The Future of Direct Mail Is Here and It’s Dynamic

If you think you know direct mail, think again. Thanks to digital data, the marketing channel is helping companies achieve their goals more effectively. Our white paper tells the new story of direct mail as dynamic, fully integrated and hyper-targeted.

3 Ways Direct Mail Has Become More Dynamic

Today’s direct mail isn’t what it used to be. It’s better. No longer siloed from digital channels, direct mail and digital have become smarter together.

Leveraging digital data, direct mail has become dynamic. It’s hyper-targeted, integrated and a powerful part of omni-channel campaigns. Now that direct mail is more dynamic, every interaction can create action.

40% conversion rates when digital and direct mail are combined1

To put mail to work, marketers can leverage three innovations that are here to stay: retargeted direct mail, Informed Delivery® notifications and Informed Visibility® tracking. Explore them all below.

Retargeted Direct Mail

With programmatic technology, companies can now retarget customers with personalized direct mail sent within 12 to 24 hours of a digital interaction.

By setting specific digital triggers and customizing direct mail designs to each customer, marketers can hyper-target their campaigns. That way, they can deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.

Through research, USPS determined the following high-level trend:

68% of marketing respondents who use retargeted direct mail reported an increase in website traffic2

Informed Delivery®

This feature from USPS allows customers to preview their mail before it arrives—viewable via USPS® mobile app, email notification or online dashboard. In the preview, customers can access digital ride-along content that drives them to a company’s website or other digital channels.

Leveraging data, marketers can send different ride-along content by customer segment. That way, a loyal customer and a prospective customer can be served up messaging tailored to their needs.

Through research, USPS determined the following high-level trend:

36% of marketing respondents who use Informed Delivery notifications reported an increase in ROI3

Informed Visibility®

This tool from USPS allows marketers to track their direct mail campaigns and determine when they’re delivered. It also allows for a personalized, omni-channel experience.

With that information in mind, marketers can immediately launch omni-channel efforts on complementary digital channels like paid media and social. Each customer is then targeted at the most optimal time—once they receive their mailpiece.

Through research, USPS determined the following high-level trend:

48% of marketing respondents who use Informed Visibility tracking reported an increase in website traffic4

In Conclusion

Direct mail that is more dynamic has opened the door for more powerful omni-channel marketing, but the story doesn’t end there. In a USPS commissioned research study, we were able to break down the myths behind direct mail, the facts to remember and ways to optimize digital integration. Explore them all in our deep-diving white paper: The Future of Direct Mail Is Here and It’s Dynamic.

Best Practices for Retargeted Direct Mail Campaigns

Effective marketing means getting the right message to the right person at the right time. With retargeted direct mail—sometimes referred to as automated direct mail— companies can now connect digital behavior with personalized direct mail. Retargeted direct mail can be seamlessly triggered, personalized and sent based on customers’ digital behaviors. This makes direct mail as easy to send as email.

Better yet, by leveraging programmatic technology, each piece of mail can be sent while products are still top of mind. One company saw conversion rates as high as 40% using this strategy.1 If you have the budget, consider contacting a mail service provider who can help handle the fulfillment, shipping and tracking of your automated direct mail campaigns.

To optimize an automated direct mail campaign, companies must identify the right digital behavior triggers for their marketing needs. Below, we dissect the triggers and messaging that can help you create effective retargeted direct mail for four different marketing stages.

  1. 1

    Awareness Stage

    A common trigger for this marketing stage entails a user browsing an e-commerce site without making a purchase. The programmatic technology behind automated mail can capture a number of events for this purpose: customers browsing the homepage, category-level pages, and product pages. To drive conversion, a business should tailor messaging to the user’s activity. For example, send a mailpiece as simple as a postcard that speaks to trends or sales in a category they were exploring.

  2. 2

    Consideration Stage

    Users in this marketing stage have a slightly different behavior. Possible triggers for these customers include: consistently browsing the same product pages over and over or signing up for a retailer’s email list. To drive conversion in this case, send a mailpiece that highlights the specific brand they were interested in with an offer to help first-time customers make a purchase.

  3. 3

    Purchase Stage

    In this marketing stage, the telltale trigger for purchase behavior is the abandoned shopping cart. Over 4 trillion dollars of merchandise is left unpurchased in digital shopping carts each year.2 When creating mailpieces for these customers, it’s important to remind them what’s been abandoned. Up the ante of the message by offering the customer a discount on their next purchase.

  4. 4

    Loyalty Stage

    Following the Pareto principle, 80% of sales come from 20% of customers. That means loyalty mail can have a lasting impact on your bottom line.3 The trigger for this marketing stage is simple—once a customer makes a purchase. Use direct mail to upsell products that complement their recent purchase or deliver information about your loyalty program, if you have one. If you choose the latter, describe the perks of joining the program and the long-term savings customers can see.

In Conclusion

Retargeted direct mail sits at a powerful crossroads of digital and direct mail, thanks to programmatic technology and personalized print messaging. With the right marketing strategy, the right triggers, and the right message, any size business can begin targeting and converting prospects into customers.

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 marketers 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 by 2021, there will be 266.3 million email users in the U.S.2

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

A 2016 report showed that, in the U.S., 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 a.m. EST 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 the header copy of the mailpiece and the subject line of your first email or its body copy. Be sure your mail and email also lead 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 retargeted direct 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 to 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 Retargeted Direct Mail

Abandoned shopping cart rates are a burden for many businesses, especially so during the holidays. In fact, three out of four 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: retargeted direct 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 retargeted direct 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 [who] 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 retargeted direct 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 [retargeted] 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, [retargeted] direct mail, or tactile marketing automation as we like to call it, triggers a data-driven direct mailpiece to be sent.

Retargeted 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 retargeted direct 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 [retargeted direct] 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 [retargeted direct] mail. Our goal is using direct mail as our primary medium, but its’ 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 retargeted direct 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 [retargeted direct] 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 retargeted direct 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.

Q&A: PebblePost® Executive Adam Solomon Talks Customer Acquisition

Mail has the power to drive business and convert customers in different stages of the marketing lifecycle. It’s an especially effective medium when it comes to acquisition. Countless companies are leveraging mail and working with USPS® in new and exciting ways to do just that. Since finding new customers is a major goal for any business in any industry, we sat down with Adam Solomon, an advisor at PebblePost, to get a better understanding of acquisition marketing and the role mail plays in that equation.

PebblePost is the inventor of Programmatic Direct Mail™, which transforms real-time online activity into dynamically rendered, personalized direct mail that’s sent out every 12-24 hours. The company leverages data, proprietary advertising technology and mail to win new business and drive their digital marketing partners’ ROI. Though their solution is a digital platform, mail plays a crucial part in their campaigns’ success.

Read on to see what Solomon had to say about the ways technology, messaging and personalization can help convert new customers.

From your perspective, what are the benefits of using mail for programmatic advertising and customer acquisition?

At PebblePost, we solved a very interesting problem for both brands on the one hand and for consumers on the other. From the brand side, there’s been a lot of innovation when it comes to using data and programmatic technology to understand what consumers are doing in real time on their websites.

The challenge in digital has been the delivery vehicle, whether it’s desktop sites, mobile sites or mobile apps. It’s become a very busy Times Square experience, where ads are just jumping up in your face and really aggravating consumers. This has been proven out by the rise in consumers using ad blockers and all the news we see about consumers getting frustrated with advertising.

Not only is the digital ad experience lacking, there’s also a challenge over whether consumers are in the right frame of mind and in the right modality to receive those messages. Are they ready to transact and take action at the moment that the digital ad or technology is delivered?

Tangible media sent to [the] home is a very polite, respectful and effective vehicle. Consumers check their mail maybe once a day. There’s some ceremony they go through to collect the mail and sort the mail. And if it’s a relevant and compelling offer, they’ll act on it on their own time. So the combination of using a strong real-time signal, which is a digital action that shows consumer intent, and other capabilities of digital and programmatic, in addition to the effectiveness of sending tangible media to home—literally delivering digital with feeling—that’s something that we brought together. We’ve found it in practice, in the last year, to be highly effective.

How does PebblePost leverage its technology to acquire customers?

In Q4 2016, we launched what we called our Website Prospect Remarketing solution. These are prospects already visiting the marketer’s site, but the marketer doesn’t know who they are. They’re not logged in; they’re not existing customers, but they’ve already raised their hand in some manner. There’s some call to action somewhere that has brought them to the site. So they’re already moving in the right direction as far as the brand is concerned, but the brand still needs to seal the deal.

We pick up on that signal. We recognize the fact that someone is not a customer, but a prospect or “new to file.” We have the same ability to use a strong real-time digital signal to qualify a user for a campaign. Then we leverage the power of the proprietary technology on our side that allows us to create connections between an individual visiting a website via a cookie and where to send the mail and find their postal address.

We’ve seen a lot of success with that solution, because this is a prospect [who’s] already moving down the funnel and we use this very effective tangible media vehicle to push them over the finish line and convert them into a customer.

You mentioned three things that I think are important to touch on: messaging, personalization and behavior. Let’s start with behavior. What kind of online behavior are you looking for when you’re seeking out new customers for acquisition?

We have a set way that we think about a user journey on a marketer’s website. If you think about book ends, on one continuum, someone visits the homepage. On the other end of the continuum, someone puts something in their shopping cart. That’s one step towards conversion.

Since we’re mostly focused right now on retail and ecommerce, the in-between pieces are when a user searches for something, maybe goes on a category page. Then they go a little deeper, they’re on a product detail page, then they put something into their carts and they convert. We have a set methodology that we go through, in terms of using a human effort and also machine learning and technology. The deeper someone goes, the more qualified they are.

However, even if someone is going deep and looking in a shoes category and looking at a particular pair of shoes, it doesn’t mean that they want to get a postcard or catalog in the mail just with that pair of shoes. They may just be in the shoe category in general or that might be completely wrong. You may want to promote a cross-sell. If they’re looking at shoes, you may want to promote belts, for example.

When it comes to customer acquisition, would you say that your messaging typically includes offers or is that just one tactic you take?

It really depends on the brands we’re working with and what their goals are. If a brand’s goal is customer acquisition, then we highly recommend as best practice that they have a very strong call to action and a very attractive offer. If it’s a Programmatic Postcard™, the offer should be displayed on the front and back. It should be perceived by the consumer as something being highly valuable, whether it’s the offer itself, or it’s the inclusion of a promotion code or a custom promotion code just for them. “Summer30” is clearly to a consumer a promotion everyone gets, but if it’s a specific number, they know, “Hey, it’s just for me.”

Another interesting thing about creative and the messaging of the offer is we can drive individuals from online to home back to online. We can also drive individuals from online to home to store. This is something you cannot do with a banner ad. People are not printing banner ads, putting them on their fridge and walking them to a store. That’s just not consumer behavior.

When it comes to mail, or what you’re referring to as tangible media, consumer behavior is completely different.

Right. If you get a card in the mail that’s a special offer that you can walk into a physical location that you can hand to a cashier and you get your $15 off or a certain percentage off, that is being perceived as very valuable to the consumer. It also affects behavior in a way that traditional digital cannot. We think PebblePost has a unique opportunity here, because over 90% of strong digital signals picked up today comes from online as people are surfing around websites, searching and taking action. All this signal is being generated.

About 90% plus of all purchase decisions are made in the home. And, though ecommerce is growing, about 90% of all commerce occurs in the real world, in physical store locations. So PebblePost connects through Programmatic Direct Mail™, the strong signal which comes from online, the purchase decisions which are made in [the] home, and then we have the opportunity to drive back to digital, but most interestingly drive individuals to physical stores and complete that loop which is very compelling to marketers.

Final Thoughts

As PebblePost has shown, mail can be a powerful tool for customer acquisition. Though the company is a digital solution with data-driven decisioning and programmatic principles, it uses mail to get segmented, personalized messaging into customers’ homes. Leverage these principles to acquire more customers than ever before.1