Pitney Bowes survey predicts boost in personalized direct mail

By David Ward, San Diego, Thursday 20 October 2011

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Though it was based only an informal survey conducted among attendees at a recent Direct Marketing Association conference, a new study from Pitney Bowes found that companies will continue to boost their direct mail and email marketing budgets next year.

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According to the survey of 231 conference attendees, 80% said they plan to boost their database marketing spends in 2012 - and that's on top of the 5.6% boost in spending those programs are receiving this year.

"Marketers today are investing in customer interactions by creating relevant personalised messages across digital and physical channels," Pitney Bowes executive vice president Leslie Abi Karam said in a release announcing the DMA survey results.

Right now there are no comprehensive statistics from Pitney Bowes - or anyone else for that matter - suggesting that personalized direct mail has higher response rates.

But Carol Wallace, Pitney Bowes director of external communications, explained to PrintWeek that many brands and direct marketers are already realizing these vast databases of customer information they've acquired can be effectively used to craft and deliver highly personalized messages.

"Many leading brands now have great data cleansing and data applications abilities that they may have been less comfortable with before," she said. "Brands for years have been reconciling their data and getting one view of the customer. But as the amount of data grows and as the software becomes a lot more flexible in what it can do, then marketers get more comfortable because they can use that data to be a lot more personal with their customers and become more experimental in the programs they use."

The other big trend, Wallace noted, was marketers' intent on using multiple direct marketing channels, adding, "Print needs the support of being able to drive someone to a website or to a retail store, another channel or call center."

While none of these guarantee that print will remain the major channel for direct marketing, Wallace cited a recent Pitney Bowes survey that noted when it comes to bills and financial information most people still prefer traditional mail. "Banks and insurance companies are having a hard time moving people off print and to electronic distribution," she added. "Consumers also want to receive catalogs by mail, so if you're a retailer and you have a lot of content or a more complex offer, print is still your channel of choice."

"It's up to the marketer now and some ad agencies and marketers are going to go with more out-of-the-box personalized direct mail campaigns," she continued. "Once other brands see those marketers winning with multi-channel two-way interactions based on personalized data, then all boats will rise."

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