Last week I presented at the Public Sector CFO Summit held in Darling Harbour. The aim of the Summit was to ‘deliver strategic financial leadership in today’s public sector’. With emerging technologies disrupting the communications landscape, my address explored the challenges and opportunities this presents from a financial perspective.
There are two key areas in which new technology is driving innovation. The first in digital print and the second in digital distribution channels. These two don’t operate in isolation and in fact the intelligent integration of the physical and electronic channels is where the real opportunity lies.
Let’s first look at digital print. Digital print allows for customer communications to be printed ‘on the fly’. That is, without the requirement to pre-print base stock, using offset print, before overprinting the message. There are multiple benefits of digital printing. It reduces the number of ‘steps’ in the production process, reduces the time to market and ultimately reduces the overall costs. More importantly, digital printing allows for customer communications to be highly personalised by intelligently integrating customer data into the print process. The result is targeted communication that displays not only a customer’s name but (for example) the product or service they subscribe to, their buying history and an offer that is relevant to them. The options are endless. This presents huge opportunities for increased engagement which in turn, drives revenue.
So what are the challenges in moving from offset to digital print? Granted there’s an initial set up process to be taken into consideration. But in terms of the data infrastructure required to achieve this level of personalisation, often this already exists within your customer database. It is a case of knowing what to do with the data and intelligently integrating your data into print production. Moving to digital print forces an organisation to deal better with their data. The capital expenditure and IT integration is minimal whereas the opportunities for better engagement and revenue generation are extensive and long-term.
Our second key area of innovation lies in the rapid growth of digital distribution channels. Digital channels have been emerging since the 1970s but most notably in the past 10 years they have revolutionised the communications landscape. Think the rise of Facebook and Twitter, the opportunity for everyday consumers to share content via YouTube and the wealth of information at our fingers tips via mobile devices. The way that consumers view and engage with digital media is constantly evolving. More email is now read on mobile than via desktop with 51% of emails now opened via a mobile device. (Source: Litmus –”Email Analytics” (Jan 2014))
The challenge for businesses is keeping up with these emerging digital trends, making this financially viable while communicating in such a way that is in line with the company’s brand values. Digital channels present huge opportunities to reduce production and mailing costs. It’s significantly less expensive to send an email than it is to send a letter, in fact you could be looking at approximately a tenth of the cost. But beyond the pure dollar figures, as with digital print, is the opportunity to increase engagement with your brand and drive revenue as a result.
Mobile is the real opportunity here. Communications delivered to customers via their mobile device ensure that the message is delivered to them on the go. It allows brands to communicate in real time as consumers are constantly engaged with their mobile device. Increasingly consumers are banking, buying and communicating almost exclusively on their mobile device. There are some real smarts to be tapped into when it comes to mobile communication.
The greatest opportunity for the least cost and capital outlay is to get both physical and digital channels working together. Smart, digitally printed communications can drive customers to digital channels. To effectively use digital print you need to be able to understand, and access your customer data. It’s then just a small step to email, SMS and mobile channels.
In summary, my advice (for what it’s worth!) is:
- Collectively embrace digital print and digital distribution channels. Digital marketing and communications should not be seen as something distinct and separate to your existing activities or as something different to what you have been doing for years.
- Afford the new technologies by redirecting current expenditure on your existing (particularly offset print) marketing and communications to digital channels.
- Build on the learnings from accessing customer data for digital print to move seamlessly to email, SMS and mobile channels.
- Create integrated solutions that allow for bounce backs from the electronic channels to be automated to the digital print stream to ensure your message is always delivered.
- Access your data in a way that means you can quickly move across a range of channels based on cost, speed to market and effectiveness.
- Save costs by communicating more effectively with your customers through using greater personalisation, better targeting and undertaking better analysis of your communication campaigns.
Ultimately, your customers, clients and your bottom line will thank you!