveraging it in conjunction with today’s newest technologies. There are so many great communication tools, software products, and platforms available in today’s market, and many of these can be used to enrich direct mail communications.

Data is certainly king, but it’s understanding how to use that data that will put you in the driver’s seat and position you to generate better business results.

If you haven’t already, consider adding personalized content and images to your direct mail. Also, learn more about the USPS’s Informed Delivery service, and consider developing a dashboard that can accelerate marketing results and improve your return on investment.

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