Direct mail has been a high performing marketing channel for well over 30 years. It competes with digital marketing, outranking it with higher response rates. However, it does fall short in one category: interactivity. The instant gratification of the digital world has shortened attention spans forever. If the time between seeing the call to action (CTA) and acting on it could be shortened, direct mail response rates would soar even higher. In the current analog world of direct mail, the reader must decide how to engage with the CTA. Should they call a phone number or type a URL into a mobile device or a computer? If calling is chosen, the experience is time consuming, which likely becomes a deterrent. If the reader decides to connect using the URL, they must carefully type it into a computer, which may or may not be in the same room (another deterrent), or, if their smartphone is handy, they can type the URL into the browser, taking care type it correctly. As we all know, the keyboard on a smartphone can be challenging, especially with longer URLs. Despite these challenges, high response rates and a less cluttered mailbox keep direct mail a relevant marketing channel. Imagine the possibilities with interactive direct mail.
The iPhone was not the first smartphone to enter the market. In 1994, IBM and Bell South introduced Simon, a smartish phone that could email and fax but not search the web. There were a few iterations to follow Simon, such as the Palm PDA and Blackberry. But it wasn’t until January 2007 that Apple’s iPhone revolutionized the industry, growing the U.S. market from 0 to 224.33 million smartphone users. Today, mobile marketing is one of the largest marketing platforms, with potential for growth long into the future. The smartphone’s interconnectivity has made it possible for a mobile user to be just a click away from a CTA. Interactive Print took a major step forward with the introduction of mobile apps that read QR codes. For example, a direct mail package can contain a QR code, which, when decoded by an app, shows the reader a short video about the advantages of the product featured in the mailer. Once the video ends, a CTA pops up and takes the reader to an interactive landing page where the reader can buy the product. Unfortunately, there was a serious downside to the adoption of QR codes. An understanding of what they are and how to access the information stored in them was paramount to success. Having to download an app turned out to be a major roadblock for universal acceptance, and they never reached the potential that marketers expected. Just when we thought QR codes were dead, Apple recognized their potential and included a QR code reader in its iOS11 release. All we need to do is turn on the camera and point it at the code. Instant gratification, and no need to download an app. Apple’s implementation of QR codes is a strong statement that they are here to stay, pumping life into Interactive Print. Android will be rolling out their version shortly, Facebook and Snapchat included QR code readers in their apps, and Amazon is rolling out AmazonSmile in February 2018. The word is out, QR codes are alive and well.
Interactive Print is not just about QR codes. Augmented Reality (AR) for smartphones adds another dynamic dimension: video. AR is multi-functional and supports many different applications. It works with print by putting a “target” into an image hidden from the eye. When the target is scanned with a smartphone AR app, it transfers the viewer to an augmented reality video or a landing page with an imbedded video, allowing the viewer to click links that are interactive. Snapchat uses “Lenses,” their brand for AR, to overlay animations onto a user’s face, distort real-time video, and react when a user opens their mouth or blinks their eyes. And, of course, there’s Pokémon Go, which uses features from your cellphone such as the camera, GPS, and mobile data connectivity to make the Pokémon characters appear on-screen as if they were in your real surroundings, even allowing you to interact with them.
Marketers feel the primary barrier to entry in the AR market has been the substantial expense to create an AR video and/or a mobile app. Each AR company has its own app that can be downloaded and used to view the AR experience. Most of the companies will “white label” an app for you, but you pay the price. If you have already developed an app, most of the AR companies can add their functionality, providing your app does not control the camera on the phone. But again, it comes with a high price tag. The good news is that iPhone and Android have created ARKits, which will reduce the cost to create your own app. The bad news is you would still have to create two apps, one for iPhone and one for Android.
The Digital Marketing Shop believes Interactive Print is an innovative strategy that can help spur growth in acquisition and support customer relation management.
The Benefits of Interactive Print.
Turns direct mail and print ads into digital media
Accessed by a smart phone app
Employs video content to engage and interact
Uses a landing page to convert CTA
Provides marketing content appealing to various stages in the buyer’s journey
Enables the collection of data and personal behavior
Provides the marketer with metrics for measurement and analysis
With the explosion of smartphone users, now is the time to take advantage of Interactive Print.