In the frenetic pace of our digital world, physical mail has secured its position as a credible communications channel with staying power and popularity. In fact, a Royal Mail study of mail users in the United Kingdom found 87% of customers rate mail as believable, compared to 48% for email, and 65% of customers are likely to give it their full attention.1
Small and medium-sized businesses know this. Sending invoices and other client communications by physical mail is a daily occurrence for them, but many are generating unnecessary costs. Without knowing the exact postage for a mailpiece, senders find themselves estimating costs, resulting in postal surcharges and delays or even returned mail.
Metered mail can help prevent all these issues. Read on to learn the value of this service when it comes to postage and the benefits of using digital meters.
The Perks of Metered Mail
Metered mail allows small and medium businesses to use a meter to print postage on mailpieces as proof of payment. By leveraging this service, businesses could easily simplify their mail process. They could also improve accuracy and save money.
A meter’s built-in scale is designed to accurately weigh everything from postcards to packages, removing the guesswork and ensuring senders pay exactly the right postage every time. Meters also offer discounts unavailable in a Post Office™ retail location or when using stamps. As of January 2019, using a postage meter saves $0.05 per piece for envelopes up to 3.5 ounces, lowering the cost of your postage to $0.50 for First-Class Mail® letters weighing 1 ounce or less.
Save Time and Boost Your Brand
Replacing manual mail operations with a meter saves time, the most valuable asset. In a Pitney Bowes study, 37% of small businesses said that finding time to go to a Post Office retail location was their biggest hassle in regard to sending mail.2 Meters eliminate this, giving businesses back valuable time that can be spent on growing their business.
Meters also boost the professional look of business mail, as a company logo or personalized message can be printed on the envelope, boosting brand visibility.
The Next Generation of Meters
Today’s meters integrate advanced digital technology with design innovation. Some models even use Android® operating systems, so it’s as easy as using a smartphone, with convenient functionality and a simple interface. It helps businesses select the ideal sending option for every letter, flat and parcel they send, while delivering savings and helping track costs.
Older analog connected meters still have a place in many mailrooms across the world today, and for some organizations, they are a viable and effective option. However, it’s worth taking some time to consider the benefits of digital meters.
Digital is faster and more flexible.
A dial-up Internet connection can vary from 1.2 to around 56 kilobytes per second. A digital connection is 100 megabytes per second, which could make it up to a thousand times faster than the connection of an analog meter. By connecting to Wi-Fi or Local Area Networks, digital meters don’t vie for Internet access with your other communications technology. Also, if you connect via wireless and switch offices, your meter can move with you.
Rate changes and software updates are simple and precise.
These inevitably require preparation and attention. Without a meter, businesses must remember to accurately factor in the cost of the new rates into their postage. With an analog meter, time is spent establishing a connection first before information can be transferred, then there is the additional need to wait for the downloading and installation of new rates for a rate change, for example. A digital system is always connected, so rates can be updated anytime.
Digital meters provide enhanced accounting.
They allow you to track how much your business spends on postage down to the product level. You can also measure what time of the year your spending goes up or down.
Digital connections are reliable and future-proof.
If an analog line disconnects while trying to credit your meter before a mailing, it can cost you time and productivity. The copper analog network can also be costly to maintain and vulnerable to service outages. In the future, service providers are likely to become less willing to provide and support analog connections. Digital meters help alleviate this concern.
Digital meters can generate additional savings.
An analog-connected meter requires a dedicated phone line, which for most businesses is an incremental cost they often overlook. Many organizations are already paying for broadband, so there is no additional cost for a digital meter connection, and no need for the analog line.
Today’s connected customer draws information from a diversity of platforms but the value of physical mail remains. Postage meters help ensure that businesses continue to benefit from this vital customer engagement channel, while optimizing their budgets.
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Looking to learn more about metered mail? Speak to a USPS representative.
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Mail is a cornerstone for many successful businesses. Sending monthly statements and occasional postcard campaigns helps companies grow and thrive.
As the volume of mail grows, many businesses find it hard to get to a Post Office™ location to calculate the exact postage for each piece. Instead, they estimate postage to save time, which ends up costing them.
One solution to save time and money? A postage meter. This tool makes sending mail quicker, less expensive and more customized. Here, we’ll highlight four benefits of having your own postage meter.
For a more in-depth analysis of metered mail’s benefits, see our article, “Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters”.
Save on postage
Instead of estimating postage by using traditional stamps, you can weigh each piece you send—whether it’s a letter or a package—and pay the exact postage required.
Plus, as of January 2019, USPS® offers businesses that use postage meters a $.05 discount on every First-Class Mail® letter they send. The savings adds up: a small business sending 1,000 mailpieces a month could save about $600 a year by using a meter.1
Avoid surcharges and delays
When you estimate the cost to send an item—especially one that is large, weighs more or is unusually sized—you may underpay for postage by using stamps. This leads to surcharges that could delay delivery or make an item undeliverable entirely.
With metered mail, you’re always paying exact postage, which helps to ensure that your mail gets to its recipients without costing you time and money.
Drop off mail and skip the line
Finding the time to get to the Post Office location can be tough, according to 37% of small businesses who participated in a Pitney Bowes study.2 With a meter, you don’t need to go out of your way or wait in line.
Once the metered postage for your mail or packages is printed on your pieces, it’s ready to mail. Drop mail in the nearest blue collection box or at a convenient drop-off point and get to the next thing on your to-do list.
Boost your brand
Meters can print more than postage on your mailpieces. You can add a personalized message or your company’s branding to envelopes, too, which boosts your visibility.
Envelopes with messages specific to the recipient—as simple as “Kate, your offer is inside!”—are shown to be effective: 84% of consumers surveyed said they were more likely to open a piece of mail if it is personalized to them.3
Metered mail offers true value for small and medium businesses. By using a postage meter, you can save on the cost of postage, cut down the time it takes to send out mail and focus on growth.
Interested in how metered mail works and how it can benefit your business? Read our article: “Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters”
Even though online buying is becoming an everyday practice, shoppers and retailers alike are showing that paper is still the way to go in terms of marketing. Because, while they are bombarded with online ads that they rarely trust or click on, consumers consistently show a strong attachment to physical mail that they can interact with on their own time.
Print marketing might mean more time and money than digital, but catalogs that positively engage your customers are worth the investment. Follow these eight best practices when creating your next catalog campaign.
Inspire Your Customers
First and foremost, your catalogs should inspire your consumer. Gone are the days that a catalog is a simple product list. Now–through thoughtful design, photography, and copy–you can tell the story of your brand and connect with customers that have the same aesthetic tastes.
In an age where people are curating their lives through social media, brand images can now be aspirational rather than just advertisements. Make a goal of creating an emotional connection through your catalogs in addition to being informational.
When designing your catalog, it is important to design with your audience in mind. Visuals can go a long way and, from start to finish, should reflect the aesthetic of your customer. Even if the product comes from the same category–say fashion–a catalog for young professionals will look much different than a catalog for mothers.
Consider personalizing catalogs to show items based on previous purchases or to show items that are available in nearby stores. This level of personalization will set you apart. Consider working with vendors that offer variable data printing.
Present a Strong Brand Identity
Catalogs are always competing for space in a consumer’s mind. However, many of them look so similar, it’s difficult to differentiate between the companies. In order to create brand loyalty, you need to stand out among the crowd, and you can do that by creating and showing a strong identity.
A catalog should be an extension of your brand and should support whatever messages you stand for. A successful catalog will both display products and present a clear individuality. Don’t let your catalog get bogged down with product details. Use the unique voice of the brand to carry your products forward.
Focus on Quality
Hand in hand with a strong brand presence is quality. This means quality in design, size, and type of paper – everything that goes into a catalog should be purposeful, and it should represent your business in the best way possible. These small details can enhance the overall appearance of your catalog and ultimately say a lot about your brand.
Make It Easy to Navigate
Catalogs should have a user-friendly layout and be designed in a way that naturally leads from page to page. Readability and scannability are both essential in clear design.
There should be a clear hierarchy to each page, with one or two items standing out and other elements lending support. Remember: using different fonts can be confusing, white space is your friend, and important information should always be clear and up front.
Use Impactful Photos
Catalogs that are image-heavy give a sense of brand personality and allow customers to scan through with minimal effort. In general, environmental photography–that show products in a surrounding where they would naturally be–is most effective, especially when the people in the photos are interacting with your products.
However, don’t group too many products in one photo as it will be distracting to the viewer. It is best to show items individually or in very small, related groups. Make great photos the centerpiece in your catalog. They’ll do the work to keep your reader engaged.
Make Ordering Easy
Think beyond aesthetics, as well. If a reader can’t figure out how to place an order or what items they want to purchase, then you stand to lose out on sales. This is why it is essential to organize your catalog to make ordering as easy as possible. Often top-selling products are lost among similar items. Focus on these items and position them with products that would go well in addition to rather than instead of. Any opportunity to cross-sell companion products through copy or callouts can increase sales up to 15%.1
As a customer browses the catalog, it should be clear how they can place an order. Include website URLs and a phone number that are easy to find within the design, and then push orders with promotions and time-sensitive offers.
Successful catalogs will help lead your customers online to make purchases, but should only be sent with controlled frequency as to not overwhelm or annoy them. While 53% of consumers like the number of catalogs they receive and 25% want even more, a fine line exists between more catalogs and too many.2
For consumers that desire catalogs, once a month should be the maximum frequency. However, quarterly or seasonal catalogs are optimal for most effective brand-customer interaction.
Engaging catalog marketing has been a proven method of boosting online sales. By following these best practices, you can provide your customers with a memorable experience that makes them feel inspired, connects them to your brand, and drives them to shop.
People engage through stories. They respond when inspired. While merchandising still matters, presenting your products in story form helps connect the reader to your brand on an emotional level to inspire action.
Studies show that consumers enjoy reading magazine-like catalogs. That’s why they spend time engaging with them. In fact, the average time spent looking at a catalog is 15.5 minutes and consumers tend to hold on to them for several weeks.1 Catalogs are also a strong customer retention tool since people are even more likely to read and keep catalogs from retailers they have bought from before.1
Catalogs not only provide the tangibility and power of direct mail, they’ve become an integral part of an omni-channel campaign by driving customers to digital experiences. They’re now mobile, website and in-store traffic drivers.
In addition, catalogs remain an effective acquisition vehicle. A popular men’s clothing retailer reports that 20% of its website’s first-time customers are placing their orders after having received a catalog. And they are spending one-and-a-half times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first.2
In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 powerful reasons why catalogs should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. We’ll also give you some helpful ideas that you can use to create a catalog that connects and delivers.
Reason #1: Catalogs influence purchase decisions.
Did you know that catalogs actually have a stronger influence on purchase decisions than websites or TV ads?1 72% of people surveyed said that catalogs make them more interested in that retailer’s products, and 84% have purchased an item after seeing it in a catalog.1 The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) explains that this is because “where online marketing is passive, direct mail is active. Direct mailings are proactive and tactile—demanding that the recipient do something with it. And the better response rates make the return on the investment worthwhile for both retention and acquisition.”3 Powerful evidence like this is why retailers still use catalogs to engage customers and spark them to start the buyer’s journey.
Idea worth implementing:
Feature additional content that helps your customer connect with your products and your company. Studies show that catalogs that include content to express a brand personality have the potential to drive increased sales. In fact, 65% said they would read additional content.1 This can include stories around how the product is used or was created, related articles that provide deeper information and customer or employee profiles.
Reason #2: People engage with catalogs on a deeper level.
The purchase experience has become a big deal. Even digital-native organizations have embraced print to better connect with and engage their customers and prospects.1 It’s about moving people beyond a transaction to an emotional connection. Through stories and images, catalogs take people on a journey or even an adventure. That’s why they encourage deeper engagement with retailers and their products. Research shows that the average length of time keeping catalogs is 20.3 days.1 And that 84% enjoy getting catalog from retailer(s) they previously shopped with.1
Idea worth implementing:
Offer limited-time promotions. Studies show that engagement with catalogs is strongest when sales are featured.1 Promotions create a sense of urgency and make it easy to reward your customers. In fact, 81% are more likely to look at a catalog if it features items on sale.1
Reason #3: Catalogs are a launching pad for multi-channel purchasing journeys.
Catalogs introduce new ideas. They create awareness and inspire consumers to buy through other channels. Research shows that catalogs are most successful when incorporated into an omni-channel marketing campaign to drive customers to e-commerce sites to optimize purchases.4
Idea worth implementing:
Extend your brand identity by using the same tone and imagery through all your media channels, including online, social media and print. Be sure to include multiple ordering options in your catalogs, such as website links, phone numbers or mail-in forms including Business Reply Mail® or Courtesy Reply Mail™.
Reason #4: Neuroscience research supports the value of physical catalogs as a complement to digital communications.1
By studying consumers’ brains, science is digging deeper into marketing to analyze what works and what doesn’t. The results revealed that “physical ads leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision [vs. digital]. Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for [evaluating the] value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.”1 To sum it up, science is now proving that direct mail such as catalogs deliver:1
- Better recall over longer periods.
- Stronger brand associations.
- Deeper emotional connections.
Idea worth implementing:
Map out your customers’ journey from awareness to purchase to gain insight into how catalogs would best fit into their experience. Are they print traditionalists or are they online shoppers who seek instant gratification? Gathering these valuable insights can help you create a catalog that gives your audience what they want and gives you the most bang for your buck.
Reason #5: Catalogs bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds.
When paper and pixels converge, amazing things can happen. Catalogs offer the perfect physical platform for integrating dynamic digital technologies such as augmented reality (AR), dynamic QR Code®, near field communication (NFC) and much more.7 These technologies can help you deliver engaging interactive experiences that jump off the page to drive consumers to brand experiences they will remember, as well as to your digital properties, such as websites, mobile apps, social media, etc.
Idea worth implementing:
Leverage Informed Delivery® notifications, a new media channel from the U.S. Postal Service. This innovative feature gives you the opportunity to deliver a physical impression as well as a digital one—from a single mailpiece. This feature is currently a “value-add” at no cost to marketers. To learn more, visit: informeddelivery.usps.com.
Reason #6: Catalogs evoke strong, positive emotions and associations.
From the feel of the paper on your fingertips to the visual appeal of the images, catalogs give readers a real and multidimensional experience that stimulates multiple senses simultaneously. These physical experiences help make memories and connections. They also inspire readers with possibilities, helping provide an escape from daily stresses. Studies show that catalogs even help ease the anxiety around receiving bills.4
Idea worth implementing:
One size doesn’t fit all. While your inventory may determine the size of your catalog, consider testing different formats and specialty sizes to see what your customers respond best to. Using innovative printing techniques such as textures and smells can also make your catalog stand out.
Reason #7: Catalogs can leverage customer data to personalize experiences.
Thanks to large industry databases containing demographic information on millions of households, targeting with catalogs is much easier now. And thanks to online purchasing, many retailers have amassed their own databases that can be used to segment their customers by type and buyer behavior. Identifying niches and verticals helps you target only high-quality leads—so you get the right catalogs to the right people. For example, you can showcase a distinct group of products to a target audience, such as golfers or cooks, who are more likely to purchase, which ultimately helps increase ROI. Segmenting also helps offset catalog production costs because they are going to customers who have shown interest in a particular product category.
Idea worth implementing:
Personalize/customize your catalogs using customer data from past purchases to highlight products they’ve shown interest in. This helps you anticipate their needs and drive loyalty. It can also help you send fewer catalogs to those with lower purchase intent and more to those with greater intent.
Reason #8: Catalogs enable attribution and measurable results.
With budget pressures on marketers to prove ROI, attribution is more important than ever. Armed with the knowledge of which lead came from where, you can better assess if your catalogs are meeting your goals. Depending on performance, you can then adjust your inventory, copy, visuals, offers and digital drivers as needed. With their definitive mail dates and customer and source codes, catalogs are easy to track. Telephone, mail and online orders as well as special promotions can all be tracked with codes, so you can attribute a sale to a specific catalog. Driving customers to a digital app from your catalog also provides instant trackability.
Idea worth implementing:
Measure the effectiveness of your catalogs using key code capture and match-back programs so that you can track who bought what and when. Many retailers are syncing up their online customer databases with their catalog data, so they can test what happens when they are synced with other channels.
Reason #9: Catalogs deliver ease, convenience, and relaxation.
Easy to consume, catalogs provide the opportunity for consumers to slow down and enjoy the experience of being transported through images and stories—all over a cup of coffee. It also gives them the time to discover new items and make the best choices. Catalogs are accessible anywhere, which allows the reader to browse at their own speed and on their own schedule with fewer distractions. And by featuring a focused product selection, catalogs save people time lost in searching a website. That’s why consumers report that catalogs are enjoyable and fun to browse.4
Idea worth implementing:
Limit your catalog frequency by sending them quarterly or seasonally. This promotes attention, interest and excitement for their arrival.
Reason #10: All generations say they like physical mail, especially millennials.
Even though they are a tech generation, millennials are embracing mail. So why do these digital natives love direct mail? “In part, it’s because they are inundated with digital media. Physical mail stands out in millennials’ otherwise electronic world. This generation is also geared toward visual content, and direct mail caters to the physical senses.”5 This important buyer segment also spends more time sorting mail than other age groups and appears more engaged with mail than the average consumer.6 This is true for other generations as well. In fact, baby boomers and Gen Xers report strong childhood connections to catalogs prompting feelings of curiosity, hope, and excitement.4
In a survey conducted by the USPS®, households reported a strong attachment to mail.6
- 81% take the time to look through mail each day.
- 67% prefer reviewing physical mail to receiving emails.
- 64% look forward to receiving mail each day.
Idea worth implementing:
Make sure your mailing lists are accurate. A high-quality list ensures that mailing addresses are up-to-date and have been qualified within the past year. USPS offers a FREE, one-time Address Quality Analysis (AQA). You can also use a licensed USPS address hygiene vendor to ensure accuracy.
Today’s catalogs are powerhouse marketing tools. It’s no longer a competition between digital and print. It’s all about using the strengths of each medium and offering the best of both worlds to create inspiration and engagement that satisfy your customer and your company’s bottom line.
When it comes to direct mail, no one knows better than the United States Postal Service™. We wrote the rulebook. Learn how to save time and money on your next campaign by picking the right size and shape of mail, addressing it correctly and choosing a way to pay for postage—all in this guide.Close