Programmatic Direct Mail Should Be Top-of-Mind This Holiday Season Here’s Why

Four Key Takeaways from USPS Webinar on Digital & Direct Mail

The meaning of “You’ve Got Mail” has evolved substantially since the 90’s, particularly when it comes to the way consumers interact with digital marketing. And while the rise of email, digital, and social marketing is undeniable, physical mail as a form of advertising isn’t going anywhere. In fact, channels like Programmatic Direct Mail (PDM) are more important than ever.

That was the topic of conversation at the recent US Postal Service (USPS) webinar entitled “Digital + Direct Mail: The Easy Way to Increase Profitability” hosted by Ray Van Iterson, marketing strategy manager at the USPS. Ray was joined by experts in the digital and direct mail space to discuss the intersection of digital technology and direct mail.

From cutting through the noise with PDM to better brand personalization, here are four key takeaways from the panel’s discussion at the USPS webinar.

1. Modeling to Discover New “Best” Customers

Keith Goodman, VP of sales and marketing at Modern Postcard, kicked things off by explaining the importance of demographic modeling in building a database of your best customers.

“When you’re looking for prospecting lists, you want to look at who your best customers are and find more of them,” Goodman advised. “An automated way of doing that is by using a modeling process. We take existing customers, analyze their demographics, and build a prospecting list based on that.”

To take things a step further, Goodman explains that an in-depth model compares your customer base with individuals with similar demographic traits that have not done business with your company. These people can then become part of a responder list for future campaigns

“You look at some of the key differentiation points in terms of who buys and who doesn’t,” Goodman continued. “And some really interesting things emerge. Different types of lifestyle characteristics or travel patterns can make a big difference.”

In a nutshell, Goodman advised companies to take the time and effort to analyze their customer demographics, build a list of ideal prospects, and iteratively connect with various segments via PDM to find the perfect mix of messaging and timing.

PRO-TIP: Don’t just rely on demographics when modeling audiences. You can take your top-of-the-funnel performance to another level by using models that also include shopping and purchase behaviors in identifying and engaging ideal prospects. Many brands, like Mejuri, have also seen a lot of success using this approach.

Learn more about modeling Prospecting Audiences on our Acquisitions Solutions page.

2. Combating Digital Overload With PDM

The session continued with Dennis Kelly, CEO of Postalytics, who explained how marketing channels can and should work hand in hand with PDM to combat digital overload.

“I think that everybody here is familiar with the concept of digital overload,” Kelly remarked. “The average office worker gets over 120 emails per day, and first email open rates have dropped from 28% in 2015 to 17% in 2021.”

Kelly went on to observe that the rise in aggressive search and social marketing on platforms like Google and Facebook, combined with increasing consumer concerns about privacy, has created a perfect storm for direct mail to augment digital strategies more than ever. But he emphasized the importance of automating the process in the form of triggered direct mail.

“Trigger direct mail uses investments in CRM and marketing automation to send direct mail,” Kelly said. “We find that trigger direct mail is being deployed to enhance existing email and digital ad workflows by adding a physical touch to omnichannel marketing campaigns.”

Kelly’s main takeaway was that brands should re-evaluate how much bang for their buck they’re getting from digital channels like email and social media. Companies can then incorporate an automated, targeted triggered PDM approach to cut through the noise and combat digital overload.

PRO-TIP: Triggers can be very effective in driving recency, but every website visitor is not created equal. Someone visiting a webpage or clicking “Add to Cart” isn’t always an accurate proxy for intent to purchase. Make sure when selecting a PDM partner that you understand whether or not they apply any machine learning informed by on-site behavior and transaction to optimize recipient pools and drive the most efficient performance for your brand.

3. PDM Helps With Customer Retargeting

The third key takeaway from the webinar was that PDM can provide a huge boost in retargeting efforts. Jacob Ross, CEO at PebblePost, explained how PDM can be a more effective means of retargeting than digital in many scenarios.

“Direct mail has this new kind of application where a piece of code on the mail captures a website visit,” Ross explained. “The visit is then mapped to a household address and an algorithm scores the prospect in terms of potential value.”

Ross explained how mail is then dynamically rendered, printed, and mailed to customers. Once the mail reaches the consumers at home, any follow-on transactions or intent to purchase on the website is then recorded so marketers can see the impact of their marketing mail campaigns.

“Retargeting is super powerful and it’s something we can measure,” Ross said. “Marketers are using digital retargeting but many have already adopted the same tactic with direct mail and it’s proven to be effective.”

PRO TIP: When using retargeting within the PDM channel, ask your PDM partner or measurement whether or not they provide lift analysis for any retargeting programs. That is a key metric for understanding the true value being provided by the channel, and top vendors will not shy away from sharing their methodology.

As Sierra Roche, Digital Marketing Manager for Lulu & Georgia, said in regards to the experience running retargeting with PebblePost, “When your vendor proactively suggests an incrementality test, it adds a strong level of trust to the partnership right out of the gate.”

4. Creating Personalized Connecting using Automation

The final key takeaway was a unique method for making brands more personal to consumers. Summer Hahnlen, senior director of Lob, emphasized that personalization is key to forming an emotional connection with consumers in today’s marketplace.

“About 90 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers specific and relevant to them,” Summer observed. “The bottom line is that consumers believe brands should offer more personalization in their marketing. And recent research shows that personalizing direct mail consistently increases response rates.”

Summer noted that there are myriad approaches to personalization, but the main point is that it doesn’t begin and end with a customer’s name. Brands today are leveraging tactics like unique URLs and QR codes to create an engagement path much like marketers do with emails.

“One big brand that works with us is running a triggered abandoned cart campaign where they’re instantaneously sent a postcard with a product image of what they left in the cart,” Summer recounted. “And there’s a QR code on the postcard linking directly to the cart, so you’re reducing friction and making it easier for customers to complete the action you’re asking of them.”

PRO TIP: Personalization at scale can be tricky to balance. You want it to feel relevant without boiling over into creepy. That’s why it’s always important to be testing new strategies. That’s one of the reasons why Ergatta’s VP of Marketing, Randi Charles, is such a fan of the Programmatic Direct Mail channel.

“The great thing about Programmatic Direct Mail is it provides that flexibility,” she said recently on stage at CommerceNext. “I can test different messages, get results quickly, and try again to have that moment with consumers. So, when you find channels that check those boxes that’s where you really hit the sweet spot.”

While each panel member had their own unique perspectives and insights, several common threads emerged in their takeaways. Brands should take a data-driven approach in understanding their customers and personalize messaging as much as possible. And as checking one’s email has gone from tech novelty to mundane chore for many consumers, leveraging PDM offers brands a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd and create a measurable impact on the bottom line.

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