How Which? boosted marketing efficiency: improving new subscriber welcome packs production process

This case study outlines how marketing production specialist Charterhouse, responded to a brief to improve marketing efficiency and reduce postage costs at Which?, replacing a manual process with a data-driven document composition and fulfilment system. The solution also enables Which? to test new subscription offers and tailor communications, honouring its commitment to customer satisfaction.

Europe’s largest consumer rights organisation, Which? was determined to develop a more efficient way of producing and sending welcome packs to new subscribers to its magazines. It appointed Charterhouse, the marketing services production specialist, to work with its marketing operations project team to develop a solution that would reduce the proportion of time it spent managing stock and simplify the welcome pack content, which then included five separate inserts. Which? set Charterhouse a target of achieving this while reducing postage costs by 20%. The existing process was lengthy and demanded a high quantity of pre-printed template variations to be kept in stock for lasering. Once a new magazine subscriber’s data had been entered onto the system, the most appropriate welcome letter was then manually selected from a database of hundreds of individual files. The approval process for making changes to the welcome pack templates could also be time consuming. Altering text was a manual process over multiple templates that could take up to a week to approve.Which? was keen to replace this time consuming process and reduce the large stockpiles of stationery to drive new efficiencies and increase the flexibility of the welcome pack content. StrategyWith the aim of freeing up internal resource at Which?, a project team was set up to review every stage of the production process and identify opportunities for automation. This team consisted of data experts from Charterhouse and key stakeholders from Which? who worked together to define the complete fulfilment workflow. Together, they outlined the exact requirements and key milestones for the project. The strategy was to eliminate the manual process and replace the existing welcome pack with a highly personalised letter. This automated workflow would not only improve efficiency, but also enable Which? to update the content templates quickly and easily. This user-friendly document composition and fulfilment system was to be based on clear customer data gathered by Which? and processed by Charterhouse.The new system would also give Which? increased flexibility to accommodate individual needs and preferences. This put Which? firmly in the driving seat to continue to maintain high levels of efficiency and customer service. ImplementationThe Which?/Charterhouse project team developed a bespoke system dubbed ‘HAROLD’ that was rigorously tested for different scenarios using dummy data. It also created a staging site for ongoing testing, which will continue to run alongside the core workflow for the sole purpose of testing new subscription offers and campaigns. In order for the new system to run efficiently, Which? was required to ‘tag’ the text areas that could be selected for inclusion in the welcome pack. These tags marry with the database and allow for maximum personalisation. It also agreed to maintain a record of changes to the magazines that would update the welcome pack content automatically.The Which?/Charterhouse project team replaced the hundreds of individual files required under the previous system with a single, user-friendly database. As part of this new automated system, the team devised a dynamic proofing platform allowing Which? to instantly create a PDF of any letter and fast track the approval process. The introduction of HAROLD revamped the way that data is processed, manipulated and analysed by Which? Each letter now consists of a highly tailored combination of text, images and signatories to appeal to each individual subscriber.

New welcome letter

Individual subscription offers can also be sent to HAROLD using a dedicated ‘source code’ which translates into a ‘treatment code’ determining the content of the welcome pack. This functionality allows Which? to assess demand for certain publications and offers over time, adding a strategic business role to the new system. ConclusionWith the streamlining and automation of the new system, turnaround times of letter updates have fallen from one week to just one day. Day to day stock control was simplified, reducing the amount of staff resource required to manage it and allowing the team to redistribute vital resource to additional marketing activity.The original welcome pack included five marketing inserts to supplement the generic letter template. These inserts are no longer required with the fully variable and personalised letters that can be created using the new system. The personalised letters make sure that all marketing communications are now fully targeted and negate the need for stockpiling stationery. The physical reduction of materials has driven down the average postage cost of each welcome pack from £1.80 to £0.72 representing a 60% saving. This is a vast improvement on the 20% saving target set at the beginning of the project. HAROLD enables data to be analysed more effectively by being able to report on the pack content and the date of despatch for each customer via the unique membership number. The highly personalised communications that Which? now delivers are simplified and more targeted, helping subscribers to enjoy an improved experience that is personalised to their needs.Which? continues to benefit from a more efficient and cost-effective production and fulfilment process that helps maintain its excellent customer service levels. With this data management system in place, opportunities for increasingly tailored and enhanced communications will be plentiful for Which? in the future.