The new opportunity in transactional marketing

Behavioural insights make transpromotional communications more personal

Couple looking at post and iPad

Transcending expectations

Ten years ago, transpromotional communications – where marketing messages are incorporated into must-read transactional documents such as statements and bills – were tipped to be the ‘next big thing’ in variable data printing1. However, the impact of the global financial crisis on marketing budgets and the slow development of usable data slowed down anticipated growth.

Today that growth appears to be back on track. In the U.S., transactional marketing accounted for 22.7 billion digitally printed pages in 2015 and a compound annual growth rate of 10.5% is expected until 20202, while in Western Europe it is the second fastest growing digital print application3.

The reasons for this are numerous. Rising customer acquisition costs, a need to cut through the cacophony of marketing messages, increasing digital overload among consumers, growing demand for personalisation and the shift to focus on customer experience have all coincided to create a ‘perfect storm’ in which transactional marketing offers an ideal solution.

Consumers open 95% of transactional documents and spend between one and three minutes reading them

Understanding the appeal of transactional marketing

Combining promotional messages with transactional documents is nothing new; marketers have been including inserts with statements for decades 4 . Considering how much more value existing customers have for organisations than new customers and how much more it costs to acquire than retain customers 5 , this is a valid strategy.

Consumers open 95% of transactional documents and spend between one and three minutes reading them 6 – a rare moment of undivided attention in the crowded marketing landscape.

However, as mass marketing’s effectiveness declined, a need to personalise this promotional material arose and, enabled by advances in digital print and production workflow software, the transactional marketing concept was born.

Girl removing ipad from bookshelf

Overcoming digital overload

A number of the drivers behind transpromotional print’s growth stem from the rise of digital marketing in the last 20 years. Many consumers are experiencing ‘digital marketing fatigue’; feeling increasingly overwhelmed by digital marketing messages and consequently turning on ad blockers 7 , applying spam filters and sometimes even completely disengaging from brands 8 .

Consumers are also growing increasingly concerned about their levels of technology use. With around a fifth of consumers worldwide checking their smartphones more than 50 times a day 9 , many are concerned about their smartphone usage 10  11  12  13 and ‘digital detoxes’ ranging from device-free days and ‘diets’ to retreats and holidays are growing in popularity 14 .

While consumers’ concerns about technology usage are relatively new, many are already quite wary of how much data they share 15  16 and increasingly distrustful of digital channels 17 . With so much evidence pointing to consumers being overwhelmed or put off by the volume of digital messages they’re exposed to, print offers marketers an opportunity to rebuild consumer trust and increase engagement.

Research in the UK, for example, found that 65% of respondents are confident in printed mail’s privacy and 52% perceive it as ‘believable’ 18 . In addition, 70% said it makes them feel valued, up from 43% in 2007 and 57% in 2013 19 . Even more importantly, many have acted in response to items of mail, with 45% requesting information by phone, 41% renewing an existing service and 36% making a purchase 20 .

Girl reading document

Enhancing the customer experience

Today’s consumers expect a seamless customer experience regardless of where, when and how they interact with a business or organisation. Moreover, with consumer awareness of the value of their data growing, when they do share personal data, consumers expect more relevant communications in return 21 . The quest for greater personalisation in marketing 22 is a direct result of this trend.

Today, however, real personalisation is about much more than a few different offers for different demographic groups. As data management has grown more sophisticated, marketers have gained access to behavioural insights from ever more channels, making it possible to completely tailor the customer experience to customers’ preferences, purchase histories and buying behaviours.

By harnessing this data, transactional marketing can deliver the right information to the right recipient at the right moment and become an extremely powerful medium in omni-channel communications. Vehicle finance statements, for example, might include detailed information about new car models that the customer has browsed online, offer test-drives or special offers as an agreement nears its end.

Transpromotional communications are able to enhance the customer experience rather than just cross- or up-selling. Utilities companies, for example, might educate customers about how to change their specific energy consumption patterns, while life or health insurance providers might provide tailored information promoting wellness and personalised discounts on gyms, health food and sports gear.

Elemental transactional document

Delivering cost savings and reducing waste

In addition to delivering a good return on investment, transactional marketing enables cost savings. By using ‘white space’ in transactional documents to provide the personalised content that customers want23, marketers can save on postage and reduce material consumption by consolidating mailings. Even more importantly, they stand to turn a cost centre into a revenue generator.

Customers receive transactional documents every day and prefer to spend time reviewing them when they do. In an environment in which marketers are constantly striving to harness behavioural data to deliver individualised omni-channel customer experiences that capture attention, transactional marketing not only makes sense; it has become essential.

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[2] InfoTrends. 2016. U.S. Digital Production Printing Application Forecast: 2015 - 2020.
[3] Ralf Schlozer. 29 August 2013. InfoBlog. Growth Applications for Production Digital Print. (
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[6] InfoTrends. 2007. The TransPromo Revolution: The Time Is Now! (
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[19] Royal Mail MarketReach. August 2017. The Value of Mail in Uncertain Times. (
[20] Royal Mail MarketReach. August 2017. The Value of Mail in Uncertain Times. (
[21] Jen King. 25 April 2018. Consumers Don't Want Personalization to Get Too Personal. (
[22] Ross Benes. 18 October 2018. eMarketer. Why Marketers Struggle with Data-Driven Personalization. (
[23] InfoTrends, 2016. Annual State of the Transactional Communications Market Survey.