Conversion

Is Direct Mail Marketing Making a Comeback?

is-direct-mail-marketing-making-a-comeback?

Ahh, direct mail! Does it still ring a bell? You walk out to your mailbox either excited to receive a package or maybe an acceptance letter to your school of choice, or you’re anxiety-riddled because you’re expecting a bunch of bills or, (gasp!) a jury summons. 

If you think about it, direct mail marketing has never really gone away. Even though I pay most of my bills online, I still receive a healthy abundance of junk mail on a weekly basis. Once in a while I’ll receive something of worth, coupons for a free $7 item at Bath and Body Works or 20% off on my next visit to Bed, Bath & Beyond. (Are you starting to see a pattern here?) 

For my birthday every year, I still receive a tangible gift card to my favorite retailers rather than getting one via email, although other businesses still resort to that as well. But what does it all mean?

How come certain businesses still find direct mail marketing as an effective way to stay top of mind and engage with customers? What consumer demands does it still meet? How is its effectiveness measured? Let’s unpack all this, shall we?

Direct Mail Use Cases

With all of the advanced technology we’re leveraging these days using certain algorithms to determine our customers’ buying patterns or metrics indicating how they’re engaging with our websites, why should we summon an original form of outreach to interact with our customers? 

Turns out, direct mail marketing is a robust way to stay connected with your customers through personalization. 

“What you might not know is direct mail can be personalized in virtually all the same ways and proves to be especially powerful in combination with email,” according to Poplar, an API-enabled programmatic platform integrated with Zaius for omnichannel marketing automation. “Just as with email, marketing automation can be used to gather information and send mailers tailored to an individual’s interests and behavior; but the question is, what’s the best way to use it?”

Assuming you’re running your business with the assistance of a CDP (Customer Data Platform), ESP (Email Service Provider) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management), any one of these programs can be integrated with a direct mail marketing campaign. For the purposes of this blog, let’s stick with the example of the CDP.

The personalization aspect comes in with the help of customer merge tags, as they help business owners customize products, services, and advertising to their consumers by combining behavioral data extrapolated from a marketing platform to assemble a more personalized advertising strategy.

Poplar’s examples of Merge Tag use cases include:

  • Creating unique promo codes to track the conversion of each recipient
  • Including eye-catching photos of popular products
  • Emphasizing the customer’s loyalty status with your brand by highlighting the discount they earned and creating a sense of urgency by including a deadline to use it 
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Image Source: Poplar

Merge tags can also help businesses target customers in certain locations such as their city or state to help create a sense of community among consumers.

Some businesses may leverage direct mail to attract certain customers by announcing a sale that is taking place at brick-and-mortar locations in their community or neighborhood shopping center, helping to increase foot traffic at a physical location. 

Another effective way to create a buzz about your brand is to include your social media icons on your mailers and to create awareness about your monthly newsletter. Both of these concepts are illustrated in the ad for AJ’s Fine Foods in the mailer below. 

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Image Source: Laura Dolan

Direct mail is also a good way to raise awareness of a new local business by offering discounts in the way of coupons to attract new customers to a certain franchise, as seen below with Family Care Dental. 

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Image Source: Laura Dolan

Direct mail marketing is another method to attract consumers to your website by including the business’ URL. If your customer data indicates that some individuals may live too far away from your brick-and-mortar location, invite them to make their purchases online, much like Sherwin Williams does below.  

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Image Source: Laura Dolan

Direct Mail Attribution

Once direct mail leaves your business and arrives in your prospect’s mailbox, how do you measure its effectiveness? Keep in mind that direct mail has a slower response rate than digital, as mailers usually take three to five days to be delivered, then it’s a matter of when the customer actually sees it/acknowledges it/uses it. A platform like Zaius’ activated CDP integrated with Poplar can help measure the performance of direct mail campaigns.

Per Poplar, “This is why we typically recommend looking at results only starting 30 days after your campaign hits home – and we usually recommend 90 days for DTC and [ecommerce] brands. In the platform, we let you control your attribution window on a basis of 30, 60, or 90 days.”

Direct mail marketing’s efficacy can be measured by tracking promo code usage or attribution through physical addresses, eliminating the interference of cookie-blockers on websites, which can make for an inaccurate depiction of customer engagement. 

Direct Mail for Customer Nurturing

Some of the most effective ways to use direct mail to attract and nurture customers include:

Triggering Campaigns

Prospecting campaigns executed via direct mail can be risky, but it’s also effective when trying to reach your target audience and capture new leads. You can leverage your CDP, for example, to target new customers with geo targeting and demographic filters to get an idea of who in the area has not yet engaged with your business.

Once that list is assembled in your CDP, you can create custom ads with a postcard template and schedule your mailers to be delivered in a timely fashion, whether it’s to call attention to a special event sale or the opening of a new location. Including a strong call-to-action will always grab the attention of your audience. 

Direct mail creates a tangible connection to your brand – customers can literally hold your information in their hands and learn more about you with the information you provide such as:

  • Physical location
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Social media handles
  • New products
  • A coupon incentive

Marketing through direct mail is also cost-effective for your business. According to Taradel, “The average cost per postcard (postage & delivery included) is between $.29 and $.39 with EDDM®(Every Door Direct Mail).” 

Retargeting Campaigns

Direct mail is also a great opportunity to reach out to existing customers who haven’t interacted with your brand in a while based on their buyer behavior. 

For example, you can reach out to a customer who has abandoned their cart with the item they still haven’t purchased printed on a postcard. Many times, customers will get distracted and forget that they didn’t click the “Place Order” button. This offline tactic will act as a reminder for them to go back and complete their purchase. You can also sweeten the deal by giving them an incentive in the form of a discount on the item or free shipping.

Direct mail marketing can also act as a robust retention booster for upselling and cross-selling campaigns to retarget customers who neglected to buy a complementary item, such as a mouse or an HDMI cable that is compatible with their newly purchased laptop. 

Winback Campaigns

As a last resort for businesses to prevent customer churn, they can leverage their brand’s data to identify when a customer begins to disengage and start a personalized winback campaign that will perpetuate the customer’s involvement with your products and services. 

No matter what type of business you operate, it never hurts to reach out with a friendly mailing telling the customer you miss them and that they’re welcome back to your establishment or website anytime. 

Creating an incentive in the way of a free item with no purchase necessary will help them re-engage by at least getting them in the store or on the website for said free item. Once they come back, you can offer an upsell or cross-sell item to go along with their free purchase.  

Wrapping up

Direct mail seems to be a dying art, as many companies feel digital is the only way to market in the 21st century, but never limit yourself with pragmatic reasoning. Because many businesses feel this way, dare to be different, dare to be bold. Send that postcard. Type up that letter, heck, handwrite it if you have the time and the patience, slap a stamp on it and send it out. Show your customers you’re thinking of them and that you’re devoting the time to meet their needs.

Direct mail marketing is also a great way to perpetuate the post office and keep our economy alive. If you’re a small business, your budget may dip a little with postage costs, but think of the impact you could be making on your prospects and customers. This could be the move that saves your business and helps it thrive for years to come.

Special thanks to our friends at Zaius for their insights on this topic.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA, starting in the early days of online commerce when he achieved Power Seller status through his eBay store. This propelled him to become a co-founder of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. With a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus, where he helps identify, navigate, and accelerate growth in the complex world of commerce.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast and Shopify Founder Stories, a top-rated twice-weekly podcast where he interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands improve efficiencies, grow revenue, profit, and lifetime customer loyalty.

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