We live in an age of integrated on/offline marketing contact strategies. New technologies and abundant data—both in terms of availability and accessibility (Big Data)—are influencing our direct marketing campaign approaches, especially their design, development, and deployment.
Before the recent rise of digital marketing, personalized URLs (PURLs) played a major role in garnering potential responders’ curiosity, piquing interest simply by incorporating their name in a URL (“They made a web site for me? I must be important. I better check it out!”). Incorporating PURLs in direct mail pieces offered a superior response channel over the alternative route of driving responders to a marketer’s generic website. This approach also allowed marketers to deliver more relevant content based on what they already knew about the recipient. From a prospecting angle, it afforded two additional opportunities. First, it allowed marketers to capture the individual as a lead and “own” the name, an important factor when renting lists. Second, the technique provided insights as to recipients’ interests and levels of engagement based on the information viewed or provided.
With digital marketing, there no longer is a need to rely on a “URL mind hack” to encourage viewers to follow a Web link. A relevant message and offer are sufficient. Does this mean PURLs are no longer important in the response channel mix? Well, the idea of appealing to a recipient’s vanity may be outmoded. However, the overall trend of delivering personalized content remains vital, whether deployed as a PURL, a microsite, or as part of a site engagement strategy through tracking mechanisms.
Here are three key considerations to remember to elicit the best response rates and then leverage the insights gained:
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) integration. Often, many PURL, microsite, landing page, and email platforms operate independently of core CRM systems. Think of them as individual data silos—you have to extract, transform, and load data from them into your own system. This reality often makes timely follow-up impossible. However, many CRM platforms now support data access through the use of behind-the-scenes Web service calls, allowing for immediate or near-time transfer of visitor behavior information. It is worthwhile to investigate if your platforms support such data exchange, especially if you’ve implemented strategies for abandoned shopping carts or other cases where timely visitor reengagement is key.
2. Device optimization. Depending on the audience, 80% or more of your visitors may engage their email, personalized site, and other digital media through a non-desktop-based system. It’s important to understand how they’re accessing your site, and website analytical tools simplify such tracking and identification. As with your main website, you should integrate these tools with all online content, ensuring that you can segment and drill down into each delivery area (rather than just including the information in your main reporting dashboard).
Until recently, implementing a separate site was the only way to serve up content optimized for mobile devices/tablets, making cross-site content management difficult. Today, several dozen content management systems facilitate responsive design, which reflows page layout automatically based on device resolution and orientation. See if the third-party hosting your PURLs or microsites can support this adaptive technology to maximize visitors. The same concept also applies to your email platform.
3. Data enhancement, content personalization and engagement strategy. Information collected from visitors is not the only way to discern their behaviors and motivations. Today’s successful e-tailers append additional demographic and behavioral information real-time or on a regular basis. Such insights enable the creation of more relevant content and better optimized offers, yielding higher engagement, and conversion rates. With the abundance and accessibility of data, there literally is no excuse to maintain a single view of what you think your customers looks like. You have the ability to know what they look like individually. Apply this knowledge throughout all outbound and inbound channels by crafting generic profiles into which you can segment all of your prospects and customers. Then, personalize communications, including images and messaging, based on their individual attributes. Several existing systems allow marketers to create preset business rules to optimize content and automatically deploy campaigns based on preset triggers, eliminating the need to create and deploy follow-up communications manually.
While PURL usage in direct mail campaigns is primarily geared toward delivering personalized content, the concepts and advice discussed here apply to any digital platform where it is desirable to display or collect information relevant to your audience. If you cannot access this information through your CRM system, you are not optimizing your contact timing, relevance, and offer.
Joe Leger is vice president, data and analytics, for DirectMail.com.