By Debbie Major

Do you really know what your client customer’s needs? Do you know what is keeping them up at night? What does your client look like?

What is your customer’s avatar: male, female, young adult, senior or child? Where do they hang out? Where did they go to school? What pain can you alleviate,as in what medicine do you bring them? Or what pleasure do you deliver them, like a feel-good vitamin or supplement?

Ultimately, do you know where your customer is in their buying journey? Are they not aware they have a problem, aware they have a problem, but are not aware of solutions and or aware they have a problem and know of the solution but do not know of your solution? Or is your customer aware of the problem and aware of your solution?

Understanding generational differences
Taking all these questions to the different generations means paying attention to what they each want at each touch point in your sales cycles. This will set you apart from your competitors and garner you more business. I say same but different.

Canada Post researched how the different generations prefer to be treated and engaged with its Generational Report. Now it’s up to you the small or medium-sized business to respect what the generations are saying. Canada Post presented this research early 2018 and is available through its web site. Some of the highlights are below.

Carol Wong-Li of Mintel shares generational connections for Canada Post in her Think Link drawing. Millennials are those individuals who were born after 1981, according to the Pew Research Center1. Millennials are self-critical, including being self-absorbed reported an earlier Pew Research study2. They trust online reviews more than in person reviews, said Canada Post’s Generational Report.

Generation X are those individuals who were born after 1965, said Pew Research. They are what is called “the sandwich generation” as they have kids while many of them are also taking care of aging parents. They are therefore in financial tugs of war.

The “Boomers” are those born after 1946 according to Pew Research, and some of the Generation X have a foot in the Boomers as well. I consider myself in this category. The Boomers are about sweat equity and rather give credit to others than themselves. They like technology but they also like tech help close in case they need it.

A deeper dive into consumer behaviour, presented in this Think Link, shows that household compositions and lifestyles drive mail to homes.

Ani Ieronicig of Canada Post takes a deeper dive; her Think Link shows some interesting tips to take into 2019. Namely it’s the composition of the households and their lifestyles that dictates mail to the houses, not the generations. Kids impact the use of physical advertising as parents are looking for deals.

Two generations that are not being talked about are the Generation Z (Gen Z), who were born after 1996 and the group that follows, as defined by Pew Research. These generations are, and will be, super-comfortable with technology. For example, they are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) with a fair percentage of Gen Zers indicating they would like to seek careers in the AI field. Shortly this group will be buying our services and how will that impact how and what we offer.

Doug Ettinger shared about Millennials liking physical things when it connects to them in a meaningful way. That can mean mail or relevant pop-up shops. We recognize as well that our brain reacts differently to physical mail. Doug shares other tips in his Q & A Think Link as well.

As a marketer you need to talk to the three groups differently in order to succeed. Collectively, all people love to get mail and see their name in lights: providing it is relevant mail. The consumer values the journey you give them and values the experience of things. As a marketer you sell the experience more than anything these days. I see the same but different over the ages again here too.

What does machine learning look like for the print and mail business? It looks like it could streamline production and delivery and enable more accurate targeted mailing: which are always good things.

Dan also predicts a “further evolution of human and machine interaction” as more companies realize that AI and machine learning are not just for mundane tasks. Many corporations will then need to find the balance between machines and humans.

This Think Link shows that Millennials will respond to physical marketing if connects to them in a meaningful way.

I believe AI will be more prevalent in the customer service area as we move through 2019. More and more companies are using AI-driven chatbots to gather information and to help segment what we consumers are looking for, so they can gently guide us down a buying or content path.

Dan then addresses the “rise of the AI assistant”. Even the car manufacturers like Kia and Hyundai are planning to include AI assistants in their new cars in 2019. The spread of AI assistants is taking place at a time when Alexa from Google is becoming usable in criminal cases, with the logs associated with the devices assisting police in laying charges.

Will this development have some saying that the privacy line has been crossed? Or will some welcome this as an extra layer of security and protection? Only time will tell. The nuances could be different for Canada versus the U.S. or Europe as well.

Dan foresees AI and machine learning being used together across multiple industries. He points out that the U.S. Army is currently using machine learning to predict when combat vehicles need repairs. It has placed sensors in the equipment and it is using an AI assistant to keep track of data such as temperature or RPMs. If our own cars did this, it could likely mean that the Canadian Automobile Association and other companies and organizations that provide and market roadside assistance may have to evolve and or change.

Marketers need to keep in the back of their minds whether these innovations are helpful or intrusive. Determining how your client wishes to be served your content and respecting it will be what sets you apart. Again, I find this same but different. Canadians may view AI differently than Americans or Europeans and it will be up to the marketer to determine the balance.

One thing is certain AI will only be limited by marketers’ creativity and will only be growing in the future.

Packaging is evolving
The landscape of what is being received in each household is definitely changing as well. The Millennials would really rather be their own boss than to work on someone else’s dream. Small businesses are popping up in the online world because of it. We like the world of immediate so we order today and we want tomorrow. This is opening up a new world for branding on packaging, like what Amazon is doing, along with the possibilities of co-branding.

We used to hide the brand on the inside, but now with the explosion of subscription boxes the companies get extra bang for the marketing dollar with branding on the outside of the parcels. For example, Purolator shows its softer side with a compassionate socially responsible tag line “Tackle Hunger”.

Today, like yesterday, consumers buy on emotions and the experience. If they can feel good about spending money and are also supporting a great socially responsible company this is very important. This strategy may help set your company apart from the competition too.

It has never been a more exciting time to be a service bureau than now. Data Direct is definitely open to serving up and executing your campaign in style. Helping you navigate so there are no barriers to reaching your clients in whatever manner you choose using our main pillars of operation: data, print, laser, lettershop and fulfillment and distribution.

Proudly serving you since 1994 the same but different each and every day with respect, grace and dignity.

All the best for 2019 from Data Direct.

Debbie Major is president, Data Direct (www.datadirect.ca).

1 Michael Dimock, “Defining generations: Where Millennials end and post-Millennials begin”, Pew Research Center, March 1, 2018.
2 Pew Research, “Most Millennials Resist the ‘Millennial’ Label”, survey, September 3, 2015.

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