Grappling with rising postal costs that have pushed them to the limit, large U.S. mail customers are looking to trim every expense they can to maintain the viability of their most potent marketing channel.

But if ever there was a time to think differently about the challenge, now is it, Quad experts told the more than 60 clients attending the 23rd Quad Postal Conference, held March 12-14 in Milwaukee. And that means getting more creative in their use of customer data.

Today, marketers have more opportunities than ever to deploy data to understand customer journeys and build better-performing integrated campaigns across all marketing channels. An omnichannel approach not only restores ROI margins lost to steadily compounding postal increases, but also helps businesses grow.

“It’s a marriage. You can’t do one without the other and expect to survive,” said Russ Goin, Creative and Print Advertising Manager at Gardens Alive, in an interview conducted at the Quad Postal Conference. Gardens Alive is an Indiana-based seed-and-garden catalog company and a Quad customer.

“We’re a longtime print mailer, but we’ve embraced digital too,” Goin added. “Whether we print and mail a catalog, or the order is placed online, we know it takes two to tango. With postal costs rising, it only makes it more and more difficult to prospect, and that’s our lifeblood.”

On April 9, the Postal Service filed notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission of its plans for the year’s second rate increase.

Choose data-informed multichannel marketing

Choreographing the steps of an omnichannel strategy means building campaigns on what marketers know about the specific actions of customers, not just their demographics, says John Puterbaugh, Vice President of Advanced Media and Innovation at Quad.

Technology now allows marketers to create detailed customer portraits based on actions taken in and outside of the home, from responses to direct mail as well as online, in-store and via mobile phones. These data-informed portraits facilitate personalized omnichannel marketing campaigns that produce measurably higher results, Puterbaugh told the Postal Conference audience.

“There’s a lot of pressure to cut right now because of costs,” Puterbaugh said. “But if you take a step back and get a little smarter about how you’re engaging with customers — when, and how often — there are many things that can impact response.

“Mailing smarter means waiting to send customers something when they express an action or using tools such as Flowcodes to blend printed materials with digital, social media and other interactive campaigns to drive a more cost-effective and efficient approach.”

Yet, as these opportunities emerge, they face potential obstacles as regulators and technology companies pay increasing attention to consumer privacy issues. Use of third-party cookies to track consumer activity online is on pace to end this year, while Google and Yahoo have adopted new rules for bulk email senders focusing on authentication and spam complaint rates.

Moving toward household data

These types of changes mean that once-effective digital tools may start seeming less so in the future, but Quad believes there’s a better way forward through addressable media focused on the household.

Your home address is one of the few dependable constants through waves of digital change, Puterbaugh said, providing a “uniform way” of reaching customers through direct mail, postcards, catalogs and publications.

Using household data as the jumping off point for seamless multichannel campaigns presents marketers with a powerful new continuum of capabilities while making the economics of direct mail more compelling, Puterbaugh said.

“As marketers, we used to use things like demographic or psychographic information to target our customers. But those really aren’t discriminating factors in terms of who is going to buy something,” he said.

“Now we’re able to get more sophisticated with data that really gets at where people are spending their time, where they are spending their money and what they are doing. And those types of data allow us to make better decisions.”

The household offers the most reliable source of consumer data since it is the least variable of the places where we spend time, Puterbaugh said. Nielsen, for instance, reports that 70% of media is consumed at home, while other studies suggest 93% of consumers make their purchases within a 20-minute drive of where they live. “We just think that’s the way to start marketing, with a household-based digital spine.”

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