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How to Unlock the Power of Data Driven Direct Mail

April 23, 2021
By Lizzie Hoffman

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Digital channels are growing more and more saturated. Why? Well, to put it simply, it costs virtually nothing to send an email, so companies send lots of them. However, there's been a recent resurgence in eCommerce and retail returning to direct mail. We'll dive into why this is, learn about the power of personalization, ways to improve offline retargeting, and how to properly attribute customer purchases to direct mail.

Why return to direct mail?

As email inboxes are incredibly cluttered and actual physical mailboxes remain empty, many brands are starting to run more direct mail campaigns in parallel with their digital marketing campaigns. The reality is, direct mail is the one marketing channel where you can get that person’s undivided attention.

When coupled with the right data you can place a very relevant personalized offer physically in front of your target audience while having their attention all to your own. There are just not many channels that allow you to do that.

Does direct mail really perform?

In short, direct mail consistently outperforms email, and is kind of a novelty today. It might be cheaper in the short term to generate email campaigns, but investing in direct mail can have long-term success due to its continued novelty. That’s why consumer’s report both liking and taking the time to read direct mail pieces.

In fact, up to 90% of direct mail gets opened, compared to only 20-30% of emails and, per USPS, 98% of people check their mail daily and spend upwards of 30 minutes with their physical mail on a single occasion.

So, why isn't direct mail more popular?

Historically, direct mail has been used primarily for broad-based spray and pray acquisition campaigns. You know, the kind that are either sent to all residents within a specific area or those that use rented lists of prospects. Add to this that it's typically seen as resource-heavy (read: $$ and time-intensive) to build the creative and execute with little to no way to track ROI.

And this hesitation is understandable due to brands' cost assumptions of cost and (potentially limited) ability to personalize. But, we're in the middle of a pandemic, and this provides brands an opportunity unlike ever before. More people are working from home and will continue to do so; Because they’re working from home, online browsing behavior and habits have changed dramatically, leading to more eyeballs on the mail in the mailbox than the digital content in the inbox.

Will we see more direct mail use in the future?

Let's take a step back to consider the way customer databases are built; these CRMs allow brands to see a full picture of their customer's digital behavior and tie that back to their offline behavior.

Companies like Lob even provide coupon codes or user codes in the direct mail pieces so you can specifically tie an offline conversion back to the individual in your CRM. This, then, allows the marketing team to decipher whether it was the digital or offline communication that brought them back.

Evolving Direct Mail Technology

Taking a deeper dive into the technology improvements in the direct mail world, here are some of the key elements that now allow marketers to execute it easy as email.

  • per mail piece tracking analytics
  • QR codes
  • easy integration with marketing automation, CRM or CDP systems

These alone are increasing the number of creative use cases for direct mail daily.

How can I use direct mail for retargeting?

As we mentioned previously, digital advertising is so easy to execute that it has become saturated. This means customers now tune it out, find it annoying, and almost scary or fraudulent. Let’s be honest, how many times have you been retargeted and been a bit creeped out that you were being followed? Even as a data company, we understand this feeling. It's not a great one.

Direct mail has a 13x (130%) higher response rate than email, and that triples if the recipient already has a relationship with your brand. This means companies are finding success when using it to

  • re-activate dormant customers
  • communicate with email unsubscribers
  • turn browsers into purchasers
  • impact lifecycle marketing campaigns.

Despite this, direct mail still has a (false) reputation for being harder and more expensive to execute. But, 76% of consumers consider it to be a trustworthy channel when making purchase decisions. So we think it's worth the investment, and it doesn't have to break the bank.

What are some common direct mail marketing hurdles?

The truth of the matter is most sites, right now, just collect your email address in order to receive their offers or newsletters. This means there are large data gaps - especially contact and address information. And if you're trying to set up a direct mail campaign, this is an obvious, huge hurdle that prevents companies from fully leveraging direct mail in lifecycle campaigns.

Additionally, anonymous web browsers can leave a lot of affinity and intent information but they’re clearly not identifying themselves. And, of course, there's the ever-present mental hurdle of direct mail's reputation; most brands assume it's too time-consuming and expensive to get done. 

In the end, there's just a general lack of understanding that easy-to-use, impactful technology exists to make direct mail a very viable successful channel. With the onset of the pandemic, digital channels were pushed to their breaking point, leaving marketers looking for ways to differentiate themselves and target the consumers at home.

When the time came to use direct mail, many clients found it to be a faster, less expensive way to execute campaigns that would allow them to adapt to the ever-changing world events.

How can I personalize my direct mail campaigns?

Like digital or email campaigns, direct mail can be personalized for greater impact. Brands can feature specific product lines based on a customer’s online browsing behavior. Or even utilize basic demographic data to put relevant content or images into the piece.

Some examples of this include highlighting:

  • replacement purchases
  • related products/services based on purchase history

If there are gaps in your personalization data within your CRM, there are services like Email Intelligence that can provide the behavioral and demographic data you need to create the right list segmentation and unique mail pieces that engage prospects at the mailbox. 

Reversing the negative reputation of direct mail

Traditionally seen as an expensive, time-consuming marketing channel, direct mail has seen new life thanks to easy-to-use, easy-to-integrate technology that's accessible for brands at various price points.

In an era where the inbox is about to burst and more people are working from home, and are, therefore, much closer to their mailboxes throughout the day, direct mail is a great tool to increase omni-channel marketing success, improve your ROI, and connect with customers using personalized mail content.

If you'd like to learn more about Lob's direct mail automation or postal address verification, click here. And if you have an email database but little to no postal data, click the button below to learn about our Postal Append services.

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