Get with the program: Experts explore how programmatic mail brings automation to art of engagement

6 minute read

Programmatic is becoming increasingly standard in its application across media and a critical enabler for targeted advertising. While direct mail might not come first to mind, programmatic mail isn’t simply “on the horizon” – it’s here now, bringing with it greater responsivity, relevance and efficiencies.

We talked to some Canada Post Smartmail Marketing™ expert partners about the advantages of programmatic mail and what marketers should keep in mind when it comes to data and addressability.

A young man holds a tablet computer as he leans over the back of a couch. Another young man sits on the couch reading a piece of mail.

How is programmatic changing, and what does it mean for cross-channel connectivity?

DIRECTWORX: Programmatic has evolved into a data-driven marketing platform that enables businesses to better target their most valuable customers and prospects. The change is largely due to more flexible integration, where data from any channel or source can be ingested and used to deliver more sophisticated filtering and targeting based on automated business rules and algorithms. Programmatic uses this cross-channel data to drive decision making on audiences and offers. Cross-channel connectivity is at the centre of this.

CIG (Consumer Intelligence Group): We’re seeing two major trends in the programmatic space: the rapid expansion of channels and their reach – like digital out of home, connected TV and programmatic direct mail – and the increased interest in future-proofed, channel-agnostic solutions to effectively connect and target across channels. While there has been plenty of concern about the demise of cookies, this is the opportunity to rethink how we effectively target audiences across channels.

ENVIRONICS: Privacy-compliant data and access to it are critical to drive cross-channel activation – and it is on the verge of becoming harder to come by. Canadian privacy regulations related to accessing and using first-party data are under review. This means reliable, privacy-compliant third-party data is going to be even more important in Canada.

Look for third-party data built with privacy by design, using Canadian data to define people in Canada and deployable across all programmatic platforms for easier access and activation.

KOPEL: With the expansion of data and the complexity of managing it within an ever-changing environment, marketers implement technology to improve customer experience. With programmatic, brands can dynamically tune their marketing and messaging based on consumer behaviour and create personalized, relevant and timely communications with minimal human intervention – no matter the device or channel. Programmatic supports marketers in optimizing cross-channel connectivity based on how distinct segments will react to different sequences of communications. It translates into a better customer experience, an increase in revenue and gains in efficiencies across channels.

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How can addressability and programmatic work together?

DIRECTWORX: Addressability is a challenge for other channels as an address (digital or physical) is a prerequisite for any communication strategy. Leveraging Canada Post’s location-based data (using geofenced mobile data), programmatic has been able to overcome this challenge by identifying postal codes where prospects live and engaging buyers when and where they’re most likely to make purchase decisions. This expands the reach of programmatic well beyond that of digital channels and provides a way to deliver a targeted mail piece in home. By adding QR or offer codes, programmatic provides an easy next step to capture further data, fill in addressability gaps and drive acquisition.

CIG: Privacy-compliant, cross-channel addressability is what marketers need to shift toward (from multi-channel) for effective omni-channel marketing. The expansion and advancements in programmatic are key to addressing this need. Instead of just replacing cookies with another short-term identity solution, we need to rethink how we identify, target and reach audiences. At the end of the day, the people marketers want to target all live somewhere. Postal codes, while not unique individual IDs, offer one of the most stable, future-proofed, common identifiers that can connect programmatic channels, both online and offline.

ENVIRONICS: Geographically built third-party data provides marketers with the ability to see the true reach of their campaigns. How many households and individuals live in your target area? How many of those are your target? Third-party data helps you to understand your target audience and expand the reach of your campaign.

A piece of triggered direct mail for Canadian Down & Feather Company.

What are the advantages of programmatic direct mail?

DIRECTWORX: Programmatic direct mail leverages advantages commonly associated with digital marketing and marries them with the unique media qualities of more traditional direct: speed, tailored messages, reach, cost-effectiveness, physicality and measurability.

KOPEL: Direct mail remains as effective as ever at connecting you with your audience, nurturing customer relationships and driving revenue – even more at a time when it’s harder to get consumers to respond to digital marketing. Marketers invest in programmatic direct mail to add flexibility, personalization and speed to market at any scale. With programmatic, marketers eliminate the need to manage a more complex production workflow and can customize content on a per-piece basis with minimal human intervention. Programmatic makes the execution of direct mail easy and measurable, and it can be in the hand of your customers in a heartbeat.

What data tips do you have for getting started with programmatic direct mail?

CIG: I have three tips for getting started: 1) Define and understand your target segment or audience. Who are they? What’s important to them? Make sure your creative team is working with a robust persona. 2) Identify what trigger(s) or data insight(s) you are using to initiate the outreach and where it is in the buying journey. What action are you looking to inform? 3) Ensure you’ve outlined all your metrics upfront and how you’ll feed data back into the system to continually optimize programmatic direct mail for success.

ENVIRONICS: Effective direct mail campaigns need an audience definition that is clean, easily articulated, targetable and scalable. You have the ability to lean in to using your first-party data and expand your understanding of that audience and further scale it with smart third-party data. Remember, direct mail by nature is tied to a physical location and geography. Find and use geographically referenced third-party data to understand and expand the reach of your campaign.

KOPEL: You can program personalized communications based on a multitude of triggers. However, companies that focus on the one or two most important customer interactions to start with create significant value and increase the extent to which customers can connect with their brand. With time, different programmatic layers are added as meaningful touchpoints are identified. When the level of responsiveness to digital channels for a group of customers is lacking, sending an automated customized communication to their homes in a timely manner increases the probability of keeping them engaged.

What’s one thing marketers need to think about when it comes to programmatic direct mail?

DIRECTWORX: Data. Programmatic’s value proposition is based on targeting the most valuable audiences and delivering personalized and targeted direct mail pieces in home within a short time of an exhibited product interest. This requires flexible data integration, data-driven business rules, and offers that can vary based on data values ranging from location to demographics to purchase history. Programmatic doesn’t need the data to be perfectly served up, either; sophisticated algorithms can use multiple fields to identify the right audience and deliver the right message.

CIG: What solution are you going to use to define and build your audiences? Choosing the same selects or targeting variables across multiple platforms is not omni-channel. Omni-channel requires an audience-based approach. First, you need to define and build an audience, and then you need to push that same audience to multiple channels based on triggers (or signals) as they move through their journey. Realistically, there are very few advertisers effectively doing true omni-channel programs beyond digital, but with the expansion of programmatic and new (again) approaches to identity, like postal codes, it will become easier to deliver.

KOPEL: As the complexity of managing talent rises, productivity becomes even more relevant than ever. When we keep in mind that 70 to 95% of our revenue is usually generated from subsequent orders, compared to 5 to 30% from initial orders, programmatic is a way to help your team efficiently succeed in managing the flow of communications with your existing clients while reducing manual non-value work that negatively impacts their creativity. Programmatic is an approach that keeps both employees and customers engaged.

ENVIRONICS: Having an audience definition that can be activated across platforms and channels makes tracking and measurement both easier and more effective. Having to reconstruct an audience for each channel means differences of who is reached, where and how. PRIZM® is available across all media channels in Canada and can provide the common link and language for audience definition, audience tracking and measurement.

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