Shoppers Demand Seamless Omnichannel Retail Strategies

Omnichannel marketing is the rule for today’s retailing. While print catalogs continue as a vital merchant tool, with 42% of households reading catalogs per the U.S. Postal Service, integration of multiple channels–including online, mobile and social with direct mail–is now essential to our catalog and e-commerce clients’ success. Unfortunately, while the majority of consumers expect to shop seamlessly across all those channels, only 7% of retailers provide the unified “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere” experience that customers want, per the recent “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey” by BRP Consulting, a retail management consulting firm.

Omnichannel, Cross-Device Shopping Is Now the Norm

Marketers just can’t afford to ignore that the majority of shoppers now interact with promotions, educational content and purchase services via multiple channels and devices. According to the same BRP study, three in five (62%) consumers surveyed said they check online reviews/ratings before visiting a store, yet just 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research! Shoppers now rely on mobile to continue the digitally supported buying process in-store, with nearly 60% of shoppers looking up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores, per Retail Dive’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Also per BRP, nearly three out of four (73%) of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction, going beyond an estimated delivery date to include when the order is being prepared, date shipped from the warehouse, etc. Plus customers expect an automated return process, with 68% of consumers surveyed telling BRP they are more likely to choose a retailer offering an automated returns process.

Analytics Need Complex Channel/Device Attribution

Merchants can leverage customers’ cross-device penchant to optimize acquisition and conversion, argues a Direct Marketing News article by Pierre DeBois. But they must keep in mind that, while the opportunity to boost ad frequency and content persuasion across channels is huge, smart management is required to avoid turning targeted promotion into a bludgeon. As Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, highlighted at the 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times…believe me I get it.” The first place to start is good omnichannel analytics to understand the contribution of each channel to ROI and its place in the customer journey. Only then can merchants cost-effectively tailor targeting and investment to maximize sales. One useful analytics tool is Google’s Unique Reach report, which displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad, and combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics, suggests DeBois.

Using Images and Chat to Direct the Customer Journey

Good omnichannel analytics also can improve use of image and video content to maximize the proven effectiveness of image/video in digital engagement, to answer the customer demand for education, and to direct prospects through the sales funnel. However, quantities of images bombarding customers across multiple channels can overwhelm and confuse, so both media curation and a content mapping strategy aligned to the customer journey are needed. One example of a targeted image strategy is use of an “image story” feature on a social media platform to orchestrate images and/or a short video, notes DeBois. Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments are all image story features. Because the majority of consumers research products and services online now, marketers also can gain an edge over competitors by offering customer-facing elements such as chatbots. In contrast to apps, which may be used only for a few discrete tasks and then ignored, a chatbot’s programmable assistance can provide both engagement and continuing response performance improvement.

For more, see the Direct Marketing News article.

Smart List, Mail Design Choices Help Save on Postage

Direct mail has higher average response rates than digital choices, but maximizing mail ROI requires cost efficiency, especially in the postage realm. Good list selection and hygiene are key to avoiding mailing waste, and this is one area where AccuList USA’s expertise in targeted mailing lists selection and data services can certainly aid clients. Another important factor in controlling postage costs is mail package design. An article by Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould offers a great summary of how smart choices in lists and design can add up to savings.

Targeted, Clean Lists Cut Postage Waste

If you are sending mailings to the wrong people, people unlikely to be interested in your offer, lower response rate and cost inefficiency will be reflected in poor ROI. Using tools from predictive modeling to customer profiling to segmentation can improve list choices and targeting parameters. Plus, AccuList USA’s proprietary list research can help clients find the top-performing lists for their specific vertical market. But no matter how data is targeted, dirty data with duplicates, errors, invalid addresses, and old demographic or purchase history information will create costly delivery failures and misdirected waste. That’s why AccuList USA goes beyond list brokerage to provide expert merge-purge services that combine and standardize data in order to eliminate duplicates, identify and correct old or undeliverable addresses, verify zip codes, and maximize postal discounts. In fact, by comparing names and addresses to real-time information on multiple public and private databases, AccuList USA offers an advanced hygiene regimen that is able to identify and correct twice as many addresses as standard USPS FASTforward and NCOALink use, which only represent a portion of U.S. movers and undeliverables.

Careful Design Wins Postage Discounts

USPS offers postage discounts to mail pieces that are not only addressed correctly but also designed for processing on automated equipment. For mail to qualify for the lowest postage rates, the mail piece needs to be at a letter size, which is a minimum of 3 ½” high by 5″ long and a maximum of 6″ high by 10½” long. Larger mail pieces fall into the flat category, which can cost more than twice as much per piece as a letter. Plus, to take advantage of automation, the piece must by rectangular, with an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5. Mail pieces outside those ratios could cost twice as much in postage. Then the addressing and barcode block on letter size mail must fit into the USPS OCR read area to avoid additional postage. For tri-folded self-mailers, the address must be on the center panel to qualify for discounted automation postage. Naturally, weight matters.  Keep the weight of a folded self-mailer under 1 ounce; if the piece weighs over 3 ounces, it must go in an envelope. Thickness counts, too  If a mail piece is less than 0.009″ thick, it costs more in postage. On the other hand, the  maximum thickness for letter size mail is ¼” and for flat size is ¾”. The best advice is to consult with your mailing service provider about any new design in advance. For more, see https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/save-money-postage/

 

Format Drives Differences in Direct Mail Results

In planning direct mail campaigns, marketers often turn to standard industry benchmarks courtesy of the annual “Response Rate Report” from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), soon to be a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). However, while general direct mail response rates for house lists (5.1%) and for prospect lists (2.9%) far outpace those of digital media, the mailing piece format selected can make a key difference in expected results.

Mailer Format Shifts Response Metrics

For example, an oversized flat envelope package tends to deliver the highest response rate: 6.6 % for a house file and 4.9% for a prospect list. Next most effective in terms of response are postcards, with a house file response rate of 5.7% and and a prospect names’ response of 3.4%. At the tail end, but still far above digital efforts, comes the standard letter format, with a 4.37% response rate for house names and a 2.5% response for prospecting.

Balancing CPM & ROI in Format Selection

Some marketers hesitate over the more expensive oversized flats, which have the highest cost per thousand (CPM) among formats at $481 for house files and $467 for prospect files. Which is why postcards continue to win fans among B2C and B2B marketers, with the lowest CPM among direct mail formats benchmarked. However, despite their higher CPMs, the solid response rates of flats mean they can deliver the highest ROI (37% and 30% for house and prospect names, respectively). Postcards and letter packages, meanwhile, are tied in terms of ROI, with house mailings garnering a 29% ROI and prospecting turning in 23% ROI.

Purchase the whole report or see a free summary article for more data.

Pet Charity Mailer’s Creative Opens Hearts & Wallets

AccuList USA has a long and successful history with mailing lists and data services targeting “pet parents” and organizations offering pet-related products, services and causes. One of the surefire ways to engage an audience is to use adorable animal pictures combined with copy crafted to open hearts–and wallets. So here’s a recent example of direct mail to inspire our pet marketing clients, courtesy of a post by Target Marketing magazine.

Envelope That Uses Hard-to-Say-No Pictures & Teasers

Best Friends, which runs the largest no-kill U.S. animal sanctuary across multiple locations, was seeking donations for its mission of ending pet homelessness. The outer envelope of their newsletter package immediately grabs attention with a picture of one of the nonprofit’s doggie stars. The heart-tugging gaze is hard to ignore, especially coupled with an intriguing teaser: “Hey, whatever happened to Justin? Find out inside!”

Emotionally Moving Letter With Up-Front Reply Form

When recipients open the envelope, they find a newsletter showcasing the sad story of a pup who had a rough start, including a photo to tug at donor heartstrings. And once emotions are triggered, the format makes it easy to act by putting a donation reply form and call-to-action right at the top of the letter.

Including Proof of Dollar Impact & Mission Value

If prospective donors still hesitate, the Best Friends’ copy offers data on the importance and urgency of action by providing examples of the impact that specific dollar-amount donations will have. The copy also educates recipients on the organization’s mission, vision and history so they connect with the larger cause.

Since a picture, especially one of a winsome pup, is worth a thousand words, take a look at the actual mail piece by going to the article.

These Tech Trends Likely to Drive 2018 Direct Mail Success

Because direct mail data and support services are at the heart of AccuList USA’s expertise, we are always delighted to pass along tips on how to use direct mail more successfully in multi-channel marketing strategy. A blog post by Postalytics, a self-serve direct mail automation tool, recently mined multiple expert sources for the most influential direct mail trends of 2018, ranging from creative to technology to mailing strategy. If you have any lingering doubt over adding interactive technology to traditional snail mail, just take a look at the article’s top mail technology trends for this year.

Automation and Integration: Speedy, Targeted Production

Unsurprisingly, automation purveyor Postalytics puts mail automation software at the top of the list, but they get plenty of industry support. Automation allows marketers to quickly generate high-quality, personalized and trackable letters and postcards by leveraging templates, digital cues and automated workflows, cutting direct mail production cycles from 4-6 weeks down to 1 week. That automation also allows marketers to maximize response by integrating triggered direct mail into any step in the buyer’s journey, online or offline, so that mail delivery taps into the appropriate timing, content and call-to-action.

Linking Offline to Online: AR, QR and PURL

Interactive, mobile-scanned Augmented Reality apps and QR codes, as well as personal urls (PURLs) linked to targeted content-specific landing pages, allow direct mailers to connect offline marketing’s printed paper with online marketing’s digital pages, images, animations and videos. Studies show that combining snail mail with interactive digital is key to greater overall campaign response and ROI.

Enhanced Data Targeting and Personalization

The magic wand of quality, enhanced data can be waved over direct mail to match the right message to the right people at the right time. Good mailing list data allows for targeting based on shopping habits and needs, retargeting and cross-selling, recapturing and reactivating of lost prospects and customers, leveraging of trigger events and personal preferences, and more–provided there is a commitment to quality database hygiene and processing. Customer and prospect data lists need to be up-to-date, de-duped and accurate, and mailings must use cost-effective advanced postal address hygiene and pre-sorting. In addition to cost-effective, high-response targeting, good mailing data allows for sophisticated content personalization far beyond simply inserting a name, the kind of personalization that has become a basic expectation of customers. Marketers can even create personalized coupon codes that deliver a much higher ROI than generic coupon codes; these unique codes make customers feel valued on an individual level.

For 2018 direct mail trends in creative design and mailing strategies, see https://www.postalytics.com/blog/direct-mail-marketing-trends-for-2018/ 

 

 

 

Print Catalogs Still a Key Multichannel Merchant Tool

Despite the growth of e-commerce, printed catalogs retain their important marketing role for AccuList USA’s B2B and B2C catalog clients, and recent data from Multichannel Merchant‘s 2018 State of the Catalog survey highlights that trend.

Print Catalogs Boost Brands, Push Digital Traffic

A big majority of the merchants surveyed (84.2% ) by Multichannel Merchant (MCM) said they continue to use print catalogs as a channel to reach customers. Their commitment to the traditional print catalog comes from its value as a multipurpose marketing tool. For example, branding led the ranking of main print catalog goals, with an 8.86 out of 10 rating. Branding was followed by web and mobile traffic driver and customer retention (both ranked at 8.14), reactivation (7.57), and prospecting and store traffic spur (6.43).  Meanwhile, though measuring catalog effectiveness remains a matter of debate among merchants, a majority (57.1%) do have a formal measurement program, whether via matchbacks, tracking codes, response analysis or segmentation testing.

Frequency, Page Counts & Circulation Hold Steady

Although merchants continue to seek maximum ROI by testing page counts and formats, the majority surveyed by MCM (83.3%) maintained the same page counts in 2017, and 50% also reported the same circulation numbers. Looking ahead to 2018, 50% planned to increase page counts, but respondents split into thirds over increasing, decreasing or maintaining circulation size. As far as frequency, 83.3% said they would hold it steady for 2018.

Digital Catalogs Join Array of Print Formats

Most merchants surveyed (57.1%) rely on both a digital catalog and a standard 8.5X11 print catalog. But many also use a “slim jim” print format (14.3%) or, especially for B2B, annual “big books” (also 14.3%). Some retailers report they send out other types of direct mail pieces, such as small gatefolds or postcards with special offers. Digital page-flipper catalogs are also in use to reach customers between mailings and in areas not mailed (such as Europe). For more on the report, go to http://multichannelmerchant.com/marketing/state-catalog-alive-well/

Why Direct Mail Still Wins Allegiance of Trade Show Marketers

One of AccuList USA’s oldest areas of expertise is trade show and conference marketing, particularly direct mail lists and support services. A recent survey of exhibit managers and event marketers by Exhibitor magazine shows why direct mail continues as a promotional tool, as a companion rather than a victim of the growing use of e-mail and social media. Here are some insights we gleaned from those comments:

It’s Still All About the List

The traditional rules of direct marketing continue to apply for direct mail success: Quality, targeted data is the most essential response factor. Mike Naples, business alliance manager for the United States Postal Service, reminds event marketers of those basics: “A successful campaign is 60% identifying the target, 30% making a compelling offer, and 10% creating a unique piece.” Dan McAdams, vice president of sales and marketing for McAdams Graphics, is even more specific:  “The most effective direct-mail projects start with a solid mailing list. A bad list yields a bad return.”

E-mail Is Mate, Not Replacement, for Snail Mail

While acknowledging the growing use of e-mail, Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager at Celanese Corp., reminds Exhibitor readers that “hard-copy event invites are still more memorable than e-mailed ones.” That can be especially true with an older target audience. “People over the age of 50 have an emotional attachment to letters that people under the age of 50 never developed,” opines Keith Goodman, vice president for corporate solutions at Modern Postcard. More generally, e-mail faces headwinds in crowded, spam-filtered inboxes, while direct mail’s lower volume actually boosts its impact: “Direct mail is back in vogue because few companies are using it. So a creative mailer is more likely to get read,” explains Eugene Maresh, co-owner of Say it With Style Targeted Promotional Solutions. Or as Joy Gendusa, CEO of PostcardMania, sums up: “E-mail is brilliant for lead nurturing, but not for lead generation. If your message is seen as spam, you’re hurting, not helping.”

Creativity and a Multi-Channel Mix Required

At the same time, audiences have become more demanding. Direct mail must be personalized, relevantly targeted and creatively eye-catching to engage response now. Tired tricks are not going to win interest. “An interesting shape is the best way to generate attention. Priority or overnight mail doesn’t cut it anymore. It feels wasteful,” asserts Rhea Cook, president of Ex Machina Design X Marketing. And because audiences also use multiple digital channels daily, they expect to engage with coordinated event promotion and response across channels, so direct mail can’t go it alone if it is to be successful. Or as Jefferson Davis, trade show marketing and sales consultant at Competitive Edge, concludes: “People ask me all the time, ‘What is the single best media for exhibit marketing?’ But there is no single best media. The magic is in the mix.”

To see more quotes about direct mail from event marketing pros, go to http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1282 

Direct Mail Still Powers Fundraising, Especially Planned Giving

At AccuList USA, nonprofit interest in our direct mailing lists and services for fundraising remains strong despite the growing share of donor dollars collected via online giving. Some of the reasons that fundraising pros remain committed to mail power are cited in a recent article for The NonProfit Times by Mark Hrywna.

Direct Mail Is Vital in a Multi-Channel Mix

It’s true that nonprofit organizations are beginning to see a growing share of donations attributed to online giving, but as Steve MacLaughlin, vice president of data and analytics at fundraising tech firm Blackbaud, stresses in the article, online giving is still less than 10% of all charitable giving. Fundraisers need to avoid confusing the channel of engagement with the channel of transaction, he advises. Direct mail response certainly is no longer limited to mailed donations as many direct mail recipients go online to give; similarly, a mobile-device outreach or e-mail appeal can generate offline gifts. Even in an increasingly digital world, a good multi-channel mix will include direct mail.

Direct Mail Keeps Proving Its Power

Hrywna cites Make-a-Wish Foundation as an example of continued direct mail investment. When Chief Financial Officer Paul Mehlhorn started with Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2009, he recalls that he was told direct mail was a dinosaur that would be gone in five or six years.  Yet last year the national office exceeded 2009 direct mail revenue by several million dollars, going from $13.9 million to $15.3 million. “It looks to me like a program that can stay very strong for the next 10 to 15 years,” Mehlhorn asserts to Hrywna. In fact, Mehlhorn says he may expand on that direct mail success: “We continue to increase our investment in online giving. However, we are reconsidering our approach to direct mail and may increase our investment for direct mail in future years. As you get past the low-hanging fruit, [online] becomes almost as costly as direct mail. Unless you enlarge your donor pool, you’re going to be spending about the same.”

Direct Mail Has a Key Role in Planned Giving

Plus, while the revenue ratio of direct mail to online giving has gone from 3:1 to even at Make-a-Wish, there are some areas where direct mail retains an edge, such as planned giving. Make-A-Wish Foundation has seen revenue from planned gifts just about triple during the past four years, growing from about $2 million to $6 million, and Mehlhorn credits part of that success to actively promoting planned giving in direct mail as well as online campaigns. “A lot of the folks now making end-of-life plans are still in that generation that likes getting mail,” he points out.

For more, see The NonProfit Times article.

 

 

 

 

 

Demographic Trends Drive Growth in Pet-Owner Spending

Direct mail and e-mail lists and data services targeting pet owners are one of AccuList USA’s high-demand markets, and we expect trends in pet ownership to grow that marketing interest–and the competition that makes quality data and targeting even more essential.

Demographics Fuel Pet-Owner Spending

A recent post for The Marketing Insider highlights the demographic trends that are making pet owners such attractive targets: “Americans now own 305 million cats and dogs, an increase of 85 million over the past 10 years. The  50+ demographic is responsible for 60% of that growth. With 50+ population expected to grow twice as rapidly as the 18-49 segment over the next 10 years, brands that include 50+ pet owners in their marketing strategies will improve their odds of maximizing revenue growth,” asserts columnist Mark Bradbury.

Older Pet Owners Offer Big Opportunities

Bradbury makes the point that marketers hoping to cash in on the older pet-owning market will need to adjust their buyer profiles given that 50+ pet owners are mainly empty-nesters (80%), retired (one-in-three), and three times more likely than younger pet owners to be divorced, widowed or separated–leaving more time and disposable income to devote to pet members of the family. Bradbury points to statistical proof that older owners are on a pet-spending splurge: People 50+ spent over $15.6 billion on their pets in the last year, more than all of the other generations combined, according to PetBusinessProfessor.com.

Growing Market Also Draws Big Competition

The opportunity to market pet-pampering products is expanding, but so is the competition for slices of the pet-owner pie. Using marketing tactics of the past may either miss the mark with the older generation of pet owners, or get lost in the crowd vying for their attention. Bradbury suggests several tactics that put the focus squarely on the growing Baby Boomer pet market, including messaging that celebrates a pet-centric Boomer life stage. Multi-channel campaigning is a must for this market as well. In addition to digital marketing via online, social and e-mail, Boomers are also still heavy users, and responders, of direct mail, magazines and television, Bradbury points out. “Synergistic cross-media marketing plans” are required to maximize reach at every stage in the purchase funnel, he advises. Plus, though Boomers like to spend to dote on their pets, they also want to spend wisely and are attracted to savings opportunities. Direct marketers will want to include discounts or loyalty reward programs to win brand fans.

For more of Bradbury’s pet marketing suggestions, see https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/314521/the-inside-track-on-the-booming-pet-market.html