Smartphones can help drive new business to smart printers

Sarah Cosgrove
Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Of all human possessions, one stands out as being our favourite. It is probably the object that spends more time with the average British adult than anything else, except a watch or jewellery. It is of course our smartphone.

Two thirds of UK adults now own a smartphone, up from 39% in 2012. They have become an integral part of our lives and very quickly too – the iPhone launched in 2007.

It’s no surprise, then, that the popularity of using a smartphone to access the web is surging. According to Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report, published on 6 August, 33% of internet users see their phone as the most important device for going online, compared to 30% who prefer a laptop. In last year’s report, 22% preferred their phone and 40% their laptop. 

Smartphone owners use their devices for nearly two hours a day to browse the internet, Ofcom’s research reveals. This compares to just over an hour on laptops and PCs. The watchdog says that the uptake of 4G mobile broadband is behind the increase. Those using 4G grew from 2.7m to 23.6m in 2014 alone. 

Traditionally some printers have viewed the rise of the internet with understandable suspicion, but could a switch from PCs and laptops to mobile, on-the-go devices actually be good news for print?

“It’s very difficult to sell a £1,000 Chanel handbag via a phone. But you can put something in the post that can be touched and felt that makes the product much easier to engage with,” says Inc Direct director of client strategy and insight Andy Bailey. 

He sees a real difference between brands that connect with new customers online and those who send out a welcome or thank you mail pack, like the ones his company produces. This is, he says, “welcoming in a premium way”.

“We work with a lot of premium brands and they all send welcome packs to their customers. They will never use mobile or email. There will always be a place for print.” 

Online shopping is big business. According to online retail trade body, IMRG, £104bn was spent online in 2014, more than double the £49.8bn spent five years before. Between November 2014 and January 2015, 40% of online shopping was via a mobile device, up from 32% in the same period 12 months before. 

This trend is a real boon for print – people are more likely to be driven to buy or research something on their mobiles when they see print when they are out and about: access to a website where you can buy the new coat you have just seen on a billboard or in a magazine is in your pocket. 

And once you have bought your item, the retailer has a name, address and the beginning of a customer profile for you. This provides a data stream that can prompt direct mailings. Even if you don’t buy, a forgotten basket can trigger a reminder direct mail, perhaps with an offer or voucher as an incentive, Bailey says. 

“Mobile shopping aids the ability to capture rich data quickly. With a consumer it’s all about convenience. What’s very important, particularly for a new customer, is to welcome them to the brand,” he adds. 

But, according to Bailey, these are 21st century mailings. Not mass-market but bespoke, and facilitated by advances in digital print. 

“Lots of holiday companies do ‘welcome home’ emails and texts. We do fully customised direct mail – ‘We hope you enjoyed your holiday in X, here are some connected recommendations’, based on the type and destination of holiday and if they travelled as couple, family or alone,” he says.

This builds on the concept of “single customer view” in which a company collates everything known about a customer and their habits, in order to cross-sell. 

Howard Hunt did this some years ago with travel firm Tui. When a holidaymaker returned from their Tui holiday, a pack would be waiting for them with suggestions for further trips, tailored to their circumstances.

Bailey adds: “I had a meeting yesterday with a publisher about a service where customers scan a picture of a product that then takes them to the firm’s website where they buy that product. That in turn will trigger a ‘welcome to’ pack, which we fulfil.”

This model would provide a clear connection from purchase to print but it is usually impossible to tell which medium prompted any customer action, warns Howard Hunt managing director Lucy Edwards.

“Just because the customer comes through on a laptop that doesn’t mean the work you did on the other devices didn’t have an effect. People are reading magazines and going on their mobiles to buy something. It looks like online media is driving response, but it’s all the media working together. No medium works in isolation, you have to invest in everything,” she says.

Prime Group managing director Jon Tolley agrees: “The consumer is channel agnostic, they don’t care how they talk to the brand, they just like to have the same message from the brand regardless of the channel they are on.

“The same is true, if not to the same degree, in the corporate space. Print can be a huge factor in driving traffic and spend through mobile as long as the basics are covered.

“It still amazes me how many websites can’t be read from a smartphone. It’s been proven that conversion rates for companies that have a mobile site go through the roof. We know, for example, if we send a printed piece at the same time as an email, the response rates leap up. It does work.” 

Ricoh’s Clickable Paper product promises to make this whole process easier. Commercially available for about a year, Clickable Paper takes the technology away from the print. Instead of needing QR codes, digital watermarks, NFC and so on, it stores a PDF of the relevant piece of print online so that any part of the image, captured by a smartphone will connect to the PDF and trigger a ‘user journey’ to YouTube, a company website, an infographic or all of the above. 

Strategic marketing manager Gareth Parker said print could take advantage of being closer to the internet, through people’s phones, than previously – for example when a person is sitting on a train reading a newspaper. 

“We can go to our clients and say here’s where we can offer you a more integrated experience. Clickable Paper can help with that,” he says.


We need to ensure that print works harder and smarter

Peter Lancaster, chief executive, Documobi

peter-lancasterSo far, print isn’t taking advantage of the mobile revolution. Up until now, scanning has been the focus of the print and mobile relationship. 

Everyone talks about the technology of scanning, such as QR, AR, NFC and digital watermarks. But for me the focus should not just be how you scan, it’s about where the scan takes you and what happens when you get there. It’s about making print work harder and smarter. Also, none of the known scanning technologies work with all handsets or operating systems, or have been developed with print in mind. Print is still a powerful brand and marketing tool and it’s time we re-evaluated the power of print.

Digital innovation is moving at breakneck speed and increasing the gap between generations. Many people under the age of 30, which means most marketing executives, don’t have computers at home. Millennials no longer use email, except at work, and rarely use SMS. Instead they use iMessage, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. Using mobile as the interface between print and digital, we will reach the modern day masses.

The print industry makes cross media campaigns that involve PURLs, email or SMS, mostly missing out mobile-savvy consumers. Generation Y can download an app quicker than we can type in a PURL. Through apps, millennials communicate and interact with brands; print can play its part in enabling and enriching the flow of conversation between brand and consumer.

This does mean that print, as a medium, can and must do better. It’s not about one individual piece of print being interactive, it’s about making all print interactive, responsive, and within an appropriate context.

Print was the original social media and it still holds sway today, but it is facing some severe challenges from the young, tech-savvy marketers who determine how those marketing pounds are spent.


Are you seeing better integration with smartphones?

Paul Brough, chief executive, Opus Trust Marketing

paul-brough“We are going to see a fall in print volumes averaging 5%. In my view and experience, people want to have a quick look on a tablet or mobile but have the assurance they’ve got bank statements or pay slips coming in the post. They complement each other. We’re trying to do both, not move away from print altogether. We’ve got a service that if the email doesn’t get there, it automatically reverts to print. With our online portal we know if people haven’t read their statement and use SMS as well. It’s about engagement.”

Lucy Edwards, managing director, Howard Hunt

lucy-edwards“We’ve seen that print does develop online behaviour, all of the activity we’re doing will have an individual effect. It’s a mix rather than a standalone effect. A lot of people are testing to see what are the good response drivers, but it’s still evolving. Ultimately you’ve got to remember that it’s individual people you’re talking about, the more data you can get the better. Our clients are testing different routes to different people and using that information to deliver that very cleverly. There’s no hard and fast rules with DM, like there used to be.” 

Phil Foster, senior key account manager, Saxoprint

phil-foster“We’ve just launched a mobile version of our website because we’re aware more and more people are using mobile phones to place orders. We’ve had a big request from our reseller clients they weren’t able to go onto our website to order while they were out and about. More and more people are using phones and certainly with the advances of QR codes, it’s creating a new market in the mobile world. If they can get whatever they require wherever they are that can only be good, being an online printer, it’s absolutely ideal.”


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