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Omni-Channel without Direct Mail, really?!

CEO Contact Marketing Inc.

I found myself, the other day, pouring over a catalog I received in the mail from a local supermarket. No, not very exciting, groceries, alongside garden chairs and barbecue supplies, prices marked down by 5% or 10%. But it was there sitting on my kitchen table so…I read it.

Now, that might not sound like a glowing endorsement for direct mail marketing. But it’s actually quite significant. A catalog that held little interest to me with no particularly creative or engaging content, nevertheless, there I was, reading it.

Compare this to an offer sent by E-Mail. Despite being more convenient, it’s far less likely to be opened. Nearly everyone I know receives hundreds of emails a week (at least) and hundreds more land in our junk mail. I personally can’t commit time to opening anything that’s not related to work or, in very rare cases, my social life.

Maybe this is why retailers like J.Crew and Restoration Hardware have significantly upgraded their catalogs in the last couple of years. For the first time since 2011, Sears sent out its Wish Book in late 2017. Even digital start-up retailers such as Bonobos, with no physical stores, conducted a highly successful direct mail test.

The stats reflect my experience

Research done by the Direct Marketing Association in 2017 shows that many shoppers share my perception of catalogs vs. emails. They found that direct mail has a 4.4% response rate, compared with a 0.12% response rate for emails. That’s more than 30 times as high!

Moreover, the 4.4% is quite possibly an underestimation. It’s a lot easier to measure the impact of digital marketing – you can count clicks etc. Direct mail, on the other hand, may impact your impression of a retailer and lead you look for a product in the retailer’s brick & mortar or online store.

Advantages of direct marketing mail

The above statistics shouldn't be that surprising. Direct mail has a number of important advantages:

  • Inboxes are over-saturated, promotional offers are over-shadowed by hundreds of more important emails. If you don’t open it within a day, you'll probably never see it again. Whereas…

  • Direct mail can sit on a counter for days without being consigned to the recycle bin. And even if overlooked by you, it might be picked up my another member of the household. Furthermore..

  • Direct mail can be more creative. It can be visually appealing and interactive. While Emails all look the same on the outside, so, even if it’s creative and engaging, you will probably never get far enough to recognize it. The only way an email can attract you is by its subject line.

  • Especially today, as Neil O’Keefe of the DMA point out: “The ability to stand out in that physical mailbox is easier than it was 10 years ago. Marketers are taking advantage of that and they are beginning to see a positive response.”

So, how to make the most of direct marketing in 2018?

All the above is not to say that direct marketing should not be different today than it was even five years ago. Today, Direct marketing should work in tandem with digital means.

Effective direct marketing catalogs make it easy to find the products advertised on the retailer’s online store. Moreover, by including coupons that can be used for discounts when buying online, you can drive more customers to go to your landing page or scan a QR code to go to the retailer’s mobile app. In search of a particular product or activate discounts.

Finally, Direct Mail is a process and with the proper resources And integrated properly with the retailer’s online and digital channels, retailers will experience amazing omni-channel success.

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