There has been plenty of column inches dedicated to the cost of the postal strikes to businesses and this has been particularly hard felt in the area of direct marketing.
But while the strike has caused headaches for a lot of people, it has also created an opportunity for businesses to rethink how they communicate with their customers.
Clearly we don’t live in a star trek-esque world where we can beam anything we want through the internet (yet) but intelligent brands can benefit by rethinking how their targeted communications are reaching their consumers and whether there are ways of relying less on Royal Mail.
Some companies opted for alternative courier organisations as a means to beat the strike, while others have opted for using email.
Strike action could make many businesses that regularly send letters to their customers reconsider. Traditionally banks and utilities companies have been hesitant in changing their bills and statements into emails. But for those that have started to move into paperless communication – the strike demonstrates the ease, and arguably the need, for this move forward.
Of course, email is not without its flaws. By design, it is not 100% secure and can be manipulated to target vulnerable consumers with phishing scams and viruses. While these problems can be greatly minimised by well designed email filters, efficient online security and increased awareness of the tell-tale signs of a scam, the perceived risk has for a long time been a huge ‘put off’ for people thinking of using email for bills and other crucial information.
And then there is the ongoing battle with ‘spammers’. Anyone that uses email will complain of receiving too much junk mail, and this contributes to some negative perceptions of email marketing as a whole. Despite brands sending really interesting and relevant emails, with their customer’s consent, there will always be some who choose to consider it no better than the stuff we’re all embarrassed to find in our junk folders.
However, it can be argued that the benefits outweigh the potential pitfalls of email as a method of efficient, cost-effective, personalised and relevant communication.
I am certainly not the first to highlight emails’ potential to address the disruption the postal strikes caused, with a wide variety of organisations including Directgov and ISBA suggesting email as an alternative during the strike.
From personal experience, brands and businesses who switch some or all of their marketing communication from traditional DM to email correspondence quickly realise the real value this medium offers as a relatively cheap and – particularly relevant in recent weeks- reliable communication channel.
With Digital Britain looking to address problems like scams and phishing by pushing for complete broadband coverage across the UK, I think we are really seeing email come of age. With the increasing desire to fully integrate marketing communication, email also slots well into a company’s existing online and offline marketing, with technology such as web analytics and social media sharing tools making these links much easier to manage.
The negative impact of the strike is clear for everyone to see, but forward thinking brands may well see this as the prompt they need to bring their email communications up to speed once and for all.