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Is the future of digital actually print?
24 . 03 . 17

Personalisation online and off – what works and why

Words by: Ulbe Jelluma
I came across a very interesting comparison in appreciation of personalisation between direct mail and online. For direct mail purposes, most brand owners use primary data whilst also using third party data time to time to enrich the database.

Consumers can input a lot of data without realising. Online marketing makes use of this data and can track user activity on websites which is often combined in email messaging. The above charts show the discrepancy between online and offline mailings.

At the Hunkeler Innovation Days in March, Xerox showed several cases that also proved the power of personalisation but this time for printed catalogues. Well executed personalisation is a way to gain consumer attention in a world full of distraction.

Today, we are confronted with countless messages on our phone, outdoor posters, in shops, on the radio, and on TV. Everywhere we go our attention is required to filter the important from the not-important.

This of course reduces our attention span and consequently the likes of sport federations in the USA even consider shortening games!



The DMA Response Rate Report mentions some very interesting numbers. For instance, 69% of catalogues were opened and read with an average reading time spent of 30 minutes.

Zooming in on US Millennials, 40% of the 39 mio who received a catalogue bought more from a printed catalogue (QuadGraphics). Xerox and InfoTrends compared customising the catalogue with the name of the receiver on the cover. The results were much better than expected: the value of an order increased with 51% compared to a generic catalogue.

When Boden, a UK catalogue selling company personalised the cover of its catalogue they achieved a 30% uplift of response rates and the campaign ROI was higher than the generic catalogue.

Publishers also use personalisation to address their readers and to regionalise advertising. For instance, Auto-Bild, an important car magazine in Germany, has an additional cover on which the reader (subscriber) is welcomed personally – this cover can differ from neighbouring subscriber to give the reader a truly unique experience. Auto-Bild also use personalisation to invite readers also to selected car dealerships in the region they live. 

However, personalisation comes at a cost, especially when historic customer data is being used. Data management and print cost tends to increase the cost of a publication. Examples from the event in Zurich presented that, a cost increase of 25% would increase conversion rates much as 300%.

Smartalog, a French company that developed an award-winning publication tool, estimates that companies using personalised recommendations in their catalogues increase their turnover with an average of 14%. They have developed a very simple tool for brand owners to quickly create a catalogue for online or offline use. 

Retailers can even go much further with personalisation. We’ve seen this in Belgium with a retailer that increased overall turnover with 6% thanks to the use of special promotions based upon the historic buying behaviour.