The Intersection of Print and Digital: What the Modern Enterprise Needs to Know

In our digital world, print is anything but dead.

As Bruce McMeekin, CEO and founder of BKM Marketing, says: "While communications channel options evolve at a rapid pace, the premise of putting the right offer in front of the right person at the right time never changes."

Print comes into play as another valuable medium for putting your message in front of the consumer. In fact, Lob’s 2019 State of Direct Mail report found that 60% of companies that send direct mail say it’s their highest ROI marketing channel and more than 50% see response rates of 5% or higher.

David Peterson, senior director of marketing and strategy for HealthMarkets, also believes it’s crucial for reaching all customers. “Some people prefer to read a print versus digital piece and often a direct mail piece can speak to someone and stand out faster than an email or search ad,” he said. “Also, if people are mulling over a provider or service, a print piece is something they can review at their leisure to make an informed decision.”

While print is still useful and relevant, digital is also on a continuous upward trajectory, making both mediums critical to reaching a large, enterprise-level audience. This is where the intersection of these two marketing avenues becomes important. Above and beyond multichannel marketing, which Shopify found increases revenue by 38%, 120%, and 190% with each additional channel, you must consider integration.

When both print and digital are integrated, you not only create a seamless brand experience, but your campaigns have greater impact, so it’s crucial that businesses consider adding printed assets as part of their overall marketing mix.

Both methods have different tactics, tools, customer journeys, and costs, and the customer demographics are different too, with printed materials being more attractive to older, more conservative, prospects.

The digital customer journey is where businesses capture most of their leads and customer data, it facilitates inbound marketing, and it’s a softer initial approach to the modern customer who dislikes being aggressively sold to, as was common in the past.

Print is more effective for targeting customers further down the marketing funnel (once the customer has been primed by social media and web content), or in print remarketing campaigns based on digital customer data alongside other online remarketing campaigns.
The higher the buying intent the more effective print assets are – it’s an important touchpoint for customers nearing purchase as it gives them something physical to hold and refer back to.

A digital or social campaign will certainly get different results than a print campaign but the point is to use both tactics together, so that each enhances the other. Online marketing has huge reach and provides most of the customer data that can be analyzed for insights, and print attracts those who were not captured by the digital funnel.

It makes sense to leverage every touchpoint possible, both online and offline, and that is how savvy businesses are creating the holistic customer journeys that the modern consumer expects as standard.

Below are some tips to help you successfully integrate print and digital campaigns for high performance and revenue.

Understand ROI by Tracking Print and Digital Metrics

To know whether print is adding value to your overall marketing efforts, you need to make tracking a priority. Peterson is familiar with both print and digital and explains that understanding ROI is critical to the success of both.

“Each medium serves a purpose and presents an opportunity,” he said. “The key is to allocate resources based on which mediums provide sufficient ROI.”

To allocate resources based on ROI, you need to be collecting the data in the first place. While automation software makes this easier, you still have to choose which tracking methods will be most appropriate for each campaign.

There are many different methods, and you need to track the success of both your digital and print efforts to know how one affected the other and which print and digital combinations are most potent.
For example, a direct mail campaign meant to drive email subscribers may have a shortened URL that takes the recipient to a personalized signup page. Conversely, a flyer meant to drive event sign ups may take readers to a tagged landing page via a QR code.

Check out these eight print tracking methods, as laid out by MyCreativeShop, to determine how you’ll track ROI:

  • Custom or shortened URL
  • Custom promo codes
  • Phone or in-person: “Mention this ad for a discount”
  • Coupons
  • Survey: “Where did you hear about us?”
  • #hashtag campaign
  • QR codes
  • Sale tracking during the campaign
Integrate with digital: You should use more than one of these metrics to track results, but don’t forget to overlay them to paint a picture of how print and digital intersected for success. Were customers engaging with the QR code on the direct mail postcard but not buying? Was there an increase in purchases over the course of the flyer campaign but minimal clicks through to the campaign URL? Knowing this will help you optimize both sides of your marketing. 

Personalize Materials With Variable Printing

Personal information and purchasing behaviors that have been collected online can now be used to personalize direct mail communications too. This technique is known as variable data printing (VDP), and it allows you to create unique, custom print media tailored specifically to each recipient on the mailing list.

According to Conquest Graphics, “By taking advantage of the flexibility of design that digital printing offers, VDP allows for text and graphics within individual pieces to become interchangeable as-needed. Digital printing allows for this by not requiring the printing plates used in other printing methods, drastically reducing turnaround time.”

Like with digital marketing, personalization is more important than ever. SmarterHQ found that 72% of consumers will only engage with personalized messaging. Marketers have been using personalization in digital marketing for many years – and when it comes to print, it’s important to remember that this tactic is just as relevant. 

In fact, when print materials include a recipients name on a vibrant, colorful background, the response rate will increase by 135%, and when even more “sophisticated database information” about the consumer is added, the response rate will escalate by 500%, according to Canon Solutions America. This is compared to black-and-white mailers with basic copy and no personalization, the latter of which yielded a response rate of 0.46%.

Using VDP, you can capitalize on the consumers’ need for personalized marketing with less hassle. 

Integrate with digital: Take offline personalization a step further and allow customers to experience a personalized digital experience as well. Take the example of IKEA, who’s AR app, Place, allowed customers to put together an entire room with IKEA furniture, testing out the combinations that they liked best. 

You can personalize your print to digital experience in a similar fashion, whether you have the budget for an AR app or not. For example, design a QR code into the print material and set it up to prompt an app or webpage to load for a specific zip code and let the personalized experience unfold. You can use different QR codes for each geographic send to manage this easily from the backend.

Automate for Streamlined Direct Mail Success

Direct mail automation software is critical for print marketing as an enterprise because manually managing the printing and sending will be costly and time-intensive. More importantly, software will track delivery and response, making it possible to compare this to your online marketing data and overall ROI.

The ecommerce brand NatureBox used direct mail automation to get a jump on what they were seeing within the ecommerce industry: declining open and click through rates. According to Sumo, instead of using email, NatureBox sent loyalty reward balances to a segment of previous customers that hadn’t purchased in 30 to 90 days.
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After sending 50,000 personalized postcards with direct mail automation software, they saw 35% more orders from customers within that group, with nearly 60% more revenue, per purchaser, compared with a group that didn’t receive the direct mail.

Sending at this scale, which allows for standout results, isn’t possible without automation software. As an enterprise integrating online and offline, it may be a critical investment for your success.

Integrate with digital: Sync your offline sends with your online ads, with the ideal scenario being: the customer sees your ad on Facebook, then opens their mail and gets your postcard. That double touch makes your brand memorable and, therefore, your campaigns more effective. By blending the two, you stay top of mind, leading to more conversions.

To do so, use your automated direct mail software to track exactly when postcards are being sent and deploy your online campaigns within a few days of the send. If you run location-based campaigns, you can get even more targeted with your ad deployment, allowing you to reach your customer back-to-back with print and digital.

The Takeaway

It’s clear that digital and print campaigns can enhance and support each other. Reach and brand awareness are increased, and customers can be nurtured more fully, making use of each touchpoint along the customer journey.

Bring digital and print mediums together for maximum marketing impact, A/B test direct mail automation, personalized printing, and print-to-digital metrics, and create strategy and processes that drives customers to act.

Remember, it’s about getting the marketing mix right, and each part has its own part to contribute to successful campaigns.



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