Highlights from DSF18: The DOCUMENT Strategy Forum

David Stabel
 Jun 12, 2018

Celebrating its 10th year, the 2018 DOCUMENT Strategy Forum (DSF18) was held last month (May 21 – 23) in downtown Boston, MA. This peer-driven, peer-reviewed, and peer-produced conference is designed to educate professionals on how to deliver and manage customer communications, customer engagement, and information management. As was the case in previous years, the 2018 event offered a wide array of educational sessions, executive round tables, panels, and inspiring keynotes. Visitors had plenty of opportunities to network with industry peers or any of the 44 exhibitors in attendance.

This year’s opening keynote speech was given by Ian Khan, a world-renowned speaker and author. During his keynote entitled “Tomorrow 4.0: Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?”, he asserted that man and machine are coming together in new and unprecedented ways in today’s era of digital disruption.

Industrial revolutions are momentous events, and many experts believe that only a few have occurred to date. The first was triggered in the 1700s by the commercial steam engine and the mechanical loom. The second took place prior to World War I with the harnessing of electricity and mass production. The third occurred when technology shifted from analog electronic and mechanical devices to digital technologies and computers. A number of industry strategists now believe that we have entered the fourth revolution, which builds on the third revolution. It is driven by interconnected digital technologies and has been marked by technological breakthroughs in a number of fields.

During his keynote speech, Khan hinted that we might actually be on the cusp of a fifth Industrial Revolution, which is all about Artificial Intelligence (AI). He believes that many of today’s emerging technologies will impact industries more profoundly in the very near future than they have in the past 500 years.

Timur Kalimov, Vice President of Products and Services at HyperScience, expanded on Khan’s keynote by talking about the claims that vendors make about AI. When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, Kalimov suggests being skeptical of vendors that fall into the following categories:

  • “Singularity” vendors basically claim that their AI solutions can handle everything in terms of performing machine learning. For machine learning to work well, though, the AI solution must develop a painstaking understanding of the specific business problems that the company is working to address. Unfortunately, none of today’s AI solutions have been able to master this capability.
  • “Trainer” vendors promise to deliver a working product after the business has provided its customer data. The challenge is that this data will not usually have been collected with machine learning in mind, and it will often be subject to strict security and privacy constraints. Furthermore, since machine learning is  uncertain by its very nature, it is impossible to know if a functional solution is even a reality at the outset.
  • “Perfectionist” vendors promise 100% automation with no human involvement. The issue with this approach is that neither people nor machines are perfect. The reality is that machines will need human supervision when real-world problems arise.

Another concept that was front and center during the sessions at DSF 18 was the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was officially implemented on May 25, 2018. The legislation is expected to influence the formation of data localization laws on a global basis, and it will likely have a major impact on where and how enterprises do business. During a Compliance Power Session during DSF 18, Lauren Barnes (S&P Global), Kurt Neumann (Prime Therapeutics), Tom Serven (State Street), and Lane Severson (Doculabs) spoke about how today’s businesses can prepare for regulations like GDPR. Although this is a European initiative, GDPR is expected to have wide-ranging implications for companies on a worldwide basis.

According to survey data on Marketing Communications from Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends, only 41% of respondents in North America and 56% of those in Western Europe had already taken steps to prepare for GDPR. Most respondents were at least aware of the regulation, but the share of respondents who were unaware of it was considerably higher in North America than it was in Europe.

Another common theme that came up multiple times during the educational sessions at DSF 18 was the commoditization of the customer experience. Today’s businesses are strongly focused on delivering a better overall experience to increase customer satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty. In response to this, a number of vendors are developing solutions that are designed to improve specific parts of the overall customer experience.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe of DEEP ANALYSIS presented a session on the impact of blockchain during the PFMA Annual Conference, which was co-located with DSF 18. Pelz-Sharpe believes that blockchain—a shared digital ledger for recording the history of transactions—will be the biggest disruptor of business information management in decades.

Blockchain is distributed across a network, so the entire ledger is stored multiple times in various locations. Every computer that is part of the blockchain network will contain a complete copy of the entire ledger. This method of storage is absolutely secure because the ledger in the blockchain is immutable and cannot be changed. This makes it ideal for documenting contracts, legal documents, and other critical documentation along a variety of supply chains.

The 10th annual DOCUMENT Strategy Forum placed a strong focus on transforming processes, the changing regulatory landscape, and disruptive technologies. Artificial Intelligence, regulations like GDPR, the customer experience, and blockchain will continue to shape and reshape our industry. Industry players must keep pace with and react to these new and emerging trends, and educational events like DSF are a great way for service providers and vendors to ensure that they can do just that!

Take the 15 Page a Day Challenge!

Eve Padula
 Oct 2, 2017

The proliferation of social media makes it possible for consumers and businesses to spread the word about events, causes, and pretty much anything faster than ever before. Over the past few years, we’ve seen quite a few social media challenges. Back In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge increased awareness about ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) while also raising $109 million for the charity. During 2016, the Mannequin Challenge became a social media sensation. Not to be outdone, the Paper and Packaging Board issued its own How Life Unfolds challenge of its own over the summer. This 15 Pages a Day Challenge is a paper-based reading program that’s great for people of all ages and literacy levels.

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Move Over Millennials… It’s Time to Think About Generation Z!

Eve Padula
 Mar 13, 2017

Over the past several years, marketers across all industries and categories have become obsessed with Millennials—what are the best ways to reach them and help them form meaningful connections with brands? Because Millennials have a unique sense of self and a non-traditional approach to life stages, marketing to this captivating generation has been a challenge. Marketers are only just beginning to understand Millennials, but there’s a whole new game in town with the rise of Generation Z. This is the first generation of consumers that was born into a digital world, and these individuals don’t know life without the Internet, smartphones, tablets, and social media. What are the best ways to engage with this up-and-coming and always-on generation?

Although generational start and end dates are imprecise, Millennials—also called Generation Y—generally include those individuals born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, Generation Z individuals—also called Post-Millennials or the iGeneration—were born after 1995. As yet, there is little consensus about ending birth years for this group. Millennials were coming into young adulthood at the turn of the century, and the oldest of this group are now about 35. Some have been in the workforce for quite some time and have already begun to reshape Corporate America. The oldest Gen Z individuals are only beginning to graduate from high school/college and enter the professional workforce, so only time will tell what changes this group will bring to the workforce of tomorrow. Gen Zers may be too young to have affected the workplace as yet, but they are already having a profound impact on family purchasing habits and the retail marketplace.

In January 2017, IBM and the National Retail Foundation released a report entitled Uniquely Generation Z: What Brands Should Know About Today’s Youngest Consumers. This report surveyed over 15,000 Gen Z individuals between the ages of 13 and 21 and also conducted interviews with 20 Senior Marketing Executives to determine how these consumers engage with brands. As this generation continues to come of age, they will have a major impact on future communication strategies. Read more »

Rediscovering Real Books in Today’s Electronic Age

Eve Padula
 Aug 16, 2016

Earlier this month, I read a great article in The New York Times about the benefits of reading real books to your children. I’ve been an avid reader all of my life and a mom for nearly three years, so this article piqued my interest. It also got me thinking about how my own reading habits have changed over time.

As a child, I grew up using physical books. Pretty much everything that I read for education or enjoyment was some form of ink on paper. I also grew up using screens—my family had a home computer and TVs, but e-Readers were a long way off at that point. The books that I read were “book books.”

I bought my first iPad about 5 years ago, and my personal reading habits began to change. Although I still have shelves of physical books, most of the books that I purchase these days are in electronic form. My iPad became my library, and although there was still something appealing about ink-and-paper books, I became fully entrenched in electronic reading. I didn’t think I’d ever go back.

Then I became a mom.

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Color Plus Personalization: Selling the Value of Inkjet

Barb Pellow
 Aug 1, 2016

In today’s market, making a good first impression is everything. With information overload at every turn, people will now only glance at a website, mailpiece, or video before deciding whether it’s worth their time. Marketers are seeking strategies to create better pieces with strong visual appeal that prompt the consumer to read further or take action. For many marketers, this means turning to color and personalization.

An Infographic from Kissmetrics on how color can affect conversions highlighted the psychological impact of color on the human brain. Key statistics are as follows:

  • 93% of people say that the visual dimension is the #1 influencing sense that affects their purchasing decision (over taste, smell, etc.).
  • Studies suggest that people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds of initially viewing it. Up to 90% of this assessment is based on color alone.
  • Magazine readers recognize full-color ads 26% more often than black & white ads.

It is no wonder that today’s marketers are focused on adding more and more color to communications. According to InfoTrends’ 2016 State of the Market Study on Customer Engagement Technologies, over 80% of enterprises stated that full-color printing for promotional and transactional communications is important.

Figure 1: How important do you think it is to switch printed communications from black & white to full color?

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According to InfoTrends’ study entitled Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services: A Strategy for Growth, the intelligent use of color in direct mail often generates improved response rates. Full-color images can capture a consumer’s attention with realistic depictions of advertised products. Color can also be used to personalize messages by matching pictures or text to items that the customer has purchased in the past. Furthermore, nearly 49% of consumers reported that seeing color on an envelope had a moderate or major effect on their likelihood of opening it.

The use of color in customer communications is not a new phenomenon. Historically, direct mailers and transactional communication service bureaus have digitally printed in black & white and relied on offset-printed shells to provide color design elements such as logos, highlighted text, and tints. Today, however, digital technologies can deliver near-offset quality and high speeds, all while meeting today’s marketing requirements for 100% variable content and envelope messaging.

For marketers, the inkjet value proposition transcends far beyond cost per print. It offers the ability to deliver color that gets noticed with a completely new approach to communications. Service providers must educate customers about how inkjet technology blends full color with individualized messaging to drive business growth. Print/marketing service providers must articulate how they can support enterprises in delivering communications efficiently and effectively.

The investment in inkjet is about delivering new levels of value to your customer base. Today’s print engines, finishing technologies, and workflow solutions have the flexibility to deliver on the age-old promise of one-to-one personalized messaging in full color. Marketing executives are seeking techniques to improve customer loyalty and grow their businesses with more engaging and dynamic communications. It’s time for service providers to have the right conversations with customers and help them get noticed!


For more information on InfoTrends’ 2016 State of the Market Study on Customer Engagement Technologies or InfoTrends’ Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services study, please contact Keith LaVangie at (781)616-2132 or keith.lavangie@infotrends.com.

Millennials Won’t Respond to Printed Catalogs and Direct Mail, Right? WRONG!

Eve Padula
 Jun 7, 2016

In a world where consumers are inundated by online requests and e-mail messages, printed communications really cut through the clutter and attract attention. Although some might think that tried-and-true marketing methods like direct mail and catalogs primarily appeal to Baby Boomers, InfoTrends’ research shows that even Millennials are responsive to these communications.

In late 2015, InfoTrends conducted a benchmark study entitled Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services: A Strategy for Growth. This effort included an in-depth survey to uncover what the future holds for marketers, consumers, and direct mail printers. The findings from this survey were broken down by age demographic, and respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 are considered Millennials for the purposes of this study. Read more »

CILCs are Catching on Among Pro Photographers – But What’s in a Name?

Eve Padula
 Jan 3, 2013

Terminology within the digital photography market can be ambiguous, especially when the industry has not yet standardized naming conventions. For example, consider the DILC (digital interchangeable lens camera) market and its subcategories. DILC is an umbrella term that incorporates all cameras with interchangeable lenses, but it can be further divided into two major categories–digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras and compact interchangeable lens cameras (CILCs).

At this time, CILCs are primarily separated from DSLRs based on the exclusion of a mirror box, a smaller size, and a lighter weight. Nevertheless, product definitions are still undergoing changes and the lines are blurring all the time. To this point, products like Panasonic’s Lumix GH3 do not contain a mirror box but are roughly the same size and weight of a traditional DSLR. Over time, InfoTrends believes that the distinction between CILCs and DSLRs will disappear, and interchangeable lens cameras will simply be referred to as DILCs. The cameras in this category would then compete head-to-head in terms of features, functionality, and price. Right now, however, the DSLR and CILC subcategories still exist.

According to InfoTrends’ 2012 report entitled Digital Imaging and Professional Photographers, the vast majority of pro photographers currently own DSLRs. Although other camera types are also in use, none are nearly as popular as DSLRs. At the same time, however, the share of professional photographers who reported owning CILCs more than quadrupled year-over-year, rising from just 11% in 2011 to over 49% in 2012. Read more »

Megapixel Smartphones Pose a Threat to the Traditional Digital Camera Market

Eve Padula
 Jul 24, 2012

For as long as mobile phones have included embedded cameras, digital camera vendors have been wondering when–or even if–these handsets would begin to impact traditional digital still camera usage. Until recently, camera phones largely had a complementary effect on digital cameras. Mobile handsets were great for spontaneous photo capture because they were typically carried at all times, but the resulting images were generally low-quality. Meanwhile, digital cameras offered features that were far superior to those of camera phones, including high resolution, optical zoom, and quick shutter speeds. Traditional digital cameras were therefore the go-to devices for milestone events, special occasions, and vacations.

According to InfoTrends’ ongoing research on the mobile imaging market, smartphone adoption is currently exploding. Although less than 4% of respondents to our 2008 mobile imaging end-user survey were smartphone owners, this share had jumped to nearly 46% by 2012.

Figure 1: Share of Smartphone Users, 2008-2012

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Digital Photography and Photo Printing: Moms Rock!

Eve Padula
 May 9, 2012

Just in time for Mother’s Day on May 13th, InfoTrends has released two reports exploring how motherhood affects digital photography and photo printing habits. InfoTrends’ research has long confirmed that mothers are generally more photo-active than other demographic groups. They typically capture, print, and share more of their photos, likely because so many of these photos feature their children.

InfoTrends’ report entitled Motherhood’s Striking Impact on Digital Photography and Photo Printing Habits provides a direct comparison between moms aged 18 to 29 and non-moms within the same age range. In comparing moms and non-moms, we were able to garner additional insight about how non-mothers’ photography behaviors might change as more of them become parents in the future.

In relation to non-moms under the age of 30, moms within the same age range:

  • Use their cameras more frequently: Nearly 68% of moms use their digital cameras multiple times each week, compared to 37% of non-moms.
  • Capture over 50% more photos: Moms report capturing over 198 digital camera photos in a typical three-month period. The average among non-moms was 125.5.
  • Print about twice as many photos: Moms print nearly 54 digital camera photos during a typical 3-month period, compared to about 24 photos for non-moms.

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Hispanics: Increasing Influence and Driving U.S. Market Growth

Eve Padula
 Apr 23, 2012

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic/Latino population grew from 35.3 million in 2000 to nearly 50.5 million in 2010, representing an increase of 43% over the decade. The Hispanic population also accounted for over half of the nation’s population growth during that same timeframe. In 2010, Hispanics accounted for 16% of the U.S. population, and this share is expected to further increase as time goes on. Because the Hispanic population is growing in size and influence, InfoTrends recently published its first report focusing specifically on these individuals.

In April 2012, Nielsenalso released a report exploring the mobile and social behaviors of Hispanic consumers in the United States. Many of the findings in the Nielsen study support InfoTrends’ survey data. The Table below outlines some of the general findings from Nielsen’s report and explains how they correlate to InfoTrends’ survey data.

Nielsen Finding InfoTrends’ Survey Results
The U.S. Hispanic population is generally young. Nearly 51% of Hispanics/Latinos are under the age of 35, compared to just 32% of the total survey base.
  Hispanics reported a mean age of 35.7 years, which is a full 8 years younger than total respondents (43.7 years).
Hispanics are leading the mobile revolution. Nearly 57% of Hispanics own smartphones with cameras, compared to just 43% of total respondents.
  When asked to describe their primary photo capture device, nearly 42% of Hispanics cited a camera phone or smartphone with camera. Among the total respondent pool, this share was under 29%.
Hispanics often lead the general market as Early Adopters of technology. Over 26% of Hispanics considered themselves to be Early Adopters of technology, compared to less than 22% of total respondents. Hispanics were also less likely to categorize themselves as Late Adopters.

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