Most print service providers realize that the printing industry is far from dead. However, there is still a critical need, perhaps more than ever, to stay on top of existing and emerging market trends. The paper and print sector is in a state of transition and it is imperative that, in order to gain a competitive advantage, PSPs adjust their operations accordingly. Not only will they be able to make better, more informed decisions about their business model and strategy, but they will be able to ensure they are moving toward a profitable future in accordance to the direction consumers are taking the market. 

WhatTheyThink recently reported some of the highlights from the Direct Marketing Association's cultivation of pertinent data, information and stats pertaining to printing and marketing industry. Below are some of the most important takeaways for print service providers to take notice of.

Direct mail dominating, driven by data
Direct and digital marketing are both huge right now, with nearly $47 billion of the total direct and digital marketing spend ($153.2 billion) generated by printed direct mail – marking almost a billion dollar increase from the year before. Direct mail accounted for a plurality of the sector's spending in 2015, followed by teleservices, display, search and email.

When it comes to data-driven initiatives, research has found that a big emphasis should be placed on personalizing the experience for customers. With so many technologies and innovations available to print companies and marketers, it is crucial that they are used in a way that delivers a more personable, relevant and seamless process for the end user.

The increased interest in data-driven strategies has led to market expansion. According to WhatTheyThink, DMA reported that almost 1 million people were employed in the marketing economy in 2015, up nearly 50 percent from what the figure was between 2012 and 2014. And it's not just that the number of people working in the sector has risen; the source added that the value of the industry has already experienced growth, increasing by 35 percent to $202 billion over the past couple of years. 

Print marketing tips for data-driven pieces
There are vast amounts of data to be collected, organized and leveraged that print distributors can use to their advantage to learn more about their customers. Doing so allows them to craft compelling and effective marketing pieces that consumers are most likely to respond to. 

The business world has moved into the era of data-driven marketing. Marketers know that data is central to bringing value to customers, so they are sorting through their customer data to create the most relevant campaigns possible. Regardless of marketing channel, the top priority in terms of data-driven marketing is delivering a personalized customer experience.

Below are some of the most critical areas print marketers focus on when developing targeted ads and campaigns:

  • Creating a personalized experience for the customer (60 percent)
  • Measuring return on investment for data-driven marketing (51 percent)
  • Market segmentation targeting (50 percent)
  • Expanding customer base (41 percent)

If printing businesses want to make the most out of marketing spend, it would serve them well to invest in the high-quality pieces that are targeted toward individual segments, rather than blasting out a bunch of lower quality ads that don't provide the consumer with any personalization. 

This data-driven approach to print marketing that so many companies are taking may help explain why, although direct mail spending increased in 2015, volumes of the paper products decreased. The ability to more specifically target customers enables marketers to spend more on quality rather than quantity.

"When used correctly, direct mail is an efficient and measurable complement to online counterparts," the source pointed out. "In today's world, the new marketing mantra is that print and digital media work better together."

Properly using and distributing data
For print marketers to maximize both their marketing spend and time, it is highly recommended that they invest in the tools, technologies and platforms that streamline the data management. WhatTheyThink indicated that this is something 44 percent of print marketers are already doing and something 33 percent plan to do in the near future. However, 23 percent of marketers admitted that data analysis is their biggest obstacle. Obviously, data is of little use if it cannot be properly interpreted and applied to further fuel the bottom line of a print business.