Historically, bills and statements were seen as purely functional documents —something essential for providing information, but not something particularly engaging. This was partly due to the limitations of print technology available to produce transactional documents. Other reasons for benign and boring statements stem from the cultural norms of the era, which prioritized efficiency and functionality over aesthetic appeal in business communications.

    The limitations of technology and the emphasis on a practical approach posed a challenge for brands that aimed to improve customer engagement and stand out through their communications. Consequently, customer interactions were mundane with little potential for capturing attention or conveying the brand's personality. However, with the advent of modern inkjet technology, customer communication management (CCM) initiatives have been transformed — enabling brands to enhance customer experiences. This article will highlight how inkjet technology has revolutionized the print world and customers' expectations.

    Chicken or Egg? Untangling the Evolution of CCM and Inkjet

    It's difficult to know if print technology evolved due to customer demands for more engaging communications or if customers now expect more because of technological advancements. It's likely a combination of both. Before discussing what today's inkjet technology can do, it's important to understand some of the critical drivers behind the deliberate practice of CCM.

    · The Demand for Better Customer Engagement. Over three decades ago, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers published the now iconic book, The One-to-One Future - Building Relationships One Customer at a Time. The authors provided several good reasons to customize products and services to fit the customer's needs. The critical takeaway is how personalization creates better relationships when interacting with prospects and customers. Peppers’ and Rogers' principles were way ahead of their time, yet they are precisely what brands are trying to achieve today. The mere volume of marketing messages trying to grab consumers' attention and the rise of individualism that continues to shift from group identities create a perfect storm for CCM.

    · The Constant Explosion of Data: The sheer volume and variety of customer data — including emails, social media interactions, and purchase history —make it difficult to manage. CCM tools help brands analyze customer data to understand individual needs and preferences, allowing them to tailor communications accordingly. This personalized approach resonates better with the "me-first" mindset.

    · More Connections, Yet Less Connected: Today, customers interact with brands through various channels, including print. Their communication preferences may depend on age or individual choices, but their expectation of prompt responses and effective solutions remains constant. Moreover, they turn to brands that understand and connect with them on social or economic levels. They expect the collected data to be utilized for their benefit rather than the brand's advantage.

    From Transactional to Transformational

    Today, it is essential for businesses to leverage CCM to improve the customer experience. According to data from Keypoint Intelligence, when asked to prioritize the most crucial goals over the next two years surrounding their transactional communications strategy, businesses emphasized the importance of improving the customer experience over reducing costs by nearly 71%.

    Figure 1: Priorities of CCM Over the Next 2 Years

    When we talk about CCM and the Customer Experience (CX), it’s important to include in the conversation all the paperwork that you receive in your mailbox or inbox — such as invoices, financial statements, or personalized health updates. These documents often contain sensitive and personal information, making it essential for companies to step up their game when sending them to their customers. Generic statements and notifications do little to build trust between a brand and the recipient. So, what are the challenges that businesses face when it comes to delivering impactful, personalized communications? It's often not knowing what tools are available to them.

    Technology Sparks a Customer Engagement Revolution

    Production inkjet technology has brought about a revolution in the printing industry by providing high-speed and high-quality printing capabilities at a significantly lower cost than traditional methods. Apart from its technical capabilities, production inkjet technology plays a crucial role in customer communication management —particularly in enhancing customer engagement through personalized messages. By leveraging this technology, businesses can enhance their printing capabilities and elevate their customer communication strategies to new heights.

    As a result, businesses are now integrating their marketing strategies with their bills and statements to improve customer engagement and loyalty. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s 2023 Transactional Communications Business Survey, 75% of respondents are incorporating marketing messages on their bills and statements. The survey also revealed that while some businesses are using color to enhance the appeal of their transactional documents, there is still a significant number of businesses that have not yet taken advantage of this opportunity.

    Figure 2: Color Use in Bills and Statements

    For many, the visual appeal of a black-only document can be compared to reading a newspaper; it is informative, but could be more engaging. In contrast, full-color statements and bills feel more like reading a visually engaging magazine that is memorable and delivers impact. For brand owners, the transactional documents they send out today may be the only opportunity to engage with their customers after the initial transaction. Taking shortcuts anywhere in the customer's journey can mean the difference between loyalty and indifference.

    Until recently, bills and statements were limited to antiquated print technology. Today's inkjet breathes new life into CCM. With advancements in ink chemistry and printhead technology, organizations can create personalized transactional documents with high-quality images that accurately display their brand's colors. This not only improves the customer's experience, but also makes communication more effective. It's no surprise that the USPS is offering discounts on full-color personalized messaging that is integrated with statements or bills.

    The Bottom Line

    Communication is the cornerstone of human interaction. From the invention of the telephone that revolutionized communication overnight, to the gradual evolution of social media platforms that continue to add new features and functionalities over time; the way we communicate is constantly evolving. The field of inkjet technology is no exception. Rapid advancements and the increasing demand for cost-effective personalization make inkjet an attractive option, especially when it comes to CCM. With its unparalleled value proposition, inkjet technology is poised to continue transforming the world of communication.

    Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.

    This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2024 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.