Insert Media Offer Cost-Effective Marketing Options

Insert media, direct mail’s less glamorous relative, is also a proven way to reach new customers, and AccuList helps clients place offers in a range of printed insert options such as package inserts; publication “blow-in,” “bind-in” and onsert programs; postcard decks; statement stuffers; and cooperative mailing programs. In the digital space, there also are webserts to qualified online buyers.

Insert Media Virtues: Targeting, Co-Branding, Savings

Insert media programs may seem old-fashioned, but younger recipients actually embrace them. For example, Quad/Graphics research has found that 49% of millennials said they ignored Internet ads, and 48% said they ignored e-mail, but only 25% ignored retail inserts! Or on the flip side, 73% said they paid attention to retail inserts vs. 48% who paid attention to mobile text. Plus, insert media have a number of virtues that make them attractive to direct marketers: They leverage co-branding since offers “ride along” with material from an already trusted source; they avoid postage costs and save on printing expenses; and they offer a targeted audience. So here are some tips for those who want to add insert media to their direct marketing.

The Basics Still Apply: Target and Test

In choosing insert media, the first step is to consider your desired target audience and its match with the demographics and purchase history/interests of the host program. Next, as with any direct marketing effort, test and re-test. Start by testing small but in large enough batches for an accurate reading of response, and make sure there is a large enough universe for future rollout. You can test for both creative/offer and audience category, but if finding the right audience and host program is the goal and the budget is limited, it’s probably better to test four different audience groups/programs rather than four creatives to the same audience/program. Of course, even once a control is developed for rollout, continue to test against it. And be wary of potential audience duplication: Using different programs with the same owner, a package insert and a statement insert for example, might reach the same recipients at different times.

Multi-channel Response and Multi-channel Tracking

Insert media today are usually part of an omnichannel strategy, and recipients of printed materials often prefer to respond by other channels. That means inserts should provide more than one response option: business reply card, 800 number, URL, and mobile QR code. And it means tracking and analyzing results across channels. So make sure to provide a unique code on pieces to track response by program, offer, audience category, insert month/timing. etc. And if you use a mobile QR code, with links to an offer/purchase landing page or a reply/request page, be sure that the online pages are mobile optimized! Because inserts are competing for attention with other offers, your creative needs to stand out in design and messaging, with a clear call to action. Plus, in scheduling insert media, remember that you are at the mercy of the host program’s timings and availability. Plan with seasonality in mind and build in adequate lead times; most insert media campaigns will need to be produced and delivered weeks in advance of program distribution. The payoff in cost-effective reach can definitely make the planning worthwhile, however, as noted in a 2019 article on the value of insert media for niche businesses.

Despite Doubters, 2018 Direct Mail Ups Response, ROI, Usage

AccuList USA’s direct mail marketing clients received lots of encouraging news in the 2018 “ANA-DMA Response Rate Report.”  Direct mail improved its usage ranking to tie with social media as the second most-used medium (57%), for example, and continued to deliver the best response rates of any medium. In fact, “snail mail” even improved on its response success by doubling median response rates over last year to 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists in 2018. Mail’s Return on Investment (ROI) also leaped by 12 percentage points to beat out online display this year.

While Marketers Forecast Mail Decline, Usage Tells a Different Story

The only negative in the report is that those surveyed continue to doubt the future of direct mail, with 19% saying they plan to decrease usage in the coming 12 months. But if the report participants follow their behavior after previous surveys, which similarly predicted mail declines, direct mail usage will remain buoyant, which allowed it to rise in 2018 despite planned cuts. One drag on direct mail continues to be its Cost Per Action/Acquisition, which is the highest CPA of any medium and puts budget pressure on mail volume, which did decline for both house and prospect lists compared with the 2017 study.

Direct Mail Usage Dominates Most Industry Segments

However, high response rates, competitive ROI, online tracking and print-tech advances are keeping marketers loyal to “traditional” mail in a digital world. In fact, direct mail usage for marketing campaigns equals or exceeds 50% for most of the 11 industry segments cited in the study. In usage, direct mail leaders were travel or hospitality (80%), nonprofits (75%), publishing or media (71%), and financial services/banks/credit (67%). Only Technology (44%), Retail (44%), and B2B Services (34%) came in below the 50% usage mark. 

B2B, B2C Split on Formats As Response Tracking Goes Digital

When it comes to direct mail creative format, postcards tend to produce the best overall response in combined B2B and B2C data, with a 13% median response rate for house files and 10% for prospecting files. Letter-size envelope formats turned in rates of 10% for house lists and 4% for prospecting, and oversize envelope mail garnered 11% for both house and prospect lists. Format results are different for B2B versus B2C, however. Looking only at B2B, limited data indicates the letter-size envelope format outperforms with a combined median response for house and prospect lists of 15%-40%, compared with postcards’ 14%-16%. For B2C, responses show oversize envelopes actually turning in the best 9%-12% median response for house and prospect lists combined, compared with postcards at 9% and letter envelopes at 4%. In tracking those response rates, marketers have definitely gone digital, with over half of surveyed marketers (53%) saying they use online tracking capabilities, such as PURLs, followed in popularity by the use of codes or coupons (45%) and call center or telephone inquiries (41%).

 

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.