On any given day, consumers receive a constant stream of messages. Whether it’s a bank statement in the morning post, an appointment reminder via email, or a tweet promoting a retailer’s upcoming sale, the evolving nature of communications means businesses and their marketing departments can now use multiple channels to engage with existing customers and attract new business.
Despite the rising popularity of digital channels, physical mail still has an important role to play in business communications. With this in mind, many are adopting multi-channel strategies that utilize both channels, however, as the volume of materials being sent and received increases, managing this effectively can become a difficult challenge.
Why transition to digital?
The switch to digital marketing has multiple benefits, but, arguably, the biggest is that it provides a more direct route to the intended audience. Unlike sending brochures or leaflets via physical mail, which often takes days and requires the action of a third party, digital channels offer almost instant access to consumers. Even in the last few years we’ve seen this channel evolve as social media campaigns are added to the mix. Not only do digital channels enable queries to be resolved more efficiently, but it allows marketing teams to focus their time and resources more effectively on priority targets.
Incorporating digital into a marketing plan also represents an opportunity to cut costs. For instance, it can significantly reduce the capital spent on storage and inventory. Hardcopies of marketing material have to be stored somewhere and, whether it’s in the office or off-site, it is space that has to be paid for. According to an AIIM survey, 13.5 percent of office space is taken up by document storage, a hugely substantial amount when considering increasing rent prices. Similarly, the cost of pre-producing letterheads, leaflets and brochures – material that can quickly become out-of-date before ever being used – is expenditure that can be removed when using digital substitutions.
Avoiding fines and demonstrating compliance
While the idea of implementing digital marketing may seem straightforward, it can only be successful when built upon adequate foundations. For example, organizations that rely on unstable, manual processes for customer communications increase the risk of errors that could result in sending marketing material to a customer that has opted out via the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or Mailing Preference Service (MPS). While this can impact customer relations and cause reputation damage, organisations are often unaware that it can also result in substantial penalties. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has the power to issue fines if a company has broken a privacy data law, as a digital marketing firm discovered last year after contacting consumers who had opted out via TPS.  Therefore, at a time of increasing customer intolerance to receiving unsolicited marketing materials, firms shouldn’t be burdening their marketing departments with the responsibility of manually screening large volumes of data.
Storing records of all forms of communication should also be of high importance. In the case of an investigation by a regulator, such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – who is responsible for compliance with the MPS – it is essential that marketers can demonstrate that they were acting compliantly. Any failure to prove this can lead to fines.
Companies can use Output Management Software (OMS) to ensure all relevant digital communication is securely sent to the intended recipient. By automating the preparation and sending of materials, the need for manual interaction is removed and, subsequently, the opportunity for human error. Furthermore, as companies increasingly adopt multi-channel communication strategies, OMS can ensure both digital and physical channels are synced to ensure consumers aren’t receiving the same information in multiples formats.
Ultimately, digital communication will continue to play a prominent role in how marketers reach their audience. Its efficiency and cost effectiveness provide marketers with an ever-evolving channel. Through effective management of all communication channels, firms will not only be providing their marketing teams with the tools need to drive customer satisfaction and sales, but they will be able to do so without the worry of incurring any unexpected penalties.