1:1 Print Personalization Vs. Search Intent

By | October 20, 2012

I have been reading about the future of online search as going beyond key words and into the world of search intent. In other words, “What did you mean by that?” I think it has significant implications for the future of 1:1 printing, as well.

For better or worse, online advertisers are starting to serve up ads, not just based on the terms we search on, but on all of our past behavior online so they can guess what we are trying to do with the information. For example, did I search on Southern spices because I am a 15-year-old researching a school project or because I am 40-something trying a new style of cooking? Was it a random search or have I made this same search or similar searches multiple times (higher level of intent).

To attempt to determine consumer intent, companies like Adchemy are using a variety of techniques (Adchemy calls them Intent Maps) that include search, click-throughs, likes, and other online behaviors. In Adchemy’s case, it uses 430 of them.

This is raising the bar for 1:1 printing. On one hand, it’s a good thing for the market because the more consumers demand relevance in marketing communications, the more they will respond to personalized print communications, too . . . if they are done well. On the other hand, the more sophisticated online targeting becomes, the more clunky or amateur print personalization stands out.

I have now finished writing Pira’s The Future of Variable Data Printing to 2017 and the data continue to rumble around in my head. I look at the numbers for direct mail in the United States (the report contains global data, as well as individual countries and regions), and granted, the decline in direct mail is for analog (down -4.8% CAGR between 2012-2017), but while the forecast for the data for digital printing / overprinting (where the VDP volumes are) is rising, it’s only up .4% CAGR.

If personalization were going to be the savior of the printing industry, the forecast would be higher. Personalization is going to be critical for printers to survive in today’s world of electronic marketing and communications, but personalization alone isn’t going to be its savior.

Personalization will protect the volumes of print, but it has to be personalization that is done well. It has to be done with a high level of sophistication that competes in terms of relevance and helpfulness with the kind of targeting that consumers are experiencing online. That level of personalization increasingly requires data mining, customer profiling, and other data techniques that are foreign to the average printer.

What does this mean for individual printers trying to keep their pipelines full? It means that if you’re going to hitch your wagon to 1:1 / personalized printing, you need to find your niche and do it really, really well. But also look to other ways that personalization benefits your customers, such as process improvement, production flexibility, and cost savings, and for more mundane applications like serialized labels and tags.

1:1 printing doesn’t have to be marketing sexy to bring (or protect) print volume. That’s going to be a critical message for digital print providers going into the future.


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5 thoughts on “1:1 Print Personalization Vs. Search Intent

  1. Steven Amiel

    Brilliant. The stand that you make could never have been truer. As a matter of fact, in comparison to todays data modeling capabilities and distribution techniques (ie variable print, purls, emails, lead nurturing etc) we are still in the relative stone age compared to how data will be collected, analyzed, distributed, consumed and affect outcomes in even 2 years let alone 5. Today, printers take their personalization techniques and for the most part and sell their value as if the applications, workflows etc are the same for every iopportunity. Nothing could be further from the truth. At Easypurl, we have developed, from our core skills in delivering 1:1 data communications, applications specific to the auto industry, the pharma industry, non for profit and others. Each have a variety of rules of engagement specific to their industry in data collection modeling and consumption from their targets. There is also a difference in the b2b world and the consumer world as the former relies on sales people to make the sale and in consumer a much greater reliance on the types of advanced modeling, versioning, messaging and channels that are used to contour the right message to consumers.Their advertising is in essence their sales force. It is one of the reasons, B2B companies have relatively small marketing and data department compared to consumer goods companies like a Sears or Home Depot who may have 20 to every one marketing or data person in B2B. However, it is an extraordinary time as I have seen a number of printers who understand what you are saying and providing services that shooting arrows right in the bulls eye taking advantage of not just the printing, but generating other high value revenue and stronger relationships by partnering with their clients. And then, there are the majority of printers who have rebranded themselves with great websites but struggle to even hit the target at all.

  2. Chuck Gehman

    This piece points out very well what a hard road print personalization has in front of it. The biggest problem for print is big data. In a world where it’s important to know “everything” about people, the only people who know that much are the search engines, and print is not part of their offering. It actually competes with them, but not very well at this point.

    Certainly many companies know a lot about the behavior of their customers, but many today are trying to create a strategy and framework to manage it, primarily so they can participate in online marketing more effectively. Again, print isn’t a participant in most cases. Print is being deployed via traditional methods, in more of a shotgun approach.

    Of course, print and personalization have a life outside of marketing, and that may well be where they both continue to exist.

    Personalized print with high production values targeted at affluent consumers and businesses will continue, because it has the cachet of being expensive and difficult to accomplish.

  3. Joe Manos

    Heidi – AWESOME post!

    The industry and marketing continues to evolve and the universal question is where does print fit in and how can todays printer be relevant tomorrow?

    Both Steven and Chuck made great points so I won’t restate…

    Your point – personalization done really well is a great starting point for printers that want to meet their customer needs today, tomorrow and in the future!

    Technology alone won’t get them there…

    The next revolution of personalization will be in the area that you touched on with search…Behaviors and Predictive Modeling. That’s when your marketing becomes very targeted and that is where we will all be in the future.

    To achieve that level of 1:1 you need technology and data – lots of it!

    Printers need to build customer focused capabilities that include an offering that meets their customer’s needs and that is going to continue to evolve. There are many levels of 1:1 and printers need to understand that they don’t need to be all things to all people but they better be very good at whatever area they select.

    Oh…and you can bet what’s relevant today will be less so tomorrow…

  4. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    @ Joe . . . so when do software providers start adding predictive modeling into their service offerings? “Analyze your data — click here!” 🙂

  5. Joe Manos

    Heidi, in the not to distant future. It would work on multiple levels – let’ say you just created a campaign and your not sure which offer or approach will deliver the best results – you click on the optimizer button and based on the data and campaign dynamics it would provide you with a number of approaches based on historical data of like type campaigns.

    Or…you want to connect with a specific segment or target audience – the same approach would be used. Optimize the search and base don millions of data points a suggested approach would be provided.

    There are other use cases but hopefully you get the idea.

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