Earlier this year I attended Xploration18, an annual event produced by Xplor International, that provides the “What, Why and How” of Enterprise Communications Industry trends, best practices, regulations and new technologies. Xplor is a not-for-profit association that provides thought leadership to the customer communications segment of the print industry.
Full disclosure, I sit on the Board of Directors for Xplor International and am the President of Xplor Canada. Our community members are decision-makers and recommenders who are involved in the conception, design, implementation production and delivery of multi-channel client, member and customer communications.
These are the folks who produce tens of thousands of unique bills and statements on a monthly basis. They are variable data wizards!
A peek behind the data curtain
With the role of data becoming more and more relevant, I started to notice a blurring of lines between several print industry segments, notably production print and customer communications. But this year, at Xploration18, I witnessed the impact of these blurred lines.
Because of my various roles as a board member, presenter and independent marketer, I was fortunate to have some really interesting conversations with some really smart people including vendors, analysts and end-users. All the conversations leaned towards a common theme: Customer Experience. When I mentioned this to Skip Henk, the President of Xplor International, he confirmed that CCM, Omni-channel and the Customer Experience dominated the theme of the 2018 Conference.
Not just customer experience as it pertains to your bills or statements. The entire, holistic, customer journey experience. The same customer experience being demanded of production printers. The same customer experience that is driven by a new generation of buyers.
Recently, I’ve been exploring the millennial mindset and its impact on how business buyers are making purchasing decisions. This includes how they research, what influences their purchase choice, and the role that print plays in their always on, app-driven, omni-channel world. I shared my learnings at Xploration18 in my presentation: Tapping into the millennial mindset to drive profitability.
To the millennial mindset, paper = trust.
Compared to digital documents, paper is seen as more official, more trusted, easier to keep confidential and safer/more secure. More than three-quarters surveyed by RIT say documents are less trustworthy in digital format since they can be altered without your knowledge. Identity theft is a big concern.
However, waiting days for a document to be created, printed and delivered to their mailbox might just be enough for millennials to decide to take their business elsewhere. Businesses must empower their buyers with the ability to interact, purchase or make a transaction at any time, from wherever they happen to be, using their chosen device.
From paying bills to ordering business cards, printers need to make it possible to perform transactions on any device, most importantly mobile while recognizing the important role that paper plays in the millennial buyer’s mindset. It means every online and offline touchpoint includes content and messaging relevant to their situation, preferences and interests. And it means fostering a sense of community, culture and environmental appreciation.
A new generation of customer expectations
One of the major factors driving the growth in our industry is the increasing need to keep customers engaged through communication over various channels.
According to the USPS, 84% of millennials take the time to look through their mail, 87% like receiving direct mail, 57% have made purchases based on direct mail offers and 50% of millennials say they like to discover what the mail brings every day and consider time spent looking at and reading it time well spent.
By 2020, customer experience will surpass price and product as the key brand differentiator, says a Vision Critical study of customer-obsessed companies. Customers will pay more for a better customer experience and are 4x more likely to jump to the competition when a problem is service-related vs product or price-related, or if they feel they weren’t treated well.
Organizations need to constantly deliver relevant documents and promotional offers to their customers to maintain a healthy customer relationship. Successful printers are paying attention to all print segments, and learning from the data and workflow pros. They’re profiting by providing real-time customer interactions with immersive and interactive customer journeys that are also fun, one-of-a-kind experiences.
They’re blurring the lines and providing relevant customer experiences that are targeted and personalized across the digital, mobile app and physical channels that matter most.
Portions of this article first appeared in Graphic Arts Magazine.