New whitepapers available

Ricoh has commissioned Smithers Pira to create a series of whitepapers. These look at opporunities for Print Service Providers to open new worlds in a number of key market segments.

Whitepapers available now:

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Corporate Print: bringing the world in-house

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Digital commercial print: the new world order

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Direct Marketing: printing the personal

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – Retail point-of-sale: the new frontier for consumer engagement

Ricoh Pira whitepaper – The new world of publishing with virtual stock

Why you actually can start ‘small’ with ‘Big Data‘ to boost the success of mail

We have recently conducted a survey among British marketing agencies and marketing departments to find out more about the future of direct mail (or ‘advertising mail’, as it is often called in Great Britain). Together with the British DMA (Direct Marketing Association), we invited both marketing agencies and companies to share their view on this specific communication medium.

The results of this survey have been released as a report (called ‘Mail Matters’, published on March 25th by the British DMA) and those of you who are interested in the details are more than welcome to download the study using the following link:

http://www.dma.org.uk/uploads/Ricoh%20report%202015-240315_5512a5d8dcc40.pdf

The report was full of useful findings, e.g. that the majority of respondents still consider direct mail a trusted and effective medium (which it is) but a minority of respondents is concerned that direct mail may be considered as ‘junk mail’ (which it is only  if you don’t make it relevant for the recipient!). A conclusion was that the so-called ‘Digital Natives’ seem to have acquired relatively little knowhow about the production and use of direct mail, so that they concentrate on online marketing activities.

DMA research Five Segments of advertising mail

However, most of the respondents  can still be considered ‘loyal fans’ of direct mail although the research revealed that they are expecting more from the medium (and, in the case of agencies,  from their clients). One of the barriers for more successful direct mail obviously is the ‘lack of data and data analytics’. The data, however, is already there … but it can seem difficult to fully harness, so let’s have a closer look at the issue of analytics:

In recent months more and more focus has been put on how much value ‘analysing Big Data’ could bring. Despite the fact that ‘Big Data’ has become a marketing buzzword and that many decision makers are unsure of exactly what Big Data is, a whole industry has formed to help marketers to identify the best target groups and create customer profiles.

Starting with ‘Big Data analytics’ might at first sound like David’s fight against Goliath (also known as the data monster).  A marketer will learn that consumer data is stored among multiple databases and that the format and content of the databases heavily depends on the application (CRM, sales database etc).

In order to get a full, 360 degree view of your customers an immediate task is to consolidate the data from those different data sources (basically ‘copy’ all datasets into one big Excel  or .csv file). Once you have done that you will be confronted with the fact  that one and the same customer’s data occupies more than one database; in other words, you have found ‘duplicates’. A deduping exercise is therefore needed. In addition to that, important data fields like the gender (which determines the salutation) are not always filled, foreign names are not recognised  correctly  or the address is written with many different variations.

So a first small, but very important, step in data analytics is ‘data cleansing and data enrichment’. Don’t think that this must be a manual process. As long as you can transform the data from the different sources into one and the same format (e.g .csv-files) you can use appropriate tools. Such software comes with built-in intelligence (and algorithms) to understand which data belongs to one and the same customer. Most of them come as a SaaS (software as a service), run by European companies following the strictest EU data privacy laws (Ricoh is currently developing such a tool with an authorised RiDP = Ricoh Development Partner). Large corporations might prefer local installations and regular local updates and upgrades.

My recommendation is to take ‘data cleansing’ and ‘data enrichment’ seriously. Today’s tools can not only improve the quality of your general data but can also check whether email addresses are valid or if GSM mobile phone numbers are still in use. The cost of this first small step (data cleansing and data enrichment) is relatively modest.  More good news is that such state-of-the-art algorithms to clean your data can be built into all your existing (and future) web forms so that no bad data will find its way into your databases.

Once your general data quality has improved, you will be ready for true data analytics. Ricoh and alliance partner SAS can ‘calculate’ the likelihood of your customers buying further products or services (called predictive data analytics), so that you can concentrate your focus and improve the effectiveness of your actions.

So: mastering the (big) data monster should start with small steps, with ‘data cleansing and enrichment’ at the beginning of the list. After that, getting full customer insights using data analytical software should be second. Once you have created customer profiles and target groups, talk to us so that we can combine your data insights with our dynamic document composition tools to create the truly personalised pieces of customer communication which can make direct mail so successful.

This process actually is what we call ‘Precision Marketing’. Learn more about Ricoh’s Precision Marketing practice on YouTube and see e.g. how retailers can benefit from data-analytics and mail.

Your opportunities are endless! Let’s take the first steps together…

The Sun is rising over direct mail

Ricoh sponsored the DMA UK's latest research into Direct Mail

Ricoh sponsored the DMA UK’s latest research into Direct Mail

This week the British Direct Marketing Association (the DMA) held an event – Mail Matters – in London, to share the results of some research sponsored by Ricoh. It revealed some fascinating insights into how the brand owners and their agencies who commission, design and coordinate direct mail campaigns feel toward this marketing channel.

Many research studies into direct mail as a part of the marketing mix have demonstrated  very clearly that direct mail holds a special place in the hearts and minds of consumers. Its uniquely tangible properties  help to generate an emotional response that other media struggle to match.

Most research has focused on consumer attitudes and behaviour.  This new research though looks for a different perspective.  Direct mail just doesn’t happen unless both brand owner and their agency together make it happen. So, while the consumer picture is relatively well documented, the research told us what  these other vital stakeholders, the marketers and agency decision makers, think about it.

The Mail Matters research we sponsored told us that while the well known, young ‘digital natives’ in their agency roles  are naturally completely at home in the digital marketing arena, it seems that many are not yet fully switched on to what is possible with  direct mail, or advertising mail as it is sometimes called, today. For example a strong majority of respondents described both better personalisation and image personalisation as innovations that would enhance the effectiveness of mail.  As we know, however, this functionality is a long established feature of direct mail, but it becomes more exciting as a result of the possibilities generated by the smart use of data insights.

DMA Mail mattersEncouraging mail recipients to go online is a key goal the research shows, and there are many technologies to facilitate a smooth transition from the paper page to the online world.  Ricoh’s interactive print solution, Clickable Paper is one of the newest. What the research suggests is that some marketers and agencies are either persisting with the limited functionality of QR codes or not deploying any bridging technology at all. It is also worth noting that 72% expect more innovation to integrate print with digital media; and I am sure that this will be a big part of the future of direct mail.

Very positively, there is a powerful core of respondents who trust direct mail in their campaigns because of its proven effectiveness and strong ROI. And while postage costs may be a barrier to some, the returns available are clearly the decisive factor for many others.  And at Ricoh we believe this group will grow as the communications and commercial factors in favour of direct mail in the mix become even more compelling. For while data analytical techniques, such as those available through Ricoh’s Precision Marketing service (for example the MarkSim market segmentation tool which was used to analyse this research), are enabling better segmentation and more accurate targeting, direct mail production is becoming more cost efficient. The latest high speed inkjet systems, like the ground-breaking Ricoh ProTM VC60000, are bringing a new level of print quality to complement their well understood variable data capabilities. And at the same time Ricoh’s new cut sheet devices, the ProTM C 9100 and ProTM C7100 series, bring new levels of capability in terms of media range and special effects, ideal for direct mail jobs that demand impact and stand-out.

So, at Ricoh, we are seeing a new dawn for direct mail. With marketers and agencies alike moving toward greater understanding and harnessing of its power, coupled with the technology available to enhance response and optimise cost efficiency.  It’s an exciting time to be in the direct mail field. For alert print services providers in particular, who can seize the moment, helping their clients fully capitalise on the opportunity and the technologies available now.

See Ricoh’s solutions at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2015

Printing on offset paper with the Ricoh Pro VC60000

Printing on offset paper with the Ricoh Pro VC60000

Full-colour duplex printing on a paper web from roll-to-roll on the Ricoh Pro VC60000, using latest-generation Ricoh inkjet heads with a resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi.

Signature, Booklet and Budget Binding Solution

Signature, Booklet and Budget Binding Solution

The 4-colour printed paper web will be processed nearline on the Hunkeler UW6 unwinding module, FM6 folder merger, and the high-performance CS6-HS cross-cutter. The SD7 double star wheel delivery unit will be stacking the signatures into book blocks for budget binding, or producing variable booklets with 8-, 12-, 16- or 20-pages. Production speeds up to 180 meters per minute, and guaranteed gentle processing thanks to the “huncolor” seal of quality

More about Ricoh’s presence at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2015

Understanding the value and effectiveness of multichannel advertising

Direct mail and catalogues suffered through a perfect storm during and immediately after the recession of 2009. The sharp downturn in the global economy shrank marketing budgets as consumers closed their wallets and businesses struggled to stay afloat. At the same time maturing online and mobile channels began attracting a growing portion of advertising revenue by offering more economical alternatives to print-based marketing. To some observers, print-based direct marketing was in crisis and headed towards irrelevancy.

Despite the rapid growth of electronic forms of advertising, print media accounts for about two-thirds of direct marketing expenditures in the U.S.

Despite the rapid growth of electronic forms of advertising,
print media accounts for about two-thirds of direct
marketing expenditures in the U.S.

Since then the dust of the recession has largely settled and world economies are slowly recovering. Marketers are beginning to understand the value and effectiveness of multichannel advertising, and direct mail and catalogue volume has stablised and grown.

For marketers as well as consumers, print-based direct marketing will remain a trusted and valuable complement to online and mobile channels.

By most reckoning, however, it will never be “business as usual.” Volumes will likely never return to pre-recession levels. While marketers and consumers alike continue to
value direct mail and catalogues, they are increasingly looking for more relevance and personalised content. This report will explore recent trends, challenges, and developments with direct mail and catalogues in North America and Europe. It will also examine how developments in digital printing technology are enabling print providers to transform print-based direct marketing into a vibrant and viable medium for the future. For marketers as well as consumers, print-based direct marketing will remain a trusted and valuable complement to online and mobile channels.

Find out more – download our new whitepaper:  Direct Mail & Catalogues: The Transformation of Print-Based Direct Marketing