I'm dreaming of a multi-channel Christmas | I'm dreaming of a multi-channel Christmas | DMA

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I'm dreaming of a multi-channel Christmas

On any given day, customers will receive a string of messages across a spectrum of formats. Whether it’s a season’s greetings in the morning post, an email detailing a retailer’s impending Boxing Day sale or a tweet promoting a company’s Christmas range, the number of communication channels has proliferated as technology has progressed. Over the last decade, digital communication has become a key channel for organisations, however the impact of physical mail cannot be underestimated.

We’ve all been to our grandparent’s homes to see their mass of Christmas cards arranged around the living room or hanging on the wall, but is there likely to be the same response to receiving a round-robin ‘Merry Christmas’ email? Probably not. This highlights the power that physical mail still possesses and its ability to evoke an emotional reaction. By making a mail personal to the recipient, it’s valued more highly than correspondence sent via other channels. In fact, a report carried out by Royal Mail, ‘This time it’s personal’, revealed that 92 percent of respondents had an emotional response to valued physical mail, with the same percentage taking action as a result.

Another reason for physical mail’s capability to evoke a response is the sense of ownership it provides recipients. By sending tangible, personalised communication, consumers feel as though they own what’s being sent and are more likely to share with others. A good example comes from the online accommodation rental platform, Airbnb, which, last year, launched a quarterly paper magazine called ‘Pineapple’. Despite the company’s purely digital existence being a main driver of its rapid growth, the decision was taken to produce a physical magazine that would match the journey of the average Airbnb user. Indeed, after booking a holiday the majority of an individual’s experience is taken offline as hosts and travellers share their stories with friends and family.

It’s undeniable that physical communication provides some very real benefits. A common problem, however, is that many businesses are reliant on manual processes to manage their physical mail and, while the communication method itself may be traditional, they should be turning to more modern technology to maximise its value. Therefore, businesses should be writing Christmas lists which include address management solutions which ensure data is up-to-date, and folder inserters which can fill envelopes quickly and accurately. Both of these tools reduce the opportunity for human error, which will cut out the unnecessary costs incurred should correspondence be sent to the wrong place.

Ultimately, as digitisation continues to make its way up the boardroom agenda, businesses need to make sure they aren’t in any rush to deprioritise physical mail completely. As the Royal Mail report indicates, a successful direct mail campaign can offer brands very positive growth opportunities. Clearly still valued by the customer, businesses should see physical communication as a way of maintaining and growing relationships, and should subsequently adopt automatic processes that will drive efficiency and value.

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