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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
When it comes to personalisation, can print gain the upper hand over digital?

Today, we are confronted with countless messages on our phone, posters, radio and 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 US even consider shortening games. 

Is personalisation the answer to gaining attention?

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. For direct mail purposes, most brand owners use primary data, while also using third-party data from time-to-time to enrich the database. The above charts show the discrepancy between online and offline mailings.

At the Hunkeler Innovation Days expo 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.




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

Zooming in on US millennials, 40% of the 39 million 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 UK fashion retailer Boden 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 to selected car dealerships in the region they live. 

Personalisation, however, comes at a cost, particularly when historic customer data is being used. Data management and print expenditure tend to increase the cost of a publication. Examples from the Hunkeler event presented that, a cost increase of 25% would increase conversion rates as 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 go much further with personalisation. We’ve seen this in Belgium, with a retailer that increased overall turnover by 6% thanks to the use of special promotions based upon the historic buying behaviour.