Make Your Direct Mail Smarter This Holiday Season

The months leading up to the holidays can be a particularly demanding time for senior-level marketers.

For some retailers, the holidays can account for as much as 30% of annual sales.1

And with customer expectations at an all-time high, marketers are increasingly accountable for their spending and under pressure to show clear-cut business results.2

Fortunately, by implementing various technologies, marketers can better reach customers, and track campaign success to understand what is and isn’t working. Read on to learn how you can use technology to make your direct mail campaigns intelligent for the holiday season.

How to make your holiday mail more sophisticated.

By marrying print and digital, you can ensure that your direct mail campaigns yield powerful insights.3 Consider implementing the following technologies in your next direct mail campaign:

Add a QR code to your mailpiece.

Quick Response (QR) codes, which look like barcodes, can be scanned with a smartphone, prompting a related app or website to open. Think of QR codes as a way to provide your customers and prospects with additional value. In one example, a grocery store retailer used direct mail to send food-themed magnets with QR codes, which, when scanned, allowed customers to instantly buy grocery store items from the comfort of their home.4

Include an NFC chip in your direct mail design.

Embedding Near Field Communication (NFC) microchips in your mailpiece will allow you to instantaneously transmit information through short-range radio waves to NFC-enabled smartphone devices. Unlike QR codes, NFC does not require users to download an app or open a separate web browser, enabling a seamless experience. In one example, a musician engaged her fans by embedding an NFC tag on a mail piece that gave them access to extended album content, including song lyrics, photos and videos.5

Consider incorporating Augmented Reality (AR) in your design.

With AR, you can transform a piece of mail into an interactive experience by layering digital graphics over a physical mail piece. In one example, a surf camp sent a mailpiece featuring an image of waves as the AR trigger that prompted recipients to download the AR app. This in turn, activated the AR experience, which concluded with a promotional offer.6

With each of these technologies — QR, NFC and AR — you’ll be able to gather a rich pool of data and learn about your most-interested customers, allowing you to refine and better target your future direct mail campaigns.7

Add a PURL to your direct mail design.

A PURL is a personalized URL that features the recipient’s name in the link and leads them to a personalized landing page. By including a PURL in your direct mail copy, the recipient can access and complete a response form prepopulated with information from the direct mail. This is a surefire way to capture leads.8

Go one-step further by adding a remarketing code to your PURL.

After a recipient views your mailpiece and visits the personalized landing page, you can then tag them with a cookie so that they can receive an ad later while browsing the internet, redirecting them back to your website to help drive conversions.9

Send your direct mail to a targeted group.

Similar to the above approach, you can serve online ads to the targeted niche group that received your mailpiece to leave a lasting impression.10

In Summary

Direct mail is more intelligent than ever before. Each of the technologies described above can provide you with a rich pool of data, allowing you to better target your customers with more relevant messaging, ultimately resulting in a stronger return on investment.11 Consider how implementing smarter direct mail campaigns can help you reach your marketing and sales goals.

Merging Email and Direct Mail for Powerful Holiday Marketing

For many companies, the holidays are a crucial time to drive business. Marketers need a fine-tuned plan to capitalize on the busy shopping season and attract customers. Some include email in their holiday marketing mix, others choose to focus on direct mail. But choosing one channel over the other could do your business a disservice.

By combining email and direct mail, you can target and convert consumers even more effectively. For example, in one study, businesses increased their order value by more than $3 when using the two mediums combined; they also saw a 25% response rate.1 Learn about the benefits of email and direct mail, and best practices for creating a campaign that uses both channels in sync.

Two Potent Channels

Email and mail can make a real impact on holiday sales.

Email has serious reach.

eMarketer estimates that there will be 253.4 million email users in the US in 2018, accounting for nearly 90.6% of internet users and 77% of the population. By 2021, that number will grow to 266.3 million users.2

Direct mail has a high return on investment (ROI).

A 2016 report showed that, in the US, direct mail has a 27% median ROI.3

Email campaigns convert more with a house list.

The same report showed the following conversion rates:

House list rates:

  • 21% open rate
  • 10% click through rate
  • 5.5% conversion rate

Prospect list rates:

  • 16.4% open rate
  • 5.9% click through rate
  • 4.3% conversion rate4

Personalization makes a difference for both channels.

One study showed that brands that personalize the subject lines of their emails experience 27% higher unique click rates and 11% higher open rates than those that do not personalize their promotional emails.5

By personalizing a direct mail campaign with a customer’s name and location, one company achieved a 9.7% conversion rate.6

Using both channels in tandem can capture more consumer attention during the holidays.

According to a study by Canada Post, marketing campaigns that integrate direct mail and digital media hold 39% more of a customer’s time than digital campaigns alone.7

Consumers prefer email and direct mail during the holidays.

A 2017 survey showed that Internet users most preferred email and direct mail to receive their holiday deals.8

How to Create a Multichannel Campaign

Consider these best practices when implementing a holiday campaign featuring email and direct mail.


  1. 1. Decide on the optimal timing.

    When planning a direct mail and email campaign, mail is typically the first touchpoint. Once the mailpiece is sent, choose two to four different moments to send out emails. The first email should go out a week after the mailing to keep the original mailing top-of-mind. Send the other emails a few days apart to not overwhelm the recipient. According to HubSpot, Tuesday is the best day of the week to send an email, while 11 am ET sees the highest email click-through rates.9


  2. 2. Make sure your branding aligns.

    Creative elements in the mailpiece and subsequent emails should match. Leverage the copy and visuals you’re using for your holiday campaigns in both. For example, your holiday tagline can be used in header copy of the mailpiece and the subject line of your first email or its body copy. Be sure your mail and email also leads to the same final touchpoint – whether it’s your website or a holiday microsite.


  3. 3. Personalize the content.

    Help boost conversion rates by personalizing the copy in your mailpiece. For example, you could include the name of the recipient in header copy and customize content in the rest of the mailpiece to their specific customer segment. For the first email sent out, consider including the recipient’s name in the subject line. This small change can bump up email open rates and direct mail responses.


  4. 4. Use a comprehensive mailing list for your campaign.

    Creating a house or prospect list for your campaign will be more complicated, since you’ll need to match email addresses to physical addresses. For a house list, work with your internal teams to merge the address data you already have. For a prospect list, work with a list supplier that can tap into a multichannel database. You don’t want to buy a list that’s missing email or physical address information for the same prospect.


  5. 5. Consider using programmatic mail instead of a list.

    The latest trend in direct mail leverages programmatic technology to send personalized mailpieces triggered by digital interactions. You’ll need to be sure the programmatic database has customer information that includes email and physical addresses. Once a visitor interacts with a specific touchpoint on your site—whether your homepage, a category page or product page—the programmatic technology will send a mailpiece within 24-48 hours of the interaction.

Summary

Nailing down the right marketing mix during the holidays is crucial for year-round success. Sync up your email and direct mail efforts instead of choosing one channel over the other. With a well-timed, well-designed campaign, your business could see increased sales during the holidays.

3 Companies Talk Holiday Shopping, Abandoned Shopping Carts and Programmatic Mail

Abandoned shopping cart rates are a burden for many businesses, especially so during the holidays. In fact, 3 out of 4 shoppers never complete the intended purchase on a site.1 And with the holidays driving a frenzy of online shopping, those rates can be even more problematic.

To combat this problem, companies have turned to a new marketing tool: programmatic mail or, in simpler terms, automated mail triggered by programmatic technology. Programmatic technology monitors users’ digital behaviors to trigger personalized mail that’s sent within 24-48 hours while brands are still top of mind. We spoke to three vendors about the role programmatic mail has played in their clients’ marketing. Read on to hear from executives at Printing for Less, Amazingmail and Amplified Mail.

What is a common holiday concern for the brands you work with?

“We recognize there is always a percentage of people that prefer to shop around and add products to the shopping cart for future orders. We find holiday time intensifies abandoned shopping cart rates because people are purposely window-shopping and holding before making an educated purchase.”
—Devin Smalley, Director of Program Management, Amplified Mail

“Abandoned shopping carts are certainly a concern and big focus for our B2C customers year-round. B2B customers don’t necessarily have abandoned carts but are often concerned with abandoned sales cycles or deals that have suddenly gone cold.”
—Frances McCutchon, Director of Marketing, Printing for Less

“Shopping cart abandonment is a significant issue for our brands. Many employ a cross-channel strategy to address it.”
—Dave Olesen, Executive Vice President, Amazingmail

How do you leverage programmatic mail to target abandoned shopping cart rates and lower them?

“Overall, we work on constant improvements to lower abandoned shopping carts. It can be difficult to accomplish. Our focus continues to be re-engaging potential customers with programmatic direct mail or email to bring them back quickly for a completed shopping cart order. On average, we wait two days before sending an email if the mailpiece is First-Class. Waiting time is longer for standard, marketing-class mailpieces.”
—Devin Smalley, Director of Program Management, Amplified Mail

“Both B2C and B2B businesses combat abandoned shopping carts and sales cycles by triggering direct mail through our company’s customer relationship management system (CRM) and marketing automation platform (MAP) integrations. When the CRM or MAP signals that an item has been left in a cart, programmatic direct mail, or tactile marketing automation as we like to call it, triggers a data-driven direct mailpiece to be sent.

Programmatic direct mail leverages variable fields which populate text and images unique to the receiver. In the abandoned shopping cart case, you could automatically populate the direct mailpiece with an image of the item left in the cart and the person’s name in the copy.”
—Frances McCutchon, Director of Marketing, Printing for Less

Why is programmatic mail an effective medium in this regard for combatting high abandoned shopping cart rates?

“People are growing more and more conditioned to ignore digital messages—and are especially overwhelmed by the quantity of messages during the holidays—so a personalized print piece stands out and gets noticed. Print is inherently more engaging and memorable too, so customers are more likely to follow up and complete a transaction.”
—Frances McCutchon, Director of Marketing, Printing for Less

“We believe programmatic mail is not effective on its own. There are analytics that show segments of our population are impacted by direct mail. We have seen for years that adults 50 and older tend to have higher direct mail response rates than younger age groups. However, recent numbers show us that 25- to 35-year-olds are responding well, specifically when it comes to programmatic mail. Our goal is using direct mail as our primary medium, but it’ essential to integrate additional mediums based on what we know about the consumer.
—Devin Smalley, Director of Program Management, Amplified Mail

“It has been demonstrated by USPS-sponsored neuroscience research that digital and physical advertising are complementary.2 In the case of cart abandonment, buyers hesitate for one reason or another. There is pause and reservation. The use of a physical advertisement has been shown to have “a longer-lasting impact than digital” and may serve to increase confidence in a brand. Moreover, there appears to be a ‘greater subconscious value and desire for products advertised in a physical format.’2
—Dave Olesen, Executive Vice President, Amazingmail

Do you have real-world examples of companies who have succeeded at lowering abandoned shopping carts with programmatic mail?

“We have one customer who focuses on selling blinds and curtains. They use [a marketing automation software] to listen for cancelled consultation appointments and also for people who have not purchased 20 days post-consultation. Those data points trigger personalized postcards that include a limited-time discount offer.

The customer just started with this program, so no hard numbers yet, but it is a great example of how tactile marketing automation helps you to send relevant offers to those who it will impact most. Customers not only automate their direct mail programs and cut out messy spreadsheets, but they can optimize their direct mail spend by letting the data dictate who deserves a printed piece.”
—Frances McCutchon, Director of Marketing, Printing for Less

“Yes, we have seen success using programmatic mail for [an automobile client’s] web portal software business. One of our web portals for the company produces millions of mailpieces on a monthly basis. We measure users and web actions on our portal and make decisions to contact them based on mail templates they look at and other data fed to and from the website.

In another area of the business, we leverage car technology to trigger direct mail. Consumers around the country drive [these] vehicles with connected systems that track vehicle performance. When an alert lamp comes on in a vehicle, our website is notified within minutes. In some cases, this data triggers direct mail to be sent to the consumer with a call to action and offer personalized to the consumer’s dealer and service needs.”
—Devin Smalley, Director of Program Management, Amplified Mail

In Summary

The holidays are a crucial time to convert customers and lower abandoned shopping cart rates. Thanks to the quick turnaround of programmatic mail, companies have been able to move the needle on this important statistic. By sending timely direct mail based on a customer’s digital behavior, you too can help your holiday business with this marketing tool.

How Informed Delivery® Can Triple the Impact of your Marketing Message

In a world inundated by ads, it can be challenging as a business to reach your audience effectively. Help your marketing messages make a greater impact. With Informed Delivery® from the United States Postal Service, you can connect one direct mail campaign with potential customers three times: through email, digital ride-along content and the mail piece itself. Watch our video to see how your direct mail can reach customers in the physical and digital worlds, and help deliver improved sales and ROI.

How to Work with Your Carrier to Strengthen Your Holiday Shipping Operations

With eCommerce to account for 17% of the total retail sales market by 20221, shipping and logistics managers are facing increasing pressure to orchestrate their fulfillment operations successfully. This is especially true during the holidays, which, for some retailers, accounts for 30% of total retail sales.2

Because of this, planning for the holiday season can be stressful. You might worry that your current shipping options won’t meet your business needs during the holiday rush. However, you can put your mind at ease knowing that there is likely a solution. Read on to learn how establishing a good working relationship with your day-to-day shipping carrier can benefit your business operations leading into the holiday season.

“…shipping and logistics managers are facing increasing pressure to orchestrate their fulfillment operations successfully.”

How a Carrier Can Help Improve Your Operations

By establishing open lines of communication with your shipping carrier, you can:

Proactively create a holiday game plan.

Instead of last minute scrambling around the holidays, set up a tight plan of action with your carrier ahead of time. This plan could include the timing of your holiday shipping needs, when you’ll need shipping materials by, the costs involved and how you and your carrier will tackle issues that arise. You can also ask your carrier how they handle the increase in volume during the holidays, which will enable you to plan, anticipate and avoid setbacks. Ultimately, by connecting person-to-person with your carrier and having these conversations, you’ll be able to improve your working relationship and craft a plan that accounts for your holiday shipping needs while providing you with a greater sense of trust in your carrier.

Confirm your pick-up and delivery schedule.

Rather than adjusting your business model to fit set timeframes, work with your carrier to find a schedule that works best for your business needs. This should specify where, when and how often the carrier should ideally pick up and deliver items.

Adjust quickly to unforeseen events.

The holidays can be a particularly chaotic time, which means you should expect the unexpected. With a close working relationship with your carrier, it is easier to communicate last minute changes or needs on your end, such as additional pick-ups needed due to an influx of express or last minute orders. See if you can establish a local contact and find out the best way to reach them through email or phone, so you can stay in close contact.

How a Company Leveraged a Relationship with their Carrier

Vermont Teddy Bear Company—a company that delivers teddy bears around the country—found that working closely with USPS opened up shipping options, such as free Saturday delivery and flat, regional or Priority Mail Express® services. With these options, the company can be confident that customers will receive products by a specific date. Given the time sensitive nature of their business, as many customers order teddy bears for birthdays and other celebrations, these shipping options are imperative for their business to succeed. With no additional surcharge for Saturday delivery3, they gain an extra delivery day and can even get some of their last minute Friday orders delivered the next day.4,5

In Conclusion

By establishing a strong working relationship with your shipping carrier, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and quickly problem solve, which can ultimately help your business’ productivity.

The Most Important Dates on the 2018 Retail Holiday Calendar

When it comes to the holidays, retail businesses must keep a laser focus on the busiest season of the year. The final months of the year are filled with shipping deadlines, peak shopping days and peak return days. Beyond capitalizing on profits, businesses can get an early start making decisions about stock replenishment, holiday marketing and return communications—all by using the calendar below.1 Print it, bookmark it or download it for easy access in the busy season ahead.

Important 2017 Retail Shopping Dates

When it comes to the holidays, retail businesses must keep a laser focus on the busiest season of the year. The final months of the year are filled with peak shopping days and peak return days. To help capitalize on profits, we’ve made sure to note 2016’s highest grossing billion-dollar shopping days. Get an early start making decisions about stock replenishment, holiday marketing and return communications—all by using the calendar below. Print it, bookmark it or download it for easy access in the busy season ahead.

2017 Holiday Shopping Trends

The holidays might be a while away, but if you are a sales-oriented business, it’s never too soon to start planning. For many retailers, particularly those in ecommerce, the holiday shopping season is the biggest and busiest time of year. And, it’s expected to only get bigger with a projected 15.8 percent climb in ecommerce for the 2017 holiday season1.

To prepare your business for what lies ahead, it’s helpful to start by studying customers’ expectations and where and when the spending took place in the previous year. Ready to dive in to see what’s in store for 2017?

What to Expect this Holiday Season

  1. Consumers are shopping last minute. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday generate buzz online and offline, last year the majority of consumers shopped in the weeks following Cyber Monday2. This is due to several factors including retailers extending cyber sales and better online shipping options3.

  2. Online and mobile shopping will continue to grow. Last year, over half of consumers shopped online for gifts, with 20 percent using their mobile devices4. And, as companies work to refine their omnichannel strategies to accommodate a generation of mobile-friendly consumers, ecommerce will likely continue to dominate.

  3. Consumers are hunting for bargains. Last year, 73.3 percent of customers relayed that the top factor for choosing a retailer during the holiday season was sales or price discounts5. Given this, retailers should make compelling offers to increase their competitiveness.

  4. Consumers want shipping deals too. In 2016, 48 percent of customers said free shipping and shipping promotions was a key factor in purchasing from a retailer, the highest ever6. When planning for the 2017 holiday shopping season, companies should consider integrating free shipping promotions if they haven’t already.

  5. Companies garner more consumer support when they contribute to the quality of peoples’ lives. Today’s consumers are more willing to spend money on brands that they believe are meaningful and will enhance their personal wellbeing and the causes and communities they care about. A study found that for every 10 percent increase in meaningfulness a company can increase its purchase and repurchase intent for consumers by 10 percent and 5 percent respectively7.

In Summary

For the 2017 holiday shopping season, making buying exciting, affordable and easy, as well as getting merchandise into customers’ hands in a timely, affordable fashion, are important factors for retailers to consider when planning their retail strategies. As the above insights suggest, customers will be shopping for the best deals with the quickest delivery turnaround and they’ll expect shipping costs to be part of the deals offered. Start planning your promotions now to have an amazing holiday season of sales.