Traditional mail is not dead. In the daunting face of the digital age, physical post still survives. In fact, it thrives. Its new age replacement, e-mail, maybe faster, easier and accessible at all times, but somehow despite its bulk, it lacks the impact of physical mail.
When it was new, it was the other way around. In 1998, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan even starred in a major hit movie based entirely around the novelty of e-mail. 'You've got mail' was an exciting prospect – not anymore.
It comes down to the simple numbers of it. Physical post in comparison to e-mail is becoming scarce. We all receive so much e-mail, the value of each one is significantly reduced. They are so easy to throw away - block select delete and that's 20+ gone in a click. And let's be honest - a lot of it is scam, spam and virus man!
Research by Royal Mail backs up my feelings about good old actual mail. A recent report by the company showed that direct mail still had a hugely important role to play in businesses marketing and consumer communications. The report found that customers felt more valued when receiving mail and were more likely to connect with the business in some capacity as a result compared to e-mail. The study showed that as a result of receiving Direct Mail, 86 per cent of recipients are successfully driven online or to a digital activity. Of course, it's hardly a surprise a company such as Royal Mail would come to such a conclusion. But we think they are onto something.
The digital age and e-mail has though affected the role of direct mail. It's not really about a battle between the two but about how they can work together to deliver a compelling customer service to consumers. That's because they can achieve different things. Direct mail has a formality missing from e-mails.
The digital age led to a change in the end goal of physical mail. It's not about receiving a nice letter back - the aim is to drive actual interaction in the virtual world. The Royal Mail research showed that physical mail drove interaction at a much greater rate than e-mail.
With the end goal of direct mail shifting to driving digital business interaction, we immediately began to think about ways to make that easier. What if that digital interaction could take place without opening a browser on a laptop, or a tablet. What if a Onescan static code was printed on the mail too - just pick up your phone, scan and let the interaction commence.
If the piece of mail was an invoice or a subscription renewal, the payment could be made straight away with just one simple scan of a printed code using Onescan. Of course, then you'd get an email confirmation of your payment - see what I mean about the two methods working together!
Some of the assertions I've made about the right and wrong practices for companies sending direct mail and e-mails are really just the practices that suit me. I want formal important stuff in the mail and the rest online. But there will be plenty of people out there who just want all their interaction with a company online and those that want it all physically. It's about businesses knowing their customers and then catering their service to them. On an individual basis that’s probably very hard but knowing what the majority of their consumers want is a starting point.
Whatever flavour of initial interaction consumers want - Onescan is a flexible method to start that process: whether printed on a flyer, advert or invoice; or displayed on a personal or public digital screen. For us, it's about using your smartphone to engage in a simple, fast and secure way.
By Matthew Taylor 27th February 2015
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