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2018 Recognition Market: Tech Partnering, Wellness & Non-cash Awards

AccuList USA recently completed proprietary research on hundreds of top performing lists of employee recognition and incentive product buyers to support clients in a business-to-business marketplace that now encompasses close to 90% of companies.

89% of Companies Committed to Recognition Spending

In fact, the 2017 “Trends in Employee Recognition” report from WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association, found 89% of surveyed organizations committed to recognition programs, with 65% offering between three and six different programs, from companywide (81%) to individual (69%) to department/team (67%). The top five recognition programs rewarded length of service (85%); above-and-beyond performance (77%); programs to motivate behaviors associated with the business initiatives, such as customer service (51%); peer-to-peer recognition (49%); and retirement (34%).  Certificates and/or plaques remain the most awarded recognition item, at 80% of respondents, followed by cash (55%), gift certificates/cards (45%), company-logo merchandise (40%), and food, such as a lunch or pizza party (39%). For incentive and recognition marketers, targeting can mainly focus on two departments responsible for administering programs: human resources (59%) and compensation (22%).

2018 Trends Include Brand Culture, Tech Partnering, & Wellness

The Incentive Research Foundation’s “IRF 2018 Trends Study” offers recognition and incentive marketers more guidance on changing demand trends. For one, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality capabilities will be a “fundamental requirement” for vendors and suppliers looking to partner with incentive professionals in 2018, per IRF. Marketers also will want to push wellness messaging, since more incentive professionals are adding health and wellness components focused on fitness, food, and comfort to their incentive programs this year compared with other features, says the report. And when it comes to merchandise products, incentive buyers in 2018 don’t want more choice as much as more “impactful products,”  such as products with local sourcing or organic roots and products that can be easily personalized and customized. The desire to build a brand-asset culture around intangibles, such as innovation, as well as traditional assets is one factor pushing these non-cash awards in 2018, notes the report. On the other hand, gift cards will continue to gain momentum this year, according to the IRF, which says mid-size firms spend an average of nearly $500,000 annually on gift cards across all programs, while large ones spend over $1 million annually. Finally, although incentive travel makes up a small part of the recognition pie, the incentive travel industry’s net optimism score for the economy is up almost 20 points from 2017 in the IRF report, leading to budget increases despite rising costs. For more on top incentive trends, see http://www.incentivemag.com/News/Industry/IRF-Top-Incentive-Trends-2018/

 

 

Learn How to Integrate Direct Mail & E-mail for Max Results

Even though omnichannel has gone from marketing buzzword to marketing given, AccuList USA’s retail, catalog and e-commerce clients can still face challenges in getting the most ROI from direct mail and e-mail integration. A recent MarketingProfs post offered a collection of stats and tips that can help.

Direct Mail Adds Important Punch to Campaigns

For those who doubt the power that traditional mail can add to a digitally focused effort, the article cites a few important facts about snail mail’s bottom line punch.  For example, campaigns that use two channels together, such as direct mail and e-mail, have been shown to get up to a 35% lift over those using a single channel, per IWCO Direct data. The younger generation may be very digitally savvy, even addicted when it comes to social and mobile, but recent studies from the U.S. Postal Service prove mail’s sales power: A whopping 57% of Millennials make purchases based on direct mail offers! Other USPS studies show why mail works so well regardless of age: People spend more time with physical advertising, have a stronger emotional response and remember the physical promotion better than digital efforts. Plus, beyond the ability to use direct mail’s sizes, formats and tactile designs to grab attention, today’s print technology makes it easy to link a printed piece to digital channels via QR codes, near-field communication (NFC), and augmented reality (AR).

How to Improve Integration of Direct Mail & E-mail

So how do you get the most out of a direct mail-e-mail marriage? Here are some ideas from the MarketingProfs post’s authors, Dennis Kelly, CEO of direct mail automation tool Postalytics, and Nancy Harhut, a creative director who has worked with leading brands such as Google, Adobe, McGraw-Hill, and Nationwide Insurance:

  1. Consider delivering critical information in both channels to reinforce the message.
  2. Have each communication build on the previous one.
  3. Use direct mail to emphasize a key message or break up the expected routine.
  4. Ensure both e-mail and direct mail adhere to the same graphic standards and reflect the same voice so each piece reinforces and extends your brand promise.
  5. Use direct mail to initiate a conversation with people whose email addresses you do not yet have, or with those who have repeatedly not responded to your email

For more on workflows integrating direct mail and e-mail, see https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2018/34741/best-practices-and-tips-for-integrating-direct-mail-into-email-marketing-campaigns

 

These Tech Trends Likely to Drive 2018 Direct Mail Success

Because direct mail data and support services are at the heart of AccuList USA’s expertise, we are always delighted to pass along tips on how to use direct mail more successfully in multi-channel marketing strategy. A blog post by Postalytics, a self-serve direct mail automation tool, recently mined multiple expert sources for the most influential direct mail trends of 2018, ranging from creative to technology to mailing strategy. If you have any lingering doubt over adding interactive technology to traditional snail mail, just take a look at the article’s top mail technology trends for this year.

Automation and Integration: Speedy, Targeted Production

Unsurprisingly, automation purveyor Postalytics puts mail automation software at the top of the list, but they get plenty of industry support. Automation allows marketers to quickly generate high-quality, personalized and trackable letters and postcards by leveraging templates, digital cues and automated workflows, cutting direct mail production cycles from 4-6 weeks down to 1 week. That automation also allows marketers to maximize response by integrating triggered direct mail into any step in the buyer’s journey, online or offline, so that mail delivery taps into the appropriate timing, content and call-to-action.

Linking Offline to Online: AR, QR and PURL

Interactive, mobile-scanned Augmented Reality apps and QR codes, as well as personal urls (PURLs) linked to targeted content-specific landing pages, allow direct mailers to connect offline marketing’s printed paper with online marketing’s digital pages, images, animations and videos. Studies show that combining snail mail with interactive digital is key to greater overall campaign response and ROI.

Enhanced Data Targeting and Personalization

The magic wand of quality, enhanced data can be waved over direct mail to match the right message to the right people at the right time. Good mailing list data allows for targeting based on shopping habits and needs, retargeting and cross-selling, recapturing and reactivating of lost prospects and customers, leveraging of trigger events and personal preferences, and more–provided there is a commitment to quality database hygiene and processing. Customer and prospect data lists need to be up-to-date, de-duped and accurate, and mailings must use cost-effective advanced postal address hygiene and pre-sorting. In addition to cost-effective, high-response targeting, good mailing data allows for sophisticated content personalization far beyond simply inserting a name, the kind of personalization that has become a basic expectation of customers. Marketers can even create personalized coupon codes that deliver a much higher ROI than generic coupon codes; these unique codes make customers feel valued on an individual level.

For 2018 direct mail trends in creative design and mailing strategies, see https://www.postalytics.com/blog/direct-mail-marketing-trends-for-2018/ 

 

 

 

2018 Digital Marketing Trends: Technology, Targeting, Tactics

Digital marketing continues to experience rapid changes. AccuList USA will be helping clients navigate this year via quality data, data services and other support efforts that take into account 2018 digital marketing trends recently outlined by Forbes magazine’s Forbes Agency Council.

Technology Drivers: AR, Conversational Interfaces, Video

The first of the article’s 15 trend predictions is continued growth in the use of Augmented Reality (AR), per Chris Carter of Rep Interactive, as mobile devices become more powerful, social apps improve AR integration, and, we would add, traditional print, from direct mail to ads to labels, also embraces AR. Meanwhile, the popularity of  conversational interactions will offer new opportunities and challenges, per a couple of council members—such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, chatbots and more. Now that Google says 20% of its mobile queries are voice searches and usage set to climb further, marketers will need to create content targeting these types of searches and ads for non-traditional venues (such as sponsored smart-fridge recommendations), predicts Brett Farmiloe of Markitors. Video was a big story in 2017 and is now seen as a basic of success for 2018 marketers, per several Forbes council members. It also means that marketers will face a higher bar in terms of quality. As social media platforms jump into live video and add features, “the shaky, holding-a-phone-in-your-hand live video won’t be acceptable anymore,” warns Thomas Brodbeck of Site Strategics.

Targeting Goes Hyper: Personalized & Contextual

Most marketers agree that the days of impersonal e-mail blasts are done. So what’s ahead in 2018? Marketers will be focused on hyper-targeting and personalizing every interaction, forecast several experts. Watch for personalized landing pages connected to each advertising campaign, for example. The need for unbiased targeting, predictive analytics and budgeting at every step of the customer journey also will increase use of application programming interfaces for machine-learning algorithms, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, opines Douglas Karr of DK New Media. And as data protection regulation increases, ad tech vendors will need to go beyond tracking behavior with cookies to contextual targeting strategies based on page content, adds Julien Verdier of Adyoulike.

Some Tactics Keep Their Buzz, and Some Fade

“Influencer marketing” had marketing buzz in 2017, but Craig Greiwe of Rogers & Cowan predicts that 2018 will see a collapse of interest because brands that spent big on influencers haven’t seen measurable results. He expects brands instead to “zero in on a few select individuals who drive results or move to organic grassroots promotion, and away from high-cost, middle-tier influencers who drive awareness but little ROI.” Content marketing, meanwhile, will remain a key part of the marketing tool box—but with some changes. New formats, video, and voice search are ending the focus on blog posts and listicles and pushing marketers toward featured snippets, interactive spoken tutorials and integration with User Interface features, says Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com. In the crowded online grab for engagement, native advertising will retain appeal, too, per Timothy Nichols of ExactDrive, Inc., helping marketers to expand viral sharing and develop a more involved relationship with target markets.

For more trend predictions, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/12/18/how-digital-marketing-will-change-in-2018-15-top-trends/#464141092d9a

2018 Offers New and Old Marketing Data Challenges

As a data broker, AccuList USA is committed to helping its data services clients with data gathering, quality, targeting and analytics. Looking ahead to 2018, we see new and old data issues for direct marketers. A recent Forbes magazine interview with Tom Benton, the CEO of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), highlighted six of those data challenges for next year.

Perennial Problems From Quality and Integration

Given the huge amount and types of data streaming into marketers, many are struggling to decide which data sets to use and which to ignore, how to keep data accurate and actionable, and how to integrate new data with existing data. Several practices for 2018 success are suggested: clear business goals and target audiences to narrow the data focus; a clear test case for examining or onboarding data; regular examination of new and legacy data accuracy and value; and systems for integrating new data with existing data, especially given the new types of data streams available–everything from wearable gym trackers to chatbots to grocery checkouts.

New Opportunities Via Technology

The Forbes overview also cites the exciting opportunities coming from new marketing tech tools, such as augmented reality (AR), machine learning and AI. Are you ready to take advantage? The articles offers the example of how 1-800-Flowers improved customer experience by integrating the company’s website with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and natural language processing to understand customer demand and then search the product catalog to deliver customized recommendations. Use of AR today ranges from AMC theater movie posters to Simmons Bedding Co. product demos to labels of Australia’s 19 Crimes wine brand. And consider that digital growth company Urban Airship has developed a machine learning algorithm to analyze mobile customer behavior and help app publishers identify the most loyal users and predict those that are likely to churn to improve retention investment in specific customer segments.

Challenges With Cybersecurity and European Rules

If customers don’t trust that sensitive information will be safeguarded, they’ll stop engaging, hurting not only individual brands but the data-driven community. Massive data security breaches made headlines in 2017. That makes data security a top concern to retain customers and prevent risk in 2018, per Benton. Meanwhile, American marketers who seek to tap European markets need to get ready for the enactment of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), taking effect May of 2018. The regulations will set a new baseline for consumer privacy rights and focus on ensuring that proper consents are obtained for a range of data sets and that other privacy rights are observed, such as the “right to be forgotten.”

For more on 2018 data trends, read the Forbes article.

Marketers Win by Catering to Millennial Direct Mail Fans

Remember when marketing gurus were calling direct mail “dead,” drowned by a wave of digital, mobile, and social technologies? Well, research keeps resurrecting mail from its low-tech tomb. In fact, recent studies find that Millennials–the 22- to 36-year-old, tech-savvy generation supposedly addicted to mobile devices and digital networking–are bigger fans of direct mail than older generations in some ways!  That’s information that printers, mailing services, and a list broker and direct marketing consultant like AccuList USA can use to convince clients who hesitate over direct mail spending.

Millennials Like Direct Mail in General

For example, a recent study by InfoTrends and Prinova found that response rates for direct mail remain high for all demographics, including Millennials, who open direct mail received at the same high rate of 66% as recipients overall. More significantly, Milennials as a group respond faster to mail–within 2.4 months–which is less than the average response time for all respondents. Plus, the InfoTrends research found that a big 63% of Millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within that three-month period actually made a purchase! Along similar lines, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) conducted a survey on direct mail’s political impact on Millennials and found that at least 42% of Millennials prefer direct mail political ads over online ads, that twice as many thoroughly read political mail, and that Millennials are more likely to be prompted to action by mail, with 66% likely to research the candidate and 54% visiting the candidate’s website after receiving mail.

But Millennials Also Prefer Specific Mail Tactics

However, research also shows that all mail pieces are not created equal. Mailings that resonate best with Millennials are targeted and personalized, per research. Luckily, sophisticated targeting and personalization are possible with today’s variable printing, programmatic and automation programs, and database segmentation and analytics. Millennials demand printing quality as well, with one quarter of surveyed 25- to 34-year-olds saying they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality. Mailers going beyond the standard No. 10 envelope–including 3-D dimensional mailers, pop-ups and intricately folded pieces–are playing to this audience that appreciates visual creativity. Plus, engaging copy counts, with 25% of that same surveyed group saying they consider reading direct mail a leisure activity. That doesn’t mean that printed mail can be divorced from Millennials’ digital lifestyle. Data in eMarketer’s survey report “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” shows that Millennials prefer digital shopping, even while in stores, and are comfortable with mobile shopping. The Millennial preference for digital/mobile shopping means that integrating print and digital–via QR, AR, or PURL–can significantly boost response, as shown in multiple studies. Research also shows that video is a response-getter for Millennials’ digital promotions. And now mailers have the printing technology to jump on the video bandwagon with audio players and video screens incorporated in direct mail.

For a good overview of recent data on direct mail and Millennials, see this article from The Financial Brand.

For Direct Mail, What’s Old Can Be New (& Effective) Again

AccuList USA offers mailing lists, data services and direct marketing services to direct mailers in many business and nonprofit arenas, and that requires us to keep up with the latest options combining print and digital technologies. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the tried-and-true, pre-digital tactics that still deliver response! Real-life examples noted in recent Target Marketing magazine articles underscore that point.

Envelopes That Grab Attention

Thank Paul Bobnak, director of Who’s Mailing What!, for sifting through mail volumes to spot some successful new takes on old tricks for attention-getting envelopes. In his recent Target Marketing article, he noted the reappearance of four “old-school” tactics. One is an envelope highlighting Yes-No-Maybe stickers, once a favorite of subscription drives. The prospect is given three options on the reply form, with a sticker for each. Bobnak cites a recent mail piece from UPMC, a healthcare system: The Yes-No stickers are visible in an outer envelope window, while the “Maybe” is inside for recipients to self-qualify for follow-up mailer persuasion. Posting an outer envelope quiz is another proven way to intrigue prospects and get them to open a mailing to learn more–a ploy often used for health care and financial services offers. Bobnak shows how a few qualifying envelope questions work well today for the Harvard Health Letter as an example from publication marketing. The interoffice-routing-style envelope is an old trick for catching the attention of office workers and has been a go-to for B2B. Despite e-mail’s workplace dominance, interoffice paper still exists, and Bobnak notes the recent engaging nonprofit marketing use of an interoffice envelope by Sacred Heart Southern Missions, a social ministry. Then there’s the photo lab envelope, seemingly obsolete in this digital photo age. But high-quality printed photos still come in envelopes, Bobnak reminds, and that syncs with the creative services message of Dissolve, a stock footage agency, which recently prospected with a photo lab envelope containing quality photos from its collections.

Letters That Drive Response

Once recipients open the envelope–although use of QR, AR, PURLs, etc., are great new digital tools to boost response–the old-school marketing basics of the letter copy offer still matter. In another recent Target Marketing magazine article, Summer Gould highlighted seven items required for a great direct mail letter. With a few of our own additions, the seven key elements are: a first sentence that hooks the reader; an offer that is attractive (yes, a freebie or discount still entices); a story line that engages and pulls important emotional triggers (such as the well-known marketing motivators of fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, and need for approval); flattery that convinces the reader he or she is special and appreciated, which today requires more personalization than just a greeting name; questions that qualify the prospect or customer (just make sure you expect the answers based on your data); a problem solved by your product or service; and benefits that matter to the prospect or customer. Why the reminder of what seems like marketing common sense? Because it’s unfortunately not always common practice! Dazzling dimensional creative will not make up for an offer misfire.

Combining proven marketing tactics with technology, “snail mail” continues to deliver a response rate ahead of other channels. To see physical examples of what Bobnak describes, go to www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/4-old-school-direct-mail-tactics-still-work/

Science & Tech Can Help Events Capture Audience

For an event to succeed, trade show marketers must build attendance before the event and deliver for attendees by the end of the event, whether measured by lead generation, education or networking. We’ve worked with many trade show and conference marketers over the years, especially in audience-building via direct mail and e-mail, and we’ve learned quite a bit about the art of it. But there is science and technology required for success today.

Scientific Triggers to Capture Audience

For example, BizBash.com did an interesting Q&A with Ben Parr, author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, in which Parr highlighted research-based conclusions about seven “captivation triggers” of audience attention. These triggers can apply to event promotion as well as onsite efforts by show managers and exhibitors. Start with “automaticity,” which means using colors and symbols that automatically change and direct attention, such as the color red. Move on to “framing,” setting the value of an event in a context that garners more attention, such as stressing event ticket scarcity because of limited space (read valuable/exclusive). A message or design that offers “disruption,” meaning a violation of expectations, naturally grabs attention (something the political sphere is proving right now), as does “mystery,” such as an intriguing headline or subject line. Of course, there is the standard attention-getter of a “reward” for attendance, either an extrinsic reward (a swag bag), an intrinsic reward (personal self-improvement), or a combination to maximize impact. The good reputations of event, exhibitors and speakers really count, too; brain research shows audiences are especially attentive and trusting of experts, for example. And, last, an experience captures more audience attention when there is “acknowledgement,meaning personalized communication and validation. Read the whole Q&A at https://www.bizbash.com/qa-the-science-of-capturing-peoples-attention/new-york/story/30966#.WTc6lGjysdV

Tech Trends to Transform 2017 Events

Meanwhile, Event Farm, an enterprise event marketing platform, has interviewed event experts to find new technology trends likely to affect event marketing in 2017 and beyond. They winnowed their findings down to five key trends. One prediction is that more events will focus on going to meet attendees instead of drawing audiences to a centralized location; Event Farm cites the example of a successful Master Card promotion around England’s Rugby World Cup finals that, rather than holding a conventional event, met fans in London subway stations and surprised them with free tickets. Virtual and augmented reality technology make this even more viable. A second trend is to have events bring the internet to life onsite, and vice versa, by letting attendees engage with online experiences, such as viral memes or videos, and thus harness their proven viral appeal. Third, marketing pros foresee that the end of an event will no longer signal the end of an experiential marketing campaign, so that marketers engage with attendees (and non-attendees) after the event via tactics such as re-purposing an event presentation or sharing “digital” event memories. Fourth, more people will use live streaming to complement events via services like Facebook Live, not as a substitute for attendance but as an attendee-engagement enhancer and driver of future event participation. Finally, it’s predicted that attendees will increasingly seek to engage with the digital and physical landscapes simultaneously; one example is the use of smartphones to help navigate through a venue. For the whole article, see http://blog.eventfarm.com/blog/5-trends-for-experiential-marketing-in-2017-and-beyond

 

USPS & Science Encourage Merger of Digital & Mail Efforts

For any direct marketers who haven’t committed to combining direct mail with digital media, 2017 is a perfect year for experimentation. At AccuList USA, we have seen the positive impact on direct marketing clients’ results (and have developed our Digital2Direct program in support). And now  “brain science” and U.S. Postal Service incentives further increase the attractions of a mail-digital marriage.

Brain Science Shows Impact of Mail-Digital Mating

For example, an article from The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently highlighted the “neuromarketing” evidence for mail-digital pairings.  (Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing.) ANA cites a recent study by Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General, “Tuned In: The Brain’s Response to Ad Sequencing.” The research explores the relative effectiveness of physical mail and digital advertising in cross-media marketing campaigns, using not only self-reported responses but actual MRIs of participant brain activity while viewing ads. A key finding: Consumer “willingness to pay” was significantly higher when media was delivered across both digital and physical channels rather than a single channel. Another notable study, “A Bias for Action: The Neuroscience Behind the Response-Driving Power of Direct Mail,” comes from a partnership between the Canada Post and True Impact Marketing, a leading neuromarketing research and strategy firm. Their study seeks to quantify the effectiveness of physical (direct mail) and digital (e-mail and display) media by focusing on two key indicators of media effectiveness: ease of understanding and persuasiveness. The results indicate that while digital media provide key platforms for customer interaction, direct mail is actually better at closing the marketing-sales loop. So for marketers, a mail-digital combination offers the best of both worlds and helps bridge the gap between interaction and action.

USPS Promotes Enhancing Mail With Digital Power

Why wait to reap the benefits? Especially now that the U.S. Postal Service is offering a range of 2017 programs that make the economic decision easier. The new Informed Delivery program, which inserts mail into consumers’ daily digital routines, is one example. Informed Delivery users receive e-mails that capture grayscale images of the address side of their mail. Currently, preview images are for letter-sized mailings processed through automated equipment, but flat mailings, such as magazines and catalogs, can be displayed if the mailer supplies a color image to be included in the Informed Delivery notifications. Under the program, marketers can take advantage of three potential touchpoints with one mail piece: an advance preview via e-mail/app, actually delivery in the mailbox, and inclusion of a unique URL in the digital preview to drive trackable traffic to a website. Plus, the USPS has two more promotions supporting mail-digital pairing. The Emerging & Advanced Technology Promotion (March 1 – Aug. 31, 2017) encourages mailers to integrate direct mail with advances in mobile technology using NFC technology, Video in Print (ViP), Beacon technology, “Enhanced” Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality (newly included this year) or, as of 2017, use of Digital to Direct Mail to boost response with dynamically printed, personalized messaging automatically triggered by digital interaction. Mail-digital pairing is also rewarded by the Mobile Shopping Promotion (Aug. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017), which encourages mailers to invest in technologies that take recipients directly from the mail piece to a mobile-optimized online shopping experience via Quick Response (QR) Codes, Snap Tags, Watermarks and other technologies. For details on these and other USPS promotions, see https://ribbs.usps.gov/mailingpromotions/documents/tech_guides/2017PromotionsCalendar.pdf