The word “e-fulfillment” is no more a jargon. Nevertheless, for the uninitiated, it is an electronic response to a direct marketing request. What is more, it is an important part of the overall one-to-one marketing strategy of a firm. In the right context it offers several benefits, which is why more and more companies are boarding the bandwagon now. The three biggest advantages of e-fulfillment include: Speed – reaching targets quickly; cost effectiveness – in some instances, it is less expensive to reach the customer; and control / customisation – it provides the capability to adjust your campaign in real time-test, adjust and move forward. The real one-to-one is when content is completely personalised, including the covering letter, types of attachments and the content of each attachment.
However it is expensive and time-consuming when conventional methods are used. But not all situations call for a solely e-based fulfilment system. Careful consideration of the type of target being reached, and the company’s marketing objective, will determine the appropriate combination of e-based and conventional fulfillment components to use. For example, if a credit card company’s database identifies a person with outstanding credit history and a high income, that person might get a customised email that includes an offer to upgrade her card and links to exotic vacation destinations. Someone else with a good credit history that tends to carry an outstanding balance on credit cards might get an offer for a balance transfer to a new card company.
Flexibility is an important benefit of a fully integrated e-fulfillment system. Such a system makes it easy to evaluate a campaign’s rollout in real time – watch the pick-up on the first cell, tweak the campaign, watch the second cell go out, make another adjustment, and so on. With the proper systems in place, e-fulfillment offers direct marketers a wide range of options. It permits increased analysis and customisation of future messages, allowing marketers to see when people open the e-mails, and track as they click through to website links. Real-time web reports of hits are available, detailing soft bounce-backs (server is temporarily down or a mailbox is full) and hard bounce-backs (service no longer exists or email address is not valid). If an email bounces back with a bad address or full mailbox, companies may have a call centre representative double-check with the intended recipient to confirm how he/she wants to receive the information.
Here are two scenarios for an overview of today’s capabilities and where things are headed:
CASE #1: An insurance company was using mail fulfillment as a marketing tool with its professional services clients. Names and detailed information were generated daily, with policies printed and mailed twice weekly Incorporating e-fulfillment, and maximising its effectiveness was simply a matter of designing a system that converted content into a PDF file at the point it would have “gone to print” in the traditional fulfillment process. These files were created in the same pre-printed format that customers would have received in hard-copy form. Like its traditional counterpart, the body of the e-fulfillment text message was highly personalised based on a client’s insurance history, with rate and coverage information, policy type, brand and payment method received but it also included a link to the insurer’s website for more information. The policy itself was attached to the email and incorporated the same client-specific information. In addition, the insurance company found that e-mails enabled it to send fewer reminders to get policy renewals, and it was receiving more payments at a quicker rate.
CASE #2: In many instances, customers can request information through a variety of channels including a call centre, website or mail. In one such instance, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer generates data daily from these sources. Based on the depth of information in the marketing database the development of highly customised text messaging is possible. The system also enables custom e-mail messaging with links to specific parts of the company’s website. In this case, the company is developing a true one-to-one marketing campaign that, over time, can be further refined, based on the ongoing interactions loop.
Today, there are still many companies that use e-fulfillment with rich content along with traditional mail campaigns. They are not looking to abandon traditional methods, but rather are looking for new ways to get closer to their customers. As consumers click through company’s websites via email links, each visit adds to their individual profile for future e-marketing efforts.
Overall, the trend is for companies to implement one-to-one marketing tools. More and more, they are looking for expertise from direct marketing service providers who enable them to reach customers and prospects within a very structured campaign, but target each one with a specific package of information via their snail mailbox, email box, over the phone or on a website.
(The writer spearheads execution and innovation for lients@CustomerLab)