PURL Survey Results

By | January 26, 2009

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been encouraging marketers (and printers to encourage their clients) to respond to a survey asking why they may not have used personalized URLs. I wanted to get to 100 responses before releasing the results, but I haven’t been able to generate the responses I’d hoped.

What follows are the results to date — 34 responses. The survey is still open. If you are a marketer and have not yet completed the survey, please do so. If you are a printer, please encourage any clients who have not yet used personalized URLs to take the survey. If the results are significantly different in a week or so, I’ll repost the results.

Here are the results as of January 26, unembellished:

Don’t fully understand the benefits.    24.20%

We do understand the benefits, but don’t think they outweigh the costs.    24.20%

We don’t have the databases necessary to deploy the campaign.    21.20%

Concerned about conflicts between all of the teams involved, such as marketing, creative, production, and IT.    3.00%

PURL campaigns are too difficult / time-consuming to set up.    18.20%

Concern about technical snafus.    12.10%

Don’t know how to design the creative.    3.00%

Too expensive / costly to test.     6.10%

We are concerned that they will negatively impact our campaign response rates.    0.00%

We just haven’t found the right service provider.    3.00%

No budget for it.    9.10%

We intend to do so, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.    21.20%

Just too lazy.    6.10%

Other    30.30%

“Other” was the largest category, and it’s very interesting to see the wide variety of responses provided here. One response is from a vendor, not a marketer, and was not included:

There are cheaper/easier options which provide much better data/conversion.

Long development time and extensive use of resources to produce and follow on completion

Consumers want an organization to know them, not to ask them to go to a website and tell them who they are and what they like. When was the last time the average person used a PURL?

Security issues

Just haven’t really considered it, would like more information.

Don’t know the costs.

You need to start with a marketing-friendly e-commerce site that was set up to begin with to capture useful information.

If extremely poor choices were made when the site was set up, it becomes too prohibitive to go back and start from scratch.

There are a lot of misconceptions here, so it will be interesting to see the comments these will provoke.

In the meantime, if you are among those looking for more information on personalized URLs, you may want to consider “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” a marketer’s primer & printer’s training tool from Digital Printing Reports.

The survey is still open. If you have not yet taken the survey (marketers only) or if you’d still like to encourage your customers to take the survey (printers, marketing firms), please do! If there are significant changes to the data, I’ll repost.

Take the Survey

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10 thoughts on “PURL Survey Results

  1. Craig V

    As a printer we also have a tough time getting our clients to use PURLS in there campaigns. I’m confused regarding the %’s on the results. The total adds up to 181.7% respondants? Shouldn’t it come out to 100%

  2. Marilyn Trockel

    I think it is very telling that you have gotten only 34 responses to the survey – how ironic that PURLS are usually a survey driven type approach, information gathering for a “prize” – yes, I understand how relevancy plays out here, however I think the stats are sending a clear message. Either this method is not working regardless, or the audience is not interested.
    Yes, we have done our own self promotion using a PURL and the results have been significantly lower than we thought. I do agree that a shift in expectations might be in line.

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    Hi, Craig.

    I did not ask respondents to choose a single reason. After all, the decision-making process rarely boils down to a single thing. Most choose two reasons for not using personalized URLs or, at the most, three. Hence why the percentages add up to more than 100%.

  4. George Alexander

    It’s not clear whether the marketers who responded to the survey were thinking in terms of PURLs printed on direct mail or PURLs included in email campagins (Heidi, can you tell?), but I think it is very important to distinguish between the two.

    With direct mail, the recipient has to type the PURL into a browser. It isn’t reasonable to expect people to do that without strong motivation–and, with most direct mail pieces, the motivation just isn’t strong enough.

    PURLs will always have a far greater role in email campaigns (where a click is all that is required of the user) than in direct mail, in my opinion.

    On the chance that someone might be interested in reading more about my opinion on this subject, there is an editorial about it at:

  5. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

    Hi, George.

    I didn’t differentiate between personalized URLs for direct mail and for email. I was thinking direct mail, of course, but you’re right, respondents could have been thinking about either. The target audience for the survey was marketers using print, and the links were posted in print forums, forwarded by printers offering personalized URLs, and the like. So I would HOPE that they were thinking primarily about print, but once something is out there electronically, you have no control over the context anymore.

    I would have to disagree that ” . . . the motivation isn’t strong enough” for personalized URL in direct mail. I think the bigger problem is that marketers and printers just don’t know to use personalized URLs and they end up using them inappropriately, so of course they are cost-ineffective.

    When I look at campaigns that capitalize on the best uses of this technology, they are great — they do exactly what they were intended to do in that application. It’s just that, like all tools, they have a narrow set of best uses and best practices. Wander outside of those best practices, and of course, you’ll get poor results. It’s not that personalized URLs are ineffective. It’s that they are being used ineffectively.

  6. JonW

    The use of PURLs is, in my view, a gimmik. One of those ideas people try to convince marketers they need. From a number of perspectives, PURLs don’t really do much to a printed campaing (a little more viable for an email campaign).
    1) if the goal is to make it easy to respond to your mailing, then the shorter the email address the better
    2) you cannot use your “core” URL to create a PURL, so you have less people using the PURL string to access your web site.
    3) With all the pieces that must be pulled together for a truly integrated and smooth marketing campaign, trying to validate personalization in a response form is just another challenge that is often never utilized (i.e. PURLs are a great idea, but very few use the power because they lack critical information in their own databases to make them “sticky” to the end user.
    4) Most SaaS email marketing and web-to-print dashboards/product already have personalized response forms mastered – why would I want to dump my customer/prospect database to yet ANOTHER vendor (privacy and other issues)
    5) If your looking for punch to your demand gen program, it’s MUCH better to use personalization on the MAILER to increase response! Use personalization to show you know the person, his/her vertical and even your history with a given customer. A compelling pitch always beats a pretty response form for a simple reason – you have to GET to a response form before you can see the “cleverness” of a PURL.
    6) If you are sophisticed enough to use a PURL the way it’s meant to be used, you probably already have dynamic pages throughout your web site that serves personalized content much more elegantly (cookies, etc.)
    7) As a 10 year print buyer, and now a guy who works at a printing company, I can promise you that having a printer try to sell me PURLs as a compliment to a DM campaign would make me cringe. I have vendors that specialize in electonic marketing – why would I risk allowing a printer to manage it…

    Just a few thoughts – sorry to bash it but it’s such a “pretty silver ball” to me that I really wish we printers focused on our core – printing and other solutions that automate or ENHANCE the printing process. This is a much more logical (and believable) way to increase value. Try embracing, for example Web to Print – now that’s a solution that we do well that REALLY helps our customers! And, something a marketing person cannot go to another vendor to get!

  7. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    Thanks, Jon!

    It’s so interesting to hear the print buyer’s perspective. I think these types of comments are incredibly valuable to the printers who are trying to market these capabilities.

    I think you’ve touched on a very important aspect of the challenge that really needs to be brought out, and that is the need to move beyond point solutions into a more integrated marketing solution so that you are managing the process (including all of the response metrics) from a single location. This means centralized data and asset databases, common business rules, and so on.

    It used to be that Web-to-print, personalized URL, and 1:1 printing solutions were independent from one another, but over the past year, there has been MUCH more integration. Providers like interLINK ONE, Gluon, L2 Software, XPMie, and many others are offering solutions that manage all aspects of a marketing campaign, from print to email to wide-format, answering many of the challenges you’ve presented here.

    One of the challenges on the provider side is communicating the vast changes in the technologies and capabilities to the marketplace. Perceptions are often based on early introductions to the marketplace, and even as the solutions become more sophisticated, flexible, and fully featured, the early perceptions remain. But the more print buyers, marketers, and creatives speak up about their concerns about these applications, the better.

  8. Todd Thompson

    PURL’s work in many respects it’s a matter of execution up to and including what you do with the information you gather. There’s poor direct mail that doesn’t work just like there is good direct mail that does. I liken it to the success of any company within its market, there are good, average and poor.

    Jon please take no offense but print buyers are not the target to sell these, anyone who is targeting these folks trying to sell PURL’s or any other marketing enhancing technology will fail. For good or bad these technology tools have landed squarely in the laps of printers and the ones who take the time to understand them and apply this technology properly are doing a lot of good for themselves and their clients.

  9. Paul Edwards

    We can design a customized landing page tied to our web site in 30 minutes. We can send out 1 to 1 emails or direct mail and drive responders to that landing page. The costs are very minimal for this landing page.

    This customized landing page approach may yield slightly lower response rate than a PURL program, we have found it does quite well when designed properly to request specific customer data/ demographics that are critical for a valued response.

    We are also seeing that PURLs seem to perhaps be more of a fad than a solid trend that will forever change direct marketing programs or that they are just one of many tolls marketers can use out of a large tool box of choices. We all know that the best results may be derived from the most basic direct marketing pieces using the right list, the right message and the right offer.

    Paul Edwards, CDC
    FormStore/ FormStore Digital Connect

  10. Chris Batchelor

    Interesting post. I was linked to it while researching the effectiveness of PURLS since they are almost unheard of in my industry. The idea of “micro-marketing” is fantastic in my opinion. PURLS in one form or another may in fact be a great web based solution to this concept.

    Your survey is small but effective because (im assuming) most of the responders were providers not end users. The results tell me 2 things:

    1. The Top 4 responses indicate that if the responders were educated properly about the full benefits of PURLS they would be interested

    2. If presented with a cost, technology, and time effective solution they would most likely implement PURL, or at least take a hard look.

    In most industries the PURL concept is largely unused not because of effectiveness but because its new and vendors don’t fully understand the process. Furthermore, the companies i see who are using PURLS are only using a tiny portion of the possibilities of PURL based system

    In my view a PURL is a mouth to a funnel. What the solicitor does with the data after it runs through the PURL funnel is where the real oppertiunity: Newsletter opt in, continuity programs, lead in products, referral, email blasting, follow up, etc are only a portion of the up side i see to PURL based marketing….

    Give it 5 years

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