BY KELLY COOPER
Senior in Cal Poly's Graphic Communications Department
INTEGRATED PRINT: Top Trends include social media, personalization and mobile technologiesHere at Cal Poly Graphic Communication Department we're constantly reminded that things are not the way they used to be. We can't ignore a changing economy and industry undergoing massive transformation. The key isunderstanding that technological integration might not provide immediate results or boosts in sales-a printing company cannot rely solely on this amalgamation to drastically change its numbers. But the correct integration of technology will help a business reach a greater market, raise awareness, enhance customer relationships and ultimately add value. That's a guarantee.
So how can businesses get on board with the onset of social media, personalization and mobile technology? Well, it's not too hard if they commit. And it can be fun.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A TWO-WAY MARKETING STREET
Do you have a Twitter account? While it may seem unnecessary for a typical printer (what good is a 140-character sentence?), it can easily become an effective tool to link any printed page to a larger network of services. Further, social media such as Facebook can serve as a two-way marketing device where users and customers can interact with a business. A simple way to get started is launching a promotion (such as through a Twitter handle on a printed page) where customers could receive something in return for following you. Twitter also allows businesses to ask customers questions, listen to their feedback, personally respond to customers, and provide customers with more information on a business or the industry through sharing links to relevant articles or videos. Further, Twitter offers a site just for businesses that explains the most effective way to use this tool.
DATABASE TECHNOLOGY: BEYOND VDP & MASS CUSTOMIZATION
Personalized URLs, or PURLs offer expanded customer interaction via greater personalization. Personalized websites, created through linking a customer database with online PURL software, also are a two-way liaison between a business and targeted customers. Adding a PURL to a printed page not only catches a customer off guard, but also pulls them into your business. Once a customer clicks on his or her PURL, a business can promote printed material to be sent to interested customers, creating a full-circle integration of technology and print. Because it is facilitated online, the business can track all information-something impossible with static printed ads.
One obvious but still underused tool is mobile technology. Smartphones are quickly becoming the norm and house thousands of possibilities behind the tiny screen. While text message marketing has not been widely received in America yet, QR codes certainly have. Also known as 2-D barcodes, QR codes are an easy and effective way to use print to drive customer traffic. And as with PURLs, QR codes can be tracked down to the sale made based on the use of the code. Further, QR codes can link customers to sites that allow them to request printed collateral.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
All of these new technologies require work some groundwork-a business wishing to integrate its printed page with social media, database or mobile technology, needs to be consistent and persistent. Anyone can sign up for Twitter, but maintaining a consistent and effective presence requires some commitment. Further, if a business wants to link the printed page to a website, its website must be easy to navigate, pleasing to look at, and interactive. Otherwise, what value will customers find?
Print will always be around-it has to be. And although it is shifting in unpredictable directions, there are ways to stay on top of the market. The businesses that find ways to connect technology with the printed page will continue to survive and thrive as the shift continues.