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Why PIM is Primed for the Print Revival

As we roll into a new decade, you may be assessing your company’s marketing strategies: “Where can we find an edge?” you ask. May we suggest an “old reliable” that’s time-tested, impactful and, despite rumors of its demise, remains still viable. That medium is print.

According to U.S. Postal Service research, print is thriving, but in a different way than in its past. It’s true that while the volume of direct mail materials has declined 29.85% since 2006, direct mail response rates have actually risen by 173% for house lists and 194% for prospect lists. Personalization is a key driver for this growth, as is the trust factor that print holds over digital channels.

The Case for Print

Here are seven considerations for rethinking print in your marketing mix:

  1. Print offers something different. Today the average person receives 107 emails but just 2 pieces of mail per day. As consumers continue to connect more and more facets of their lives via digital — banking, shopping, making appointments, interacting, etc. — a printed piece in the mailbox becomes a novelty. Think about when you receive a greeting card in the mail or, rarer still, a personal letter. You might smile when you find it. You can open it at your leisure. Since so much of “junk mail” has vanished in favor of email marketing — and so much of that is unwanted spam — an eye-catching printed piece stands out.
  2. Print has a tangible presence. A shopper’s memory of a web page lasts until the next click. Emails are opened immediately and forgotten. A printed flyer or catalog is likely to be retained for 17 days. You can hold it, browse it, mark it up, bring it with you while shopping. The merchant can include a promotional card or small item to make a printed piece more engaging. Many companies take exceptional pride in their printed catalogs as a significant brand statement — a weighty presence on the shelf.
  3. Print allows greater freedom of expression. Web pages and apps are restricted by their wireframes and templates, creating a certain level of monotony for the user. The print is less confined. Using a proper Product Information Management (PIM) system, a designer can flow content and images to a page template, then work “outside the lines” to create dazzling, attention-grabbing visuals. Print allows trendy colors and fonts and special effects like gradients to shine at their best.
  4. Print can be personalized. Personalization goes beyond merely addressing a piece to a specific customer. Today, a business can harness its powerful PIM system combined with advanced analytics to create personalized versions of direct mail pieces in smaller lots. For instance, a national tool retailer can mail tailored editions of its monthly mini-catalog with different offers based on the individual customer’s buying patterns. These pieces build a “just for me” wow factor with customers.
  5. Print gets a response. According to the 2018 DMA Response Rate Report, direct mail achieves a 9% response from house lists and 5% from prospect lists versus 1% or lower for email and social media. DMA data indicates that 79% of consumers act on direct mail immediately versus 45% for email. 
  6. Print and Digital work well together. Digital remains the most common and cost-effective way to interact with customers, but print reaches where digital cannot. A customer can filter email but not the conventional mailbox. Direct mail plus email boosts conversion rates by up to 28%. And direct mail can raise the effectiveness of other channels by up to 450%. Many marketers use their print catalogs to drive customer traffic to their websites and apps.
  7. Consumer Data Security Laws are on the rise. And compliance is a headache for digital marketers. Since Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect in May 2018, consumers’ digital privacy has garnered attention worldwide. A similar California law went live on January 1, 2020. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislatures in 25 US states and Puerto Rico have more than 100 active consumer data privacy bills or drafts on their collective dockets. Some of these state laws are highly restrictive. Together they make up a byzantine puzzle of regulations. As a possible alternative, the US Senate is considering uniform federal legislation; the Federal Trade Commission is watching as it is the national enforcement arm. While governments debate how much protection is appropriate, “think tanks” like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have offered their opinions. Many consumer advocacy groups fear that a federal law will be weaker than state laws, while many trade organizations support the idea of a national standard.

The implications for digital marketers are clear: More laws mean more complex regulations, more documentation of opt-in/out processes, more proof of compliance and tighter restrictions on what/how much/how long customer information can be retained by retailers, distributors and other organizations who reach consumers via the digital space. The laws also cover data brokers, who collect and re-sell consumer information. While direct marketing is subject to certain provisions of these laws, compliance is much easier as consumer consent is not required. Laws such as GDPR figure to take a big bite out of email marketing as companies scramble to comply. In turn, data security laws present an opportunity for these companies to reconsider print as a viable option. Customers trust print because it is virus-proof and bears no inherent risk of identity theft.

A robust and versatile PIM software should serve both digital and print needs. From a single source of content, messages can be personalized and disseminated across multiple channels and at different touchpoints along the customer journey.  So it’s time to rethink print as a valuable option for the personalization era.

Considering if a product information management (PIM) system is right for you? Take our 3-Minute PIM Readiness Assessment to help you determine if your business could benefit from a proper PIM solution. Or simply contact our PIM experts and we’ll help you evaluate your business needs.

Related Resources

The Marketer’s Guide to PIM for the Omnichannel Era

Choosing a PIM: What to Watch for

Simplicity

We were incredibly gratified last month to learn that Ventana Research had given us their Technology Innovation Award, which honors “pioneers who have developed clear visionary and transformative technology, going above and beyond to introduce new advancements in use of technology, analytics and information.” Ventana Research CEO and Chief Research Officer Mark Smith has written a thorough explanation of why we were singled out, and you can read that here. I’m personally grateful for the thoughtful analysis and perspective and I like every word of it. But if I had to pick two favorites they’d be “simple” and “sophisticated.” Product information management and master data management are often referred to as internal plumbing. That’s not a very sophisticated metaphor, but to push it further: if you’ve ever remodeled a bathroom, you know that, so long as you can pay for it, nothing you can dream up to do will faze your contractor in the least, except when it comes to moving the soil stack, which is not for the faint of heart.  I hate to say it but that’s how PIM is too often viewed. The kind of thing you hope you’ll never have to change. But every product-centric company has to come to terms with it at some point. What usually happens is that one day it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that there are too many silos of data; that departments are duplicating tasks; that results are inconsistent; that the status quo is getting in the way of progress and growth. The pressure is building to get more products to more channels, quicker, with richer data. And that’s when someone finally decides to have a look at the plumbing. The thing every department has its own unique reasons for not wanting to mess with.faucets Two years ago, after about 200 man/woman-years of customer-led R&D, we took stock. We felt pretty confident about our software’s functionality. And we realized that there probably wasn’t a unique customer requirement that we hadn’t seen and accommodated. But getting an entire organization, top to bottom, right to left, to sign on to a major overhaul of a central, essential process, even when their existing one is admittedly out of date and woefully inefficient? Well, that was still usually a very tough, painfully drawn-out exercise. We found that what was sorely lacking in the PIM space in general was the kind of simplicity and elegance of design that makes technology easy and even pleasurable to use. So that every stakeholder can look past the immediate challenges of remodeling the enterprise, to readily see and experience the value and benefits. We decided then to make simplicity our development mindset and company-wide mantra. We would never stop pushing ourselves to add new and improved features, but we gave ourselves the added challenge of making Agility® the simplest PIM available. Configuration, workflow, reporting, syndication to ecommerce platforms, iPad and Page Design capabilities, and so on. Every element was re-examined, re-assessed, simplified. We’re especially chuffed about our brand new Agility Modular Interface (we like to call it AMI, with a French accent) that lets every individual user in every department tailor our software according to their own needs. Choose a role and workspace, customize it with some nifty pre-built gadgets and drop-and-drag tools, and go. No need for the IT specialist. It looks good, feels good, works great, right away, no matter where you sit. And it’s something that hasn’t been done before. Managing product data, as most people reading this will understand all too well, is extremely complex. It’s touched by individuals in every department – creative, ecommerce, content managers, product managers, merchants, translators, vendors, et al; it’s enriched, approved, syndicated, designed with, and relied on for accuracy, at every level and every point of customer interaction. It has to be trustworthy and richly Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Self-Portraitmultidimensional. It has to smoothly flow into ecommerce and other enterprise applications and feed an ever-growing number of channels and touch points. Again, it’s inherently complex and cumbersome, and we couldn’t be prouder to have won an award for making it simple. But of course it isn’t merely simple. In the words of someone not often quoted in our trade, Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Leonardo's sketch of a valve flush toilet

And because in googling him I just stumbled upon a design he made of a flush valve toilet that in its day would certainly have been worthy of a Technology Innovation Award, and because it nicely closes the circle on all this potty talk, I’ll say no more and leave you with it here. Thanks for reading!

Richard Hunt, CEO, Agility Multichannel

Leonardo’s sketch of a valve flush toilet