Personalization is here, and it’s hot. But it’s not a new trend. The rise of the internet and its associated immediacy, combined with the instant gratification of touch screen digital devices, have made personalization the new imperative for every business — including magazines. What does this trend mean for print publishing? How can the industry respond to this pressing consumer demand?
Why does magazine personalization matter?
Consumers are impatient — that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the level of personalization that makes each purchase and product interaction unique to individual customers. Personalization is important to consumers, and companies that fail to respond to this trend will lose customers as a result. In the competitive world of magazine publishing, this signals some potentially disrupting shifts. Managing editors and publishers should be paying attention.
Forbes recently published statistics on personalization and what consumers are expecting from our products today:
- Demand and expectations for personalized products is high: 71% of customers say they’re frustrated by an impersonal shopping experience; 74% say they’re frustrated by impersonal website content.
- Customers are more likely to buy from companies that personalize their experience: 91% say they’re more likely to shop brands that recommend relevant product offers; 80% say they’re more willing to purchase from a brand that is personalized.
- Companies are capitulating to these demands by increasing personalization: 89% of digital businesses are investing in personalization; 98% of marketers say personalization improves the customer relationship.
Personalization is obviously a big deal. But we’ve seen this trend before; what did we learn?
What do we already know?
Magazine personalization isn’t a new concept; custom content in magazines or variable data printing (VDP) has been around for decades. The most popular use of VDP has been to create personalized sales and marketing pieces to engage customers. The magazine publishing industry has been testing customized content since 2007 — when Wired Magazine created customized covers with subscribers’ photos.
In 2011, Hearst Magazines printed 300,000 issues of Popular Mechanics with a customized 16-page insert containing the subscriber’s name, photos of their hometown, and location recommendations for purchasing computer products. These customized pages, which were wildly popular, included QR codes that directed readers to online sweepstakes.
In the current digital era, the next iteration of magazine personalization may be on-demand printing and custom-print magazines. But to really improve our efforts to tailor print publications to individual end users, we need a back-to-basics approach to get to know our customers.
How can magazines personalize their products?
In a print-intensive environment, how feasible is it to actually tailor each piece to the individual? The solution in a volume-centric environment is simple: Know your target audience.
To curate personalized content, you must understand your customer so thoroughly that you can create millions of personalized experiences with one print publication. This requires:
- Knowing the needs, wants, and priorities of your target audience. What motivates and interests them?
- Adopting an agile mindset and production workflow that allows you to change with your audience. Of course, this requires that you have a mechanism in place to measure the changing needs of your subscribers.
- Crafting the magazine for the experience itself. How can you balance mass appeal and personalization?
Creating compelling content isn’t enough anymore. We must marry our products to the customer or lose readers to our digital competitors. Traditional publishing must map the journey of our customers and plan content that fulfills their desires and addresses their pain points.
Contact your Sheridan representative, or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.