Survey of marketers reveals trends and opportunities in 2023

Last month, commercial printing powerhouse RRD, based in Chicago, Illinois, released a study called the “Optichannel Opportunities Report,” which goes in-depth into what marketers across the country are thinking and feeling as we move into 2023. The survey polled 300 respondents in November 2022, seeking to gain insights into these key decision makers.

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Margo Yohner, SVP of growth for RRD Commercial and Digital Print, talked with Printing Impressions about the findings, and what she — and other commercial printers — should take away from it as the new year starts to ramp up.

“We conducted this survey to offer insight into the print landscape, and how marketers will leverage print and digital channels in 2023,” Yohner says. She notes that the dynamic for marketers and the campaigns they produce is evolving, with everything from looming recession signals, to privacy concerns, to disruptions in social media platforms and technology. “What are these marketers expecting for 2023 projects,” asks Yohner. “What strategies are working across print and digital channels, and how are they assessing that impact?”

Digging Into the Numbers

Digging into the findings, Yohner notes that “there were a few surprising things” once the data was analyzed. First and foremost, she says, “marketers expect to double down on spending, even with a potential downturn. Most (73%) see a recession or downturn as an opportunity to gain market share. Further, most marketers (61%) expect their businesses to maintain or increase their marketing to help weather the storms. Often, marketing is seen as a discretional spend, so we would expect to see an adverse impact; we were pleasantly surprised.” In fact, 54% of respondents in the survey noted that they believe their overall marketing budgets will increase in 2023, regardless of the economic conditions.

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The second trend Yohner calls out is that marketers, on the whole, are looking to invest more in print channels — but they certainly aren’t walking away from digital either. In fact, two out of three respondents note that they use an “optichannel” approach to marketing. This is using a blend of different channels based on the customers being targeted and the message the brand is trying to convey.

In fact, the survey found that 58% of respondents agree that mixing both print and digital components into a campaign will yield overall better results, with 53% noting that it’s important to have both because different channels resonate more with different audiences.

However, a stronger emphasis on the print components of this strategy in 2023 comes, according to Yohner, because social media in particular — one of the strongest digital channels overall — has experienced a great deal of turmoil in the past few months. In response, she says, “marketers are re-allocating dollars from digital to print, such as direct mail campaigns.”

One of the things holding print back, however, is that marketers “are still struggling to track print response rates effectively,” says Yohner. Campaign performance overwhelmingly was the Number One factor for respondents when deciding which channels to use in a campaign (46%), with costs only coming in a distant second at 25%. But despite all of the metrics now available to track print performance, today’s marketers are still struggling to see how it is contributing to the overall success of the campaign. This, says Yohner, “is where we have to peel back the onion and take a closer look.”

She points out that “tracking alone doesn’t give them an accurate measure of the success or failure of the campaign. We have to take a closer look … and should be doing a more comprehensive results analysis.”

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“In our mind,” Yohner continues, “a more effective marketing strategy doesn’t isolate different channels against each other as challengers. Rather, it should be really looking at and measuring cumulative success across the population. It is touch point attribution versus linear — you identify which touch points, at which times in a campaign, are leading to the best results, and then allocate the marketing dollars in the right way. Spend more on the right channel to the right groups, rather than everyone gets everything every time.”

Marketers, the survey found, are also looking to more tightly integrate the print and digital components, seeing them as all part of a greater whole, rather than as individual pieces. 89% include QR codes in their print marketing materials; 66% are including automated, triggered message into their print marketing strategies; 4% are already using RFID to enhance their print and digital marketing efforts; and 49% are exploring emerging technologies such as NFTs and blockchain in their marketing campaigns.

“It is crucial to make use of the different tracking technologies for different channels, but also to explore and test best practices in every channel for every audience,” she says. “Then apply that in varying combinations and frequencies — all driven by data modeling.” She continues, “there is a give and take with all the channels, and it is all about trying to help clients get results by appealing to their customer base. Consumers want to be talked to in a highly relevant manner, in the channel they choose, and print has been part of that for a while. We don’t pit print and digital against each other — it’s really about how we help marketers to make them work together. Don’t try to isolate response rates by channel; you have to look at the campaign collectively.”

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So what does all this mean for commercial printers? Yohner notes that as a whole, “we have to remain optimistic in times of uncertainty. By embracing programs designed to reach customers, we are seeing a renewed focus on print marketing. like direct mail. Turmoil in social media — bots, trolls, Twitter — has led to a lot of uncertainty, which has proven to be beneficial for us as printers, even with the whole response tracking element marketers still struggle with.

This is an opportunity for us — more than half of marketers expect to see budget increases in 2023, so it will be critical to help them with strategies and ensure they are getting overall measurable results … As partners, how can we build the most meaningful relationship and help them be successful? It is really on us to say how we take those marketing dollars and support them so the increased budget will get the results they are looking for.”

This article originally appeared on our sister brand Printing Impressions.