Power of print

Is it time to dust off direct mail?

"If you’re not in direct mail right now, you should be”

It is, perhaps, pertinent to realise that a multitude of present-day marketers have pretty much zero experience in direct mail, such has been the fixation with online digital marketing channels in recent years.

But within this knowledge gap lies a potentially lucrative opportunity for savvy print specialists who can guide new and existing customers in the most cost-effective ways to target their customers – and of course potential customers – using the power of direct mail to put brand-building promotions directly into their hands.

Earlier this year Epsilon (part of the giant Publicis Groupe) teamed up with Webmart to host a seminar ‘The Ultimate Direct Mail Workshop’, at the swishy Publicis offices at Television Centre in London.

Part of the workshop involved an illuminating panel discussion, featuring Lauren Mason, marketing director at fashion brands Live Unlimited and Ro & Zo; and Allie Oldham, a multi-channel marketing expert and consultant with more than two decades of experience from her time as group marketing director at Scotts & Co.

Mason explained her journey into starting to use direct mail: “We started talking about direct mail 12 months ago, from being a digital-first brand we wanted to find a way of having some sort of physical presence with the customer and having something she can touch – so getting something into the home was really important for us.”

She said that initially her company was “really scared about the costs”.

“I think when you hear anything about DM, everyone almost scares you with the costs of things.”

Mason pressed ahead and tested DM for both brands for both acquisition and retention.

Live Unlimited proved difficult in terms of acquisition because of the lack of available data around what dress size a woman wears.

“But from a retention point-of-view it was great. It drove lifetime value and really high AOVs [average order values] and retention rates really increased,” she noted.

The results at occasion wear brand Ro & Zo were even more impressive. “Ro & Zo was just amazing,” Mason revealed.

“We acquired customers at really low cost – it was actually cheaper to acquire customers than by using digital.

“We had higher LTV and higher AOV, and it drove retention. I guess what DM gives us, is some security that customers we are acquiring through that channel are going to stay with us that little bit longer. Rather than spending a bit more on digital and not knowing if she’s going to come back.”

Following the success of the exploratory direct marketing campaigns in 2023, Mason said she planned to do more with print this year.

Perhaps Oldham summed up the current opportunity for brands (and by definition for industry providers) best with her pithy comment: “I think if you’re not in direct mail right now, you should be.”

Direct mail never went away, but in 2024 it certainly has new opportunities to shine.

Speaker insights and top tips

Ben Collier, business development director, Epsilon: “Often we hear businesses that are growing their business through digital channels complain about really high customer churn. So starting to bring in channels that are focused more on quality audiences or higher lifetime value customers becomes even more important.”

Ian Gibbs, director of data leadership and learning, JICMail: “Print has this fantastic power to cut through like no other channel at the moment. It stays in the home for seven days on average, and young people tend to hang onto their mail for longer.

“Young people don’t get targeted with much mail, according to our data they’re really engaged with the small amount they do receive.

“Frankly, with the death of third-party cookies mail will get a reappraisal.”

Chris Cairns, senior director business development, Yieldify: “If this is a new customer and the first time they’re shopping with you, it’s probably a different conversation you want to have than with a loyal customer that’s returning for their tenth purchase.

“How can we turn those new customers into loyal customers? Turning new customers into engaged customers that see value in dealing with your brand.

“It’s about how you can make all of your channels work even harder. So whatever you’re doing – from a direct mail point-of-view, for emails, social and paid media activity – optimising your website to those different channels and actually taking customers the last 100 metres is going to see better performance.”

Tom Maskill, sales and marketing director, Webmart: “There are lots of different incentives that Royal Mail has to encourage people to use the channel. These change over time but they can be quite substantial.

“If you’re new to mail there are new user incentives, if you’re AB testing different things, so test and learn, and test innovation. There are often some quite simple things we can do to tweak your mailing campaign to ensure that you’re eligible for these kinds of incentives. We’ve had some customers where it’s £60,000-£70,000 they’ve got back for use on future campaigns.

“Tweak the format to keep it fresh. And make the most of your production runs – is there anything else we can do using that format, at that time? Do you have, for example, things that go out in your parcels when you’re sending out orders? Do you use them at events? Do other areas of the business need printed collateral?

“Once the press is up and running you might as well make the most of that.”