This past year, change that was already affecting the printing industry has accelerated. Print Service Providers (PSPs) and mailing houses must evolve their businesses to meet client needs. By reinventing themselves as ‘print and mail providers’, PSPs can equip themselves for digital while continuing to deliver high-volume printed mailings. Flexible providers able to adapt to deliver a range of jobs and cater for inbound as well as outbound mail will meet a rising demand for outsourced print.

Consumers’ expectations of communications are changing, and enterprises are adapting as a result. More of people’s lives moved online when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted physical access to services. This further stimulated an already growing demand for digital communications.

At the same time, wide-scale homeworking affected companies’ abilities to get communications out, driving a potential new and increased demand for direct mail services and other print, production and mailing outsourcing. Analyst firm Aspire looked at this, and a range of other communications trends, in a research study into the new digital reality and customer communications in a time of rapid change. It found that remote management of communications was a change that was either already underway, or was planned, by more than a third of enterprises responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, print and mail providers will need flexible operations to meet existing and new client demands. They must equip their organisations to drive new revenue streams, enable production efficiencies and grow existing business through:

  1. Production outbound mailing

Print is still relevant and important for customer communications. However, print jobs are likely to have higher levels of personalisation and may be complex with a range of document inserts, some standard some common, according to each customer.

Demand for personalisation must be met in a way that scales. Manual order fulfilment processes are likely to be slow, unscalable and potentially error-prone. This is unsustainable - mailings must be accurate, and produced and distributed using processes that are auditable.

Most clients will expect progress reports with a high degree of detail, identifying which documents went into each mailing. This is important for corporate reputation and standing with customers but also compliance with a range of industry specific and data protection regulation.

  1. Adaptability

Companies expect a rapid and flexible turnaround of some jobs, short runs as well as the more traditional bulk mailings, and the ability to deliver on increasingly complex requirements.

Digital is important, but it isn’t just that more people expect emails instead of post. There is also a shift towards many online transactional interactions with secure portals and apps joining the multi-channel communications mix.

The modern print and mail provider will have the adaptability to switch rapidly between physical and digital mail with minimal downtime, and meet the particular needs of each job every time.

  1. Support for hybrid mail

Digital as well as print is now core business for mail fulfilment houses. In fact, Aspire’s findings showed a 35 per cent increase in the importance of digital transformation to enterprise’s strategic objectives before and after the advent of COVID-19. 

For print and mail providers, this means the need to offer email fulfilment, but digital can also extend to text notifications, links to customer portals and other communications forms.

Digital delivery may be the end result but to get there, print and mail providers must demonstrate their ability to receive client work digitally, convert to print for physical mail and a range of electronic formats for digital, issue to the correct customer each time and deal with any returns. This includes capturing details of communications that go undelivered and immediately fulfilling via alternative means. 

  1. Inbound handling

Some enterprises outsource communications end-to-end so that they can focus on their core business. This is an opportunity for print and mail providers to grow their business by offering management of the complete communications lifecycle.

For many, handling inbound communications – print or digital – from clients’ customers is a significant departure from a traditional outbound print business. However, taking that step provides strength in depth by diversifying the business to provide a full service offering and meet the additional needs of an existing customer base.  

A range of software and hardware helps print and mail providers survive and thrive at times of change. Discover how high-volume intelligent folder inserters help meet the demands of a print production environment and find information on outbound document management through Quadient Impress.

Sof Tsigarides

Sof Tsigarides

Enterprise Mail Business Development Manager (UK)

Sof is a Print Service Provider (PSP) and mailing sector specialist with over 35 years of experience helping businesses grow their customer offerings, access new revenue streams and improve operational efficiencies. Sof’s experience in high-pressure, high-production print and communications environments spans advanced continuous and cut sheet print and mail systems, and digital and physical outbound and inbound communications handling. Sof is dedicated to helping print and mail businesses generate higher margins and support new business acquisition by streamlining workflows and maximising mail efficiencies.  

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