In a world filled with mobile smart devices and content flowing in a variety of digital channels, one might wonder what value print has in a largely digitally transformed age. It seems rare to find any piece of information that cannot be found in electronic form and yet, despite some organizations best effort to encourage consumers to suppress paper in favor of digital formats, many consumers still prefer paper.
The pandemic has created some concerns around the printed medium as paper was assumed to be a way of transmitting the COVID-19 virus. While many businesses temporarily preferred other methods of payments besides paper money, the United States Postal Service (USPS) did not slow down nearly as much as one might have thought.
As a government-owned entity, the USPS tracks and publishes a variety of statistics around its business including annual operating revenue, mail-volume, parcel-volume, and more. You can check it out at facts.usps.com/table-facts. Overall mail volume is tracked as well as broken out by first-class mail (typically transactional in nature), marketing mail, and first-class single piece mail.
As with any difficult economic time, marketing mail took a major hit in volume, dropping just over 15% in volume in 2020 from where it was in 2019. Fewer first-class single piece items such as greeting cards and individual letters were mailed as well, with an almost 8% drop. The least impacted category was first-class mail which only dipped by 4%, which is actually consistent with the standard year over year decline in this category. Despite a slight recession and concerns around paper transmission of the virus, first-class mail does not seem to have been unusually impacted.
What does this mean for print in 2021?
It's clear that there is still a preference for print despite the increased availability and options for interacting digitally. Print and marketing services providers need a CCM solution that can handle both print and digital communication generation, in increasingly higher volumes, well.
As many of us know from personal experience, communication preferences are not always black and white, or in this case print ‘or’ digital. Which means preference management and a variety of options to receive communications are more critical than ever; ensuring that consumers have a way of choosing how and when they want to receive their communications with as much granularity as can be acted upon with a great customer experience. This also means ensuring that your CCM solutions enable composing in a variety of formats that cater to these preferences but are also easy to use and optimized to the channel they are received in. Orchestrating the output variations and coordinating delivery in the right channel is just as important as the content that is being generated. It should be able to respond to changes in preferences in real-time to not reduce the impact to customer experience.
How can print service providers respond?
The good news is, PSPs and MSPs are the masters of print output already. The opportunity exists to emphasize the importance of print as part of the overall communications experience. As we move into omnichannel engagement models, it’s less common that a consumer receives a communication in a single channel. They want the print, but they also want the digital. Having a solution that can efficiently create and manage both while also enabling good experiences is critical for service providers looking to support their customers.
How to incorporate all channels in overall DX/CX strategy with CCM
Thinking about print as only a static silo is in the past. The print communication is the foundation for an overall omnichannel experience. There are opportunities to extend this static record of information into an electronic experience that compliments the original communication and could encourage consumers to make the jump from print to digital. From a business or call-to-action standpoint, this could mean enabling an electronic payment from the print statement through an online portal, image recognition or QR code. Some of these enhancements were introduced years ago but have made a comeback as experiences have improved.
Crossing media formats can also add valuable information that is otherwise restricted when trying to optimize the space on printed pages. Offering access to online resources to further explain information in the document through additional documentation or videos can provide recipients with self-service ways of finding what they need rather than jumping to a customer service queue. If interactions with customer support are preferred, providing a trackable way to connect the recipient to customer support or a chat can help monitor their experience and also keep them connected.
Additionally, notifications are more critical than ever to a customer experience and should be a factor when selecting and implementing a complete end-to-end communications platform. The right CCM solution should enable you to create notifications that complement the original communication and can be scheduled to nurture the B2C relationship, not overwhelm. The important thing to remember is that quantity does not replace quality. So, every touch point should serve a purpose and be engaging.
Tying these experiences together through CCM Orchestration and Tracking
Understanding the use case(s) for why consumers prefer print will provide the information needed to improve current digital experiences and even allow for new opportunities to solve existing problems, such as the preference to retain hard copy records. Your CCM solution should enable you to orchestrate communication workflows that accommodate all of the consumers’ preferred channels, react to real-time changes and track the success of these communications. The right solution should not only track when a communication was received and opened for audit tracking but begin to provide the insights necessary to understand how consumers are using these communications in these channels, so you can look for new ways to address these needs.
Ultimately print is a key part of an omnichannel communications strategy that aims to provide a complete customer experience. As the world continues to move to digital, it is important to understand why consumers are reluctant to make the jump to digital preferences despite best efforts to encourage this. The continued preference for print is an opportunity for those responsible for customer experience to build trust in digital experiences by using the print as a foundation. Enabling customers to receive communications in their preferred channel and optimizing print communications to encourage interactions with digital experiences and notifications can provide an even better experience than a single channel communication and showcase what they might be missing in the digital world.