What’s the State of Personalized URLs?

By on December 10th, 2013

Once or twice a year, I update my educational reports and brandable white papers on a variety of topics related to digital printing and personalization. Recently, I updated the one on personalized URLs. What stood out to me?

How mainstream they’ve become. Years back, I remember regularly writing blog posts and articles on how personalized URLs were being unfairly criticized as under-performing in comparison to other personalization techniques. It wasn’t because they didn’t “work.” It was because expectations were unrealistic and they were being used improperly. (Sound familiar? Can you say “QR Codes”?)

I talked about how personalized URLs were not campaigns in themselves, but simple response mechanisms used for the right campaigns to achieve specific marketing goals. I talked about how success campaigns using personalized URLs were often (not always, but very often) being sent to in-house lists, not prospecting lists, and how critical targeting and segmentation were to success.

It really struck me how I don’t write about that anymore. In fact, response rates for personalized URLs and full personalization are equalizing, but not for the reasons one might think.

The ear-tickling answer is that people have figured out personalized URLs and response rates are rising to the level of the super-successful, full-blown 1:1 personalization, but that’s not true. It’s because expectations for what full-blown 1:1 personalization can do on a day in, day out basis are becoming more realistic.

When I first started writing on these topics, campaigns had to be getting response rates in the 20-30% range before they were deemed article-worthy. Today, they have become sufficiently mainstream and the focus has sufficiently switched to ROI that even single-digit response rate campaigns are written about when they are highly profitable. Response rates matters less now than conversion rate and ROI.

That’s good news for personalized URLs, which had a bad rap for a long time. But it’s really good news for everybody because it means, not that the personalized URL market is maturing, but that marketers’ understanding and expectations of these applications is.

What’s your opinion? What do YOU think is the defining change in this marketplace?

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8 Responses to “What’s the State of Personalized URLs?”

  1. Patrick Whelan Says:

    Great info Heidi. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Says:

    Thanks, Patrick. I received an interesting response to this via LinkedIn message. It was sent this way purposely so as not to speak negatively about any company in public, which I thought was very classy of the responder. Here is a genericized version of the comments. Anyone have thoughts on this?

    “We licensed 1,000,000 purls 3.5 years ago when they were the new kid in town and we mailed them out religiously and did not have a positive experience with them. We use QR codes and have a way better response and continue to market them and with them. I mailed out 50,000 postcards in the last 20 days from AccuZIP and my website traffic is up and phones have been ringing pretty good.I think you either gotta love’m or not, either QR Codes or purls. When someone scans my QR Code I know who they are, when, where (GPS), date and time, all this in 3-4 seconds. I don’t believe a purl can do that.”

    Thoughts anyone?

  3. Phil Sperling Says:

    Agreed. As experience has been gained, you have your own measurements and definitions of successful campaigns instead of defining it by others best campaign stats. The expectations now are set within the bell-curve instead of the extreme outliers.

  4. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Says:

    Yup. I remember being very “on the edge” when writing about a campaign that had a 1.6% response rate as being a best-in-class example. I steeled myself for the backlash, but the fact was, the campaign was leaps and bounds more successful than previous campaigns, and when you took into consideration the volume and the dollars per sale, the ROI was huge. It’s great great that more and more clients are making the investment in the kind of metrics that help them see things this way.

  5. Moe Farsheed Says:

    Thank you Heidi and others who posted.

    I don’t know about others, but the reason we developed Personalized URLs was to offer a mechanism by which Direct Mail could be tracked and measured. Tracking and measuring just makes sense. Everyone wants to know the result of their marketing campaigns.

    QR Codes offer the same benefit and depending on the audience could yield better results. However, we see more and more people using both QR Codes and Personalized URLs on their mailings. In either case you will be able to track the results of a specific campaign and thus you are able to get a campaign centric report.

    However, as you mentioned, understanding the response rate for a particular campaign is no longer sufficient. In many cases it takes more than one touch to see a product or service. It requires multiple touches. It might benefit you to learn a bit from each of the prospect responses so you can better tailor your next communication. In fact every communications should build on the previous results.

    You might send a monthly newsletter, invite prospects to webinars, offer white papers on your website, etc. and the bigger challenge is continuously learning about your prospect so every follow up message can be personalized for that particular prospect. After all that is the power of digital print!

    Not only do you want to know if they receive your mailers, but you want to know their level of interest, what is their specific pain point, where they are in the buying cycle and what part of your website they are reading. With proper software and strategy, you can have a real one to one communications with that prospect and finally be able to get a prospect centric report.

    This type of reporting is made available by Marketing Automation software and this is the sector that is currently growing rapidly.

    Sincerely, Moe Farsheed,
    I invite anyone who is interested to test drive of our Marketing Studio product. Point your browser to http://www.mindfirestudio.com/free-signup/

  6. Sam Korn Says:

    I agree with Moe on most of his points.

    Ultimately the end game is to bring results for clients. QR Codes and PURLS bring the ability to track and analyze like never before. Testing and tweaking to build a better campaign each time is a smart strategy.

    I would not worry as much about percentages as much as real ROI. That is what our clients are typically focused on and at least to me is a better barometer of success than anything else.

  7. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Says:

    Of course, QR Codes can be designed to contain PURLs, as well. Scan-to-PURL.

  8. Kate Dunn Says:

    Heidi, that’s for starting a conversation about this topic. Personalized urls are a great way for people to respond easily and to continue the interaction plus they give marketers the tracking that they so desperately need.

    When it boils down to it though, the messaging has to be right too and that is always the challenge for marketers. We don’t see those extraordinary response rates all the time anymore because the market is generally used to seeing them. The cleaver factor is gone so the rest of the strategy needs to be right – right message, to the right person, at the right time and via the right channel. That’s the part that many marketers often don’t get right which means the campaign isn’t going to work as well as it could.

    The focus today should be on testing different messages so that marketers can isolate what message – offer – calls to action etc. work best with each segment. There are still too many projects done as single one and done type campaigns. The power is in using personalized URL and QR codes as part of a larger program where you are getting smarter with everything that you do. I’ve said for a long time that best value element of using personalized urls is that it gives you the basis for continuous improvement. If I can take a response/conversions rates up with every initiative, the ROI looking back over a year or even longer is going to be there.