Rethinking print: the strategic relevance of print in omnichannel communication

Jürgen Burger and Thomas Wehlmann

With the title PRINT. NEW. THINK. an independent study on the current positioning of print as a medium was commissioned by the priint Group from SIMIO. The two authors, Jürgen Burger and Thomas Wehlmann, have closely followed the developments and discussions surrounding print in recent years. They increasingly gained the impression that this topic is probably subject to the well-known phenomenon of the habituation effect. After all, print publications have a long history and were used in the past under completely different conditions than today. The authors therefore assume that the medium of print is afflicted with outdated experiences and attributes and, because of this legacy, is no longer viewed impartially with its current possibilities and framework conditions. This results in incorrect evaluations and classifications.

First impulses and excerpts from the current SIMIO study

With this in mind, the two have given the study the title PRINT. NEW. THINK. By questioning print under today's conditions, re-evaluating it and re-locating it in the context of product communication, they want to invite a fresh and unbiased look at the medium of print.

The study does not look at the large field of all possible print media, but focuses on B2B and B2C product communication of medium-sized industrial and retail companies. For example, ]the authors concentrated in the study of the print medium on products such as catalogs, brochures, product flyers, price lists, data sheets, direct mailings, labels and packaging. Print consumer products such as books, magazines, daily newspapers, picture postcards and several others were not considered. In the course of the conceptual preliminary work, theses were set up, such as:

  • Print is underestimated - the potential is not recognized,
  • The days of watering can communication are over,
  • Product communication must become more individual - also via print,
  • Print must be strategically positioned in the customer experience must be positioned,
  • Customer-centric product communication becomes a competitive advantage.

These theses were checked for plausibility via a large-scale online survey. The evaluation of the online survey very quickly confirmed many of the SIMIO theses. The days of traditional mail order catalogs and mass printed matter are definitely over. Not because the print product as such is to be questioned, but rather because the days of watering can communication have indeed passed. The technical possibilities are also available in the print sector to provide customers with targeted and individualized information geared to their wishes and needs.

But the relevant data is either not collected or simply not evaluated. Only 29% of marketing decision-makers use data from analytics tools (Hubspot study from 2023). This is also confirmed by the online survey as well as the findings from the authors' experience. The marketing mix is driven by gut feeling and is not based on reliable data. Yet customer data is the key to success, especially for print in the media mix.

A print message placed at the right moment can trigger a purchase decision or a new customer relationship. The multisensory dimensions of print, such as the haptic effect, can be used to emotionally charge the brand and product image. The evaluation of a single media channel within the customer journey map is not target-oriented. What is important is the effect of individual touchpoints in interaction with the other channels (touchpoints) within the framework of a customer journey. Ultimately, it is the overall impression that counts from the customer's point of view. After considering all facets, the interviews conducted in advance and the results of the online survey, the print medium can still be said to be of great importance in the media mix, according to the SIMIO authors. The only thing is that the information must be geared much more individually to the recipient. For this purpose, the different information needs (need drivers of the customer or prospective customer during information research) of individual target groups or customers should be known and centrally evaluable and retrievable. Likewise, granular information modules on products and their applications that can be retrieved via databases are required. If these prerequisites are met, the technical possibilities available on the market can be used for automated creation of individual publications. It is important to also take into account the impact dimensions of haptic experiences via the paper surface or the sound of the paper and to use them in a targeted manner. Print as a touchpoint will therefore regain great importance and will once again become a brand and product image ambassador.

88% rate the haptic effect as relevant

Just under 12% rate the effect of multisensory technology on customers as low, i.e. 88% assume that there is a relevant effect - and this confirms our thesis that print has an influence on the purchase decision at the right momentum.

Product information is rarely aligned with customer needs

Only 4.5% of respondents confirm that they have aligned their product information within the touchpoints very well with the information needs of their customers. A further 27.4% state that they have aligned this well with the needs. Conversely, this means that around 68% of respondents still have a clear need for action here.

Print is not strategically positioned

Only 9.1% of respondents said they strategically integrate print into the customer journey. However, we tend to assume that the touchpoints have so far been viewed predominantly in isolation and are not strategically coordinated with one another. The statements about the lack of information about customers and target groups confirm that a strategic customer journey map cannot be developed in this way. We are currently observing this in the entire communications landscape: redundant content is distributed across many different media channels.

The study is now available!

Get insights into the study now:
Rethink. Print.

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