The New Personalization: A Q&A with Patrick Brand

Patrick Brand, President, Pitney Bowes North America Mailing, discusses how advances in personalization are creating new opportunities for print managers—and firms looking to strengthen customer relationships.

Q: Just what exactly is this “new personalization”?

A: A decade ago, personalization implied printing an individual’s name instead of “dear customer.” Today, personalization means engaging customers and prospects as individuals—where every message is targeted to specific needs and delivered through a preferred channel.

Q: What added value does personalization provide?

A: Personalization increases open rates, response and customer satisfaction. We all receive thousands of communications every day and know that many emails, texts and mailings are discarded without even being opened. Consumers will only consider communications that are relevant and timely.

In simplest terms, personalization can help you achieve more with the communications you are already sending, without adding cost. Mail, for example, is already seen by consumers as a credible source of information, but effective personalization can help you double or triple your results.

Q: In practice, what are the most effective ways to personalize print communications?

A: When we talk to mailers, three specific applications really stand out. One involves printing personalized QR codes, which drives traffic to targeted web sites and mobile landing pages. QR codes make it easy to connect physical and digital interactions in a consistent, meaningful way.

In mail, you need to make sure that your piece gets noticed, opened and read. Envelope personalization may be the easiest way to increase open rates and ROI on the pieces you send today. Technology has greatly improved so now you can often print full color, highly personalized envelopes on demand for less than pre-printed stock, improving results without adding cost.

The third big opportunity involves transactional documents—the bills, statements and notifications that go out every month. Market leaders are now foregoing pre-printed inserts and are personalizing each and every statement with full-color, highly targeted promotional offers that consumers simply can’t miss.

Q: Given the lift in performance, why isn’t everyone personalizing print today?

A: In some cases people are just not up-to-speed on the economics of on demand printing. The ability to start each job with plain white paper, for example, eliminates pre-print, inventory management and waste. You can print personalized messages, addresses and postal indicia in a single pass, streamlining production. So for many, on-demand variable print actually saves money.

Other firms are concerned whether their legacy platforms can support variable print, but now you can reformat documents right on the production floor. Software solutions make it easy to modify existing print streams, so you can update content on the fly to create more personalized, compelling output.

The biggest obstacle, though, is often organizational structures—as marketing and print operations don’t collaborate as much as they can. Here, the burden is probably on the print production teams to learn about the technology and then go out to marketing and say “here’s what we can do for you.” Individuals who have taken the initiative to educate their marketing clients have been very successful not only in increasing the value of mail, but also of the service they provide.

Q: Can you share any examples of organizations that have benefited from personalization?

A: Leaders will find ways to integrate print and digital communications to create a seamless experience for customers. One manufacturer of high-end audio equipment was looking to make inroads among dealers. Using personalized print-on-demand technology, they added QR codes to their envelopes. By making it easy for recipients to learn more about their products, response rates doubled.

In another instance, a car dealer reached out to the credit union that handled their leases. In a joint program, they promoted targeted lease offers in mailings to potential car buyers. The dealer had been sending out these promotions for years—and now the finance company was helping to pay for them, which greatly increased ROI.

Q: As someone involved in print production, what should my next step be?

A: The burden is often on print production teams to educate their clients about what can be done and how they can increase their print ROI. That starts by speaking with companies like Pitney Bowes—we are happy to share our knowledge—and then becoming a “personalization champion” within your own organization.