By Ellie-Rose Davies, Content Executive at IMRG

Customers are often overwhelmed by the number of products marketed to them online, and even excellent campaigns get lost in the mix when customers have too many retailers to choose from.

One way to differentiate yourself from competitors is through using direct mail. Customising this mail, such as brochures, catalogues, flyers, and promotional cards, can effectively capture the attention of your desired customers and boost your chances of success.

Read on to discover why direct mail can be worthwhile, with a focus on:

  • How useful direct mail is in a predominately digital age
  • The best time to use direct mail in your campaign
  • How to personalise the experience for greater ROI

The usefulness of direct mail today

Recent IMRG research revealed that 195 of 1000 customers have stopped purchasing from a brand because of too many digital ads and 371 customers stopped purchasing from a brand because of too many ads on social platforms. This is not to say that retailers should reduce their marketing efforts online, but it does suggest that there is value in also exploring alternate means of advertising.

Interestingly, direct mail was voted the least important activity for growth this year out of nine options in IMRG’s survey of 95 UK ecommerce leaders. However, knowing that many customers become irritated when bombarded with products digitally, direct mail may be an effective strategy to boost positive customer engagement.

Direct mail campaigns can generate 112% ROI, which is a 19% improvement over email campaign ROI, as explored in the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Response Rate report. Therefore, sole reliance on email campaigns might not be the best approach, especially as IMRG data revealed that 38.9% of 1000 customers often or always unsubscribe from retailers’ emails, most commonly because they’re too frequent.

Abby Wong, VAT Consultant at Sovos sums it up well, voicing that ‘While direct mailing was an effective form of marketing that appeared to be getting phased out for a period with the introduction of email and other digital marketing tools, it’s making a comeback as a powerful tool in grabbing the attention from the public.’

She continues, ‘In this digital age, people are now more eager to open a letter from their post boxes than an email found in their inboxes filled with more than hundreds of unopened emails, let alone the elderly who are not familiar with emails and social media.’

Alongside this, to incorporate it smoothly, Abby urges retailers to consider the ‘relevant VAT implications, with the purchase of paper, envelopes, stamps, etc.’

The best time to use direct mail

Each stage of your campaign can be optimised by sending out the communication at specific times. Retailers can consider the time of year they’re sending the direct mail, for example, a summer catalogue featuring summer-orientated products, and they can tune in to current trends or issues.

Time of the day is another consideration. For example, retailers may send it first thing in the morning before their target audience leaves for work, or in the late evening once they have returned, or perhaps at lunchtime when the work-from-home population has time to check out their post.

Daylight saving time change, spring forward

Sean Sherwin-Smith, Product Director Post-Purchase at nShift offers his insight on the best time to send direct mail, commenting ‘Whether by post, email, or social apps, it is becoming harder to engage directly with customers. The one exception is when people are expecting a delivery or looking to return or exchange something they’ve already bought.’

‘nShift data shows customers are far more likely to engage with communications at these points,’ says Sean. ‘They present great opportunities for brands to present new offers to customers, drive footfall in-store, or turn loss-making refunds into more valuable exchanges.’

When sending direct mail, Stuart Watt, Head of Global Commercial Data at Loqate emphasises that ‘One of the most important factors to get right is your audience. Even a strong offer will fail if you send it to the wrong people or at the wrong time.’

Stuart highlights how ‘11% of consumers move every year in the UK, so cleaning your data, and identifying home movers is vital. If you don’t, you get hit twice in the pocket – firstly the cost of production and postage, secondly through the missed opportunity of making a sale. And of course, your brand is not reinforced in the mind of your customer, so no word-of-mouth and the potential of the customer switching.’

Considering all of this when sending direct mail will ensure, in Stuart’s words, that retailers ‘do not fall down at the first hurdle.’

The ways to personalise direct mail

Although direct mail is sometimes seen as a basic and impersonal form of communication, this is rarely the case if it is optimised with the customer in mind. Yet, IMRG research has shown that just 8.1% of customers feel like physical product catalogues offer products that are most relevant to them, meaning that more consideration is required to personalise the experience.

Thorunn Devoy, Head of Partnerships at Talon.One explores this in detail, stating that ‘Direct mail has gone through a transformation in recent years: previously brands needed to rely on simple, overly-broad direct mail campaigns that wasted budgets and left revenue on the table. But by integrating data-based personalisation into their direct mail efforts, companies can now cater to diverse market segments and offer tailored promotions at scale.’

‘Instead of offering a generic promotion on a certain skincare line, for example, a cosmetics company could instead personalise their direct mail campaigns with offers based on a user’s purchasing history and known preferences.’ To do this effectively, Thorunn suggests for retailers to ‘add personalised direct mail campaigns to the journey builder within their marketing cloud, making sure their outreach is carefully tailored and executed to increase conversions.’

Looking at this further, Heath Barlow, VP EMEA at Emarsys, an SAP company says that ‘Through experimentation, retailers can gain wider insights into how products should be presented for the best engagement. But also, offering personalised and exclusive promotions to select customers through direct mail can help them to associate the channel as a particularly premium channel – and one in which their specific preferences are recognised.’

Subsequently, direct mail, as a ‘part of a wider omnichannel strategy’, is ‘an effective tool for driving repeat sales, increasing website traffic, and strengthening customer loyalty’, says Heath.

As with all marketing techniques, tuning into who your customer is and what their preferences are is a key driver of campaign success, such as during Black Friday, when customers will be met with a vast number of campaigns online – but not so many at their door.

Want to read more? Here are some other IMRG blogs that cover a range of ecommerce topics:

Crafting The Ideal Retail Discovery Experience With AI – IMRG

The EU Price Indication Directive: What it is and why it matters for UK retailers – IMRG

Let’s BeReal About The Power Of Social Commerce – IMRG

5 Packaging Trends In 2023! – IMRG

Navigating The Shift From Universal Analytics (UA) To Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – IMRG

Published 31/08/2023




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