We talk a lot about the value of personalising direct mail pieces as a means to create a connection with prospective leads. But what does this really mean? Is it just about ensuring that each send out has a customised greeting, or is this tried-and-tested method starting to go stale?
A new research project from the UK-based Direct Marketing Association (DMA) suggests that the rules around personalisation are shifting. Driven by the advancing technology and rising customer expectations, more consumers now state they are interested in the relevancy of communications rather than whether or not they are personalised to them.
"Current engagement methods often seem clumsy, like 'brand stalking'."
What is more important than personalisation?
The rules of engagement are being rewritten as consumers understand and appreciate the value of virtual innovation and how this can enhance their customer experiences. In fact, almost half of respondents to the DMA survey were interested in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their brand interactions, with this far more prevalent in younger generations. According to the study, consumers want relationships with brands that are interesting but not intrusive, and this requires thinking outside of the box, suggests Managing Director of the DMA Rachel Aldighieri.
"Current engagement methods often seem clumsy, like 'brand stalking', where items follow a consumer around on web banners. Instead, consumer data could be used in virtual or artificial intelligence systems. One example could be chatbots, giving brands a better way to use their data and consumers a more meaningful interaction," she said.
In this sense, it's not so much that personalisation isn't important, but to achieve the returns direct marketing is capable of today, the very nature of customer relationships needs to be re-imagined. In this new light, relevancy and humanisation must take centre-stage. European Marketing Director of technology analytics company Acxiom Jed Mole captured this thought when speaking to the Internet Retailing publication about the DMA research findings.
"Tantalising is the revelation that consumers really do want to be 'surprised' by brands," said Mr Mole, "but how can we do that without being able to recognise the individual and connect their data to understand just how we should surprise them, with what and when?"
Is your brand relevant to your customers?
Direct mail is an excellent medium for capturing the attention of new customers, but the content must be absolutely on point – your brand must be relevant to the leads.
In 2015, Branding Consultant Scott Davis explained four criteria a company needs to meet in order to deliver brand relevance. In an article published on Forbes, Mr Davis explained that brand relevance is dynamic journey. It requires that your communication strategy is alive and adaptable, that you are always ahead of the ball in predicting what your customers are wanting next and that you're continually looking towards new ways to engage your audience.
To see whether you're already on your way to a relevant brand, how well do you meet the criteria
- Customer obsession – are you looking for data-driven insights and creative ways to better understand your customers?
- Distinctive inspiration – is your company strategy enough to inspire both your workers and your customers?
- Pervasive innovation – do you create new ways that your customers can authentically engage with your brand?
- Ruthless pragmatism – do you understand where your brand fits in driving growth?
While some of these questions may leave you drawing blanks, getting to the bottom of them is an important step in ensuring that your brand constantly remains relevant. Facing tough competition and expectant customers, brands that can prove and sustain their relevance will be the ones that survive. For more information about how direct marketing can help you achieve this, get in contact with The Prospect Shop today.