Digital technology has been quietly revolutionizing the print industry for years. In fact research consistently shows that integrating digital technology into print campaigns increases ROI significantly. This revolution, along with huge advances in the field of Big Data, means that digital printing, and especially variable data digital printing (VDP), has become an essential part of the effective marketing mix.
But what is the best approach when deciding how to integrate digital technology into your print campaigns? What are the pros and cons of the latest bridging technologies?
- Data, Data, Data Although not a ‘bridging’ technology of course, it is important to stress the importance of data right at the start since without a robust database, whichever digital technology you choose, your integrated campaign will fall at the first hurdle. Only through targeting the correct prospects, learning their preferred communications channels and brand relationship, and offering them something which is personally relevant to them, can your campaign succeed. Good, clean data will enable optimal personalization and digital technology integration. There is a fine line when it comes to choosing which data elements to include in your campaign. Prospects may be offended if you reveal that you know too much about their personal information. A good rule of thumb is to implement campaigns designed to educate and empower your customers, giving them control over how much to share.
- Personalize Your Quick Response (QR) Codes QR codes have actually been around for a while and are currently the most popular of the alternatives highlighted in this post. QR codes are 2D bar-codes with encoded information accessible by multiple devices including smartphones. By displaying Personalized URLs (PURLs) as QR codes, marketers can provide a clear call-to-action, directing each recipient to their unique pre-populated web page or personalized video. With XMPie software, consistency between QR code data and context is automatic because XMPie encodes images and QR codes at the same time. Since prospects will use the QR code to take action directly from their mobile devices, PURLs must be responsively designed for access from any device and the call-to-action must be worth the customer’s time- special offers or discounts are ideal. Make sure instructions are included in case your recipients are unfamiliar with how to use the QR code, and think creatively about how to optimize the look of your QR code and where to place it within the design. If your recipient prefers not to use QR codes, another option is to display the personalized web address as simple text directing your prospect to their personalized landing page. This means you’ll still be able to track responses in real time and collect data from your prospects.
- Incorporate Augmented Reality Software Add a ‘trigger’ image to a print piece and you can take your print campaign to a new dimension, like these from Canon, Starbucks and USPS. When your prospect scans the image with an AR-enabled device, it comes to life through sound, video, gaming and more. A similar technology is the Digital Watermark which although typically used to identify copyright ownership, has now developed into a delivery system for enriching the customer experience. Augmented Reality technology is still in its infancy and is developing fast. If wearable computers such as Google Glass take off, we’ll see accelerated growth in this field as prospects won’t need to access their phones to interact with the print – they’ll always be online.
- Experiment with Near Field Communication (NFC) Smartphones can now communicate with NFC tags that are embedded within printed materials, like these business cards, and enable customers to access extra campaign information or media. As long as a smartphone’s NFC setting is turned on, a customer just needs to be within a certain distance of the material to gain access. The fact that there is no need for prior customer action, such as downloading scanning software, gives this new technology an edge over QR codes and Augmented Reality software but there are many disadvantages, including the fact that not all smartphones on the market have NFC technology yet – not even iPhones (in fact Apple’s current rejection of NFC is a major concern for NFC enthusiasts) and unlike QR codes, NFC tags are not free to use. The technology is emerging as a contactless payment solution (for instance London’s transport system, RBC and more), rather than a marketing solution at the moment, and the jury’s still out on whether NFC can be a solid solution for marketers.
Direct mail and print continue to beat industry expectations and media predictions and, according to the DMA, U.S. direct mail expenditure is expected to rise to $196 billion by 2016. Incorporating digital technology and clean data into these print campaigns is the best way to optimize ROI – as the great thing about all of these options is they are trackable. Marketers can monitor their campaigns, analyze results in real time and modify strategy and tactics accordingly. Thus digital technology empowers print marketing by transforming a one-sided announcement into a two-way conversation, building a relationship for the long term.