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Direct mail: Not dead yet (and won’t be any time soon) November 12, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing.
Tags: , , ,

Thank goodness it’s Veteran’s Day — I have a USPS-free day to clean up all of the mail that is piling up all over my house. Must be the season, but I’ve dedicated a few posts to the direct mail industry lately (I promise that I’ll find someone else to pick on once we get through Christmas). Just to give you some more proof that direct mail isn’t going to die on the vine any time soon (article from Direct Magazine):

Early next year, Neckties.com going to make its first foray into direct mail, says Herschberg.

We have a direct mail campaign we’re going to be working on after the fourth quarter,” he says, noting that while the firm’s younger customers prefer to shop online, they tend to spend less than their older counterparts.

“People in 50s and 60s more likely to be swayed by combination of online and direct mail,” says Herschberg, conceding that the direct mail effort is “something of an experiment.”

Neckties.com is not alone. Per my previous assertion that ecommerce is actually responsible for increased direct mail circulation… I get a ton of mail from Netflix. If Netflix bothered to match its rented list to its own customer database, they would find that my household (thanks to my husband) is already one of its most active customers (my husband rents movies weekly and has rated over 1900 movies Netflix.com to date!). I have also recently received mailings from online mailings from ecommerce stalwarts like Overstock.com.   

To continue my rant… The most ridiculous catalog I’ve gotten so far this holiday season is the one that was entirely dedicated to field hockey from Longstreth. I’m sure it’s a fine company, but my household has no interest in field hockey (I’d love to know where the shoddy analytics that determined I am into field hockey came from)…. The connection must have been that mouth guard I ordered for my daughter (as required by her SOCCER coach) through one of Amazon.com’s merchants…. My request to Amazon: Don’t just pass me off to the to the privacy policy whim of your partner merchants! Take some ownership and add functionality to your ecommerce site to allow customers to opt-out of catalogs and email when they buy from a partner. 



1. Todd Herschberg - November 13, 2007


I’ll try very hard to make sure I don’t send you any junk mail. 🙂

-Todd Herschberg
(See above)

2. don white - November 14, 2007

The mailman get’s hazardous duty pay to deliver to Elana’s home.

But she’s right. I’m getting more mail now AND I’m buying more on-line than ever before. Case in point. Every couple of years we take a sailing vacation and charter a boat in the caribbean. In between I visit a lot of websites and fantasize about my next vacation. I ALWAYS book on-line. But every charter company feels compelled to send me the most expensive catalogs you can imagine, all of which get immediately tossed becasue all of the information including informative videos is all available on-line.

What do people out their think. Is this just because they can’t break old habits “Business Rule” Visitor hits site and registers, Send catalog. Or are these charter companies like many other travel retailers just unable to understand multi-channel behavior?

3. Elana Anderson - November 15, 2007

Todd – Thanks for your comment. I also appreciate that fact that you said that you are testing direct mail to try to reach an older demographic. Frankly, I think that’s one of the issues in the industry is that we don’t do enough test and measurement. If you are open to it, I would love to follow up after the test and discuss the results.

Don – I get those same catalogs (I bet they’re $3.50 a book). Similarly, in August, I booked (online) a family vacation home in the Outer Banks for summer 2008. What do you know, the rental company sent me a catalog in the mail this week! Hello, I’ve already booked! You know they’re hoping I’ll give the catalog to my neighbor…. Per your question, I don’t even think it’s really as advanced an issue as understanding multi-channel behavior. They know I booked online and they added me to their catalog list… I think the issue is more basic — they are probably being measured on list growth or they just have all of the data sitting in a flat file list without any ability to filter or segment. If you want to put together a pitch for Moorings and SunSail, etc. I’d be happy to work on it with you;-) BVI, here we come!

4. don white - November 16, 2007

Research is an important prerequisite for any new business pitch. Let me consult my catalog to check on charter prices for Spring break. Oops. I threw it out.

5. Suzanne Obermire - November 28, 2007

I think it’s because cataloguers hear way too much about multi-channel marketing. They think that if they can reach their customers/prospects through multiple channels, it is ALWAYS more effective than just reaching them one way.

How about this as a concept: Cataloguers should make their very best effort to communicate with customers through the channel(s) that the customers want to hear from them. Or, at a minimum, communicate in the most cost-efficient way possible (the highest ROI).

The challenge–all of this is much more complicated than it appears. But a rigorous testing strategy goes a long way.

6. Elana Anderson - December 4, 2007

Suzanne – Thanks for your comment!

You’re right, implementing a strong data-driven and analytic marketing program is complicated. I do think, however, that cataloguers, in particular, need to rethink the approach of adding every ecommerce customer to the catalog list. If you think about it, all the focus has been on email spam in recent years, but email is so cheap compared to catalog mail. And, with the growing eco-friendliness of consumers, this WILL become a bigger issue. I posted a related post several weeks ago in which I recommed retailers provide some opt out options for the catalog on their ecommerce sites. I’d love to know your thoughts on those ideas.

7. Afghanistan - April 7, 2011

What a cool post! I am just starting out in community management/marketing media and trying to learn how to do it well – resources like this blog are very much helpful. As our company is based in the US, it’s all a little bit new to us. The example above is something that I worry about as well, how to show your own real enthusiasm and share the fact that your product is beneficial in that case.

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