The Right E-mail Tactics Can Make Holidays Merry for Retailers

The holiday buying season is around the corner, and e-mail is more important than ever in the retail marketing mix for both existing customer lists and prospecting e-mail lists. Marketers planning for fourth quarter success may want to check plans against the “Ultimate Guide to Holiday E-mail Marketing” post offered by Campaign Monitor for some basic strategies and examples.

Leverage Online Buying, Mobile and Personalization Trends

Targeted e-mail marketing is positioned to capitalize on three big retail marketing trends: online buying, mobile commerce, and personalization. Four out of five Americans are now online shoppers, per Pew Research, so marketers will want to join the 41% of retailers that use “Buy Now” buttons in their e-mail marketing to link shoppers directly and quickly to online purchase pages. Mobile-optimized e-mails (linked to mobile-optimized landing pages) will also deliver more dollars because half of those online buyers make purchases using a mobile device. Sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2018 surpassed $2 billion, breaking the previous record set in 2017, and, according to Movable Ink, 76% of Black Friday e-mails and 63% of Cyber Monday e-mails are opened on a mobile device.  Finally, now that personalization is demanded by consumers across channels, quality e-mail list data and segmentation can create the personalized e-mail messaging that delivers six times higher e-mail transaction rates, that converts 202% better than default e-mail calls to action (per HubSpot), and that generates a median e-mail ROI of 122% (per Instapage research). And don’t forget that personalized e-mail subject lines generate an average of 50% higher open rates (per Oberlo data)!

Start by Crafting Subject Lines that Get Opens

Indeed, the subject line is the first step in getting an e-mail noticed and opened. And on the subject of subject lines, Campaign Monitor has distilled some key tips. As noted above, personalize the subject line to boost open rates, using list data such as first name, for example, as well as relevant messaging based on purchase history, geography, gender, site actions/browsing, etc. Keep the subject line short but pack in “power words” that tap emotions and drive action, including sales-driven words (deal, promotion, discount, savings, free shipping); time-urgency words (order now, limited time, today only, last minute, exclusive); holiday references (12 Deals of Christmas, Season’s Greetings); and gratitude expressions (Thank you, appreciation, your support). Try engaging with a question (Need gift ideas?) or an eye-catching emoji. Brands using an emoji in their subject lines report a 45% increase in unique open rates, per Experian. Including an enticing offer in the subject line can help grab opens, too. For example, a mention of free shipping gains the interest of 74% of consumers, per UPS.

Use Holiday Messaging That Drives Action

Research shows e-mail creative earns more click-throughs and conversions by making the call-to-action prominent via an eye-catching button with short text (Buy Now, Save 40%). Make sure the button has a trackable link to a landing page where the recipient can buy the specific offer in the e-mail rather than a home page or generic purchase page where prospects must search for the offer. Overall, messaging can use holiday shopping fever to heat up response with tactics such as offering a gift buying guide, pumping a Cyber Monday or Black Friday sale, offering a special gift for referring a friend, incorporating a traditional or pop-culture holiday theme, or catering to panicked last-minute shoppers (In 2015, the average shopper had only completed a little over half their shopping list two weeks before Christmas). For inspiration from real e-mail examples, go to the Campaign Monitor article.


2019 Trends Open Doors for More Direct Mail Success

Direct mail lists and data services are core to AccuList USA’s business success, so each year we research which trends our direct mail marketing clients will want to embrace for maximum response–and which trends are fading in effectiveness.

Digital Ad Tune-outs Offer Mail Opportunities

Digital issues can create direct mail opportunities, points out direct mail agency Inkit, noting that customers are tuning out digital advertising, whether e-mails, banners or social media promos. In fact, eMarketer estimates that 30% of all Internet users will use ad blockers in 2019. One way to offset the drop in digital ad effectiveness is to beef up direct mail campaigns. Note that ANA-DMA research shows that 84% of millennials take the time to look through their mail and 64% would rather scan for useful information in the mail than e-mail. Plus, 41% of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers report enjoying catalogs. That engagement translates into higher response rates for mail than for any other media, per the 2018 ANA-DMA Response Rate Report, with 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists.

Snail Mail Can Join the 2019 Video Boom

While digital ads are being ignored, digital video is booming; Inkit reports that Cisco projects video will encompass more than 85% of all Internet traffic in the U.S. by 2020! Direct mail doesn’t have to be left out. Thanks to print technology–QR, AR, Video-in-Print and Near Field Communication (NFC)–paper promotions can jump on the video bandwagon and further boost their own mail response.

2019 Demands Personalized, Cross-Channel Campaigns

Customers in 2019 will expect marketers to personalize offers and deliver a seamless experience across channels, Inkit asserts, requiring integration of online, e-mail, direct mail, social media, mobile, and in-store campaigns. In fact, retailing research recently found that close to 90% of retailers say integrated cross-channel or omnichannel marketing is key to success. AI is one way marketers are getting a handle on messaging across channels and at different points in the buyer journey, which can help decide timing and targeting of direct mail. Meanwhile, for mail, variable data content printing and enhanced database targeting and segmenting can deliver the personalized relevant messaging that will be a basic of 2019 marketing.

Take Variable Data Printing to the Next Level in 2019

Yet when it comes to printing and personalization, there are some popular direct mail practices that need to be ditched this year, advises direct marketing agency Darwill. For example, using a 4-color master shell on which variable content is laser-printed in black and white has become old-hat given that new inkjet presses can create endless 4-color versions for a more targeted and engaging campaign. Along the same lines, the custom maps laser-printed in black and white can be replaced by full-color variable maps that are more personalized, eye-catching, and likely to drive leads.

Use Envelopes to Intrigue Outside; Put Tailored Offers Inside

This year, instead of revealing all details of a promotional offer on the outside envelope to drive opens, Darwill advises that a promotional pitch that is visible but not fully revealed on the envelope is likely to work better–a sneak peek at a personalized offer. Then once the recipient opens the envelope, he or she better not find one-size-fits-all content! Luckily, with today’s full-color inkjet technology, a letter or a coupon can now be varied based on a recipient’s past shopping patterns or demographics.

 

 

 

Direct Mail Lead Gen Doesn’t Have to Bust the Budget

Many direct marketing articles tout digital tactics for generating sales leads. But at AccuList USA, we can attest to the continued lead-gen effectiveness of traditional direct mail for a range of our clients, including online retail and publications. Direct mail has higher response rates while avoiding some of the challenges of SEO, social media and e-mail, such as rapidly changing rules, deliverability/visibility issues and a crowded competitive space. But what about the cost of direct mail?  As a recent MarketingProfs post highlighted, there are direct mail options that can effectively deliver leads without busting the marketing budget!

Sales Letters Are Proven Workhorses

A No. 10 envelope that includes a one- or two-page letter and a reply card is an expensive, simple and effective way to reach prospects with something likely to be opened and read (unlike many e-mails). Of course, response depends on the proper targeting of the prospect lists and the personalized content of the letter. The letter should identify a problem, present a solution and offer a “freebie” of value, such as a brochure, sample, demo, evaluation, information kit or anything else that will get a response so that salespeople can follow up with qualified prospects.

Postcards and Flyers Are Lower Cost Options

A postcard is an inexpensive alternative to a letter, with low print costs and lower postage rates, as long as you stay within the minimum size of 3.5″ x 5″ and the maximum of 4.25″ x 6″. Because there is less room for the sales message, offer copy needs to be simple with a clear call to action. And because there is no additional response device, postcards need to stress a website address or a phone number. To drive traffic to a retail store, make room for directions or a map. Similarly, flyers are cheap and great options for local small businesses or businesses that want to appear small (read less expensive). Printed on ordinary paper, folded in thirds with a tab to hold it closed, and addressed with a mailing label and stamp, the result doesn’t have to be beautiful to be effective. Put the main message on the inside and teasers and mailing information on the outside so that, when you read the address, the folded side is on the bottom and the tab is on the top.

Court Attention With Invitations and Special Delivery

An invitation doesn’t have to be printed in formal lettering on cream card stock in a fancy hand-addressed envelope. You can draw people to an event or offer in a way that seems more personal and important just by using the words “You are invited…” An invitation can use a letter, a postcard or a flyer for an open house, special sale, product demonstration, etc. The key is to make the event seem exclusive and the invitees special in some way. Another way to make a mailing seem special is to use FedEx or other quick delivery service. The package content can range from a simple personal letter to a video or product sample. A special delivery package is a guaranteed open, but, because the delivery method is more expensive, it is usually limited to a smaller group of select targets.

For the complete article, see http://www.marketingprofs.com/8/cheap-direct-mail-tools-generate-sales-leads-fast-rieck.asp

Learn How to Integrate Direct Mail & E-mail for Max Results

Even though omnichannel has gone from marketing buzzword to marketing given, AccuList USA’s retail, catalog and e-commerce clients can still face challenges in getting the most ROI from direct mail and e-mail integration. A recent MarketingProfs post offered a collection of stats and tips that can help.

Direct Mail Adds Important Punch to Campaigns

For those who doubt the power that traditional mail can add to a digitally focused effort, the article cites a few important facts about snail mail’s bottom line punch.  For example, campaigns that use two channels together, such as direct mail and e-mail, have been shown to get up to a 35% lift over those using a single channel, per IWCO Direct data. The younger generation may be very digitally savvy, even addicted when it comes to social and mobile, but recent studies from the U.S. Postal Service prove mail’s sales power: A whopping 57% of Millennials make purchases based on direct mail offers! Other USPS studies show why mail works so well regardless of age: People spend more time with physical advertising, have a stronger emotional response and remember the physical promotion better than digital efforts. Plus, beyond the ability to use direct mail’s sizes, formats and tactile designs to grab attention, today’s print technology makes it easy to link a printed piece to digital channels via QR codes, near-field communication (NFC), and augmented reality (AR).

How to Improve Integration of Direct Mail & E-mail

So how do you get the most out of a direct mail-e-mail marriage? Here are some ideas from the MarketingProfs post’s authors, Dennis Kelly, CEO of direct mail automation tool Postalytics, and Nancy Harhut, a creative director who has worked with leading brands such as Google, Adobe, McGraw-Hill, and Nationwide Insurance:

  1. Consider delivering critical information in both channels to reinforce the message.
  2. Have each communication build on the previous one.
  3. Use direct mail to emphasize a key message or break up the expected routine.
  4. Ensure both e-mail and direct mail adhere to the same graphic standards and reflect the same voice so each piece reinforces and extends your brand promise.
  5. Use direct mail to initiate a conversation with people whose email addresses you do not yet have, or with those who have repeatedly not responded to your email

For more on workflows integrating direct mail and e-mail, see https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2018/34741/best-practices-and-tips-for-integrating-direct-mail-into-email-marketing-campaigns

 

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.

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/

B2B Sales Trends Boost Mobile-Friendly Online Acquisition

With Forrester Research forecasting steady growth in B2B e-commerce, reaching $1.2 trillion in sales, or 13.1% of all B2B sales, by 2021, smart e-commerce marketing is more essential than ever for AccuList USA’s B2B catalog and e-commerce clients. A recent bigcommerce.com blog post highlighted many important trends for B2B e-commerce, but we’ll focus on three marketing-related takeaways.

Acquisition Is the New Online Focus

The days are gone when B2B online strategy could succeed by putting up a website as a customer service portal, a place for existing account re-orders or a passive catalog display. Online selling is becoming a core part of B2B business and sales strategy, argues bigcommerce.com post author Jillian Hufford, marketing analyst at nChannel, a multi-channel integration provider. B2B marketers should start by profiling customers to better target online and offline promotions to find high-ROI traffic. Note that a robust SEO/SEM strategy, coupled with website search tools, is essential given that 74% of B2B buyers report researching at least part of their work purchases online. Easy, seamless cross-channel ordering is another basic of online customer acquisition now. Plus, an investment in online content marketing, coupled with SEO strategy, can leverage educational and expert content on the website to attract searchers and win Google rank.

Online and Print Catalogs Work in Tandem

Five years ago, more than two-thirds of B2B sellers thought they would stop mailing paper catalogs. That hasn’t happened, but many B2B merchants are using an integrated multi-channel effort to balance smaller or less frequent print catalogs with more interactive online catalogs. For success with print-plus-online, the online catalog cannot merely mimic the print version. E-commerce means investing in interactive online tools that allow customizing, sharing, distributing, ordering and tracking, all supported by integrated back-end technology.

Mobile-Friendly Means Revenue-Friendly

Ever-expanding B2B mobile use is driving big marketing changes. Google and BCG research data from 2017 shows why: 80% of B2B buyers are using mobile at work; 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase; and 60% of B2B buyers expect to continue to increase their mobile usage. B2B retailers who are dragging their feet on mobile-friendly adaptation risk dragging down their own revenues; BCG research found that brands that are “mobile leaders” earn more traffic, more leads and more revenue than “mobile laggards.”

For more B2B e-commerce trends, and examples of real-life company online successes, see Hufford’s attached blog post.

Power Up Holiday E-mail With Segmentation, Offers

AccuList USA’s e-mail list clients, especially those in e-commerce and multi-channel retailing, are beginning their holiday e-mail campaigns. What strategies will make for optimum results?

Segment to Maximize Response, Order Value

From decades as data brokers and e-mail support providers, we can attest that targeting and smart segmentation are essential to holiday e-mail success. Of course, the house list can single out the active buyers and segment by basics such as location (no ice to Eskimos) and gender. But more sophisticated segmentation looks at purchase history in terms of product interest, in-store vs. web store, abandoned carts, purchase frequency, etc. For example, to maximize customer value, you can segment by average purchase (separating high-priced buyers from discount buyers) and send targeted e-mails with offers slightly over average order value. You can also reward and stimulate more sales from the most loyal buyers, segmented by purchase frequency or referrals etc., by e-mailing them unique holiday specials and freebies. The holiday season is also a great time to revive inactive customers, such as the previous year’s holiday buyers who haven’t been active since. Send them special offers to woo them back to the brand. Prior-holiday gift card buyers are a good sub-segment for a reminder e-mail about this convenient option. You can also target the most recent opt-ins who haven’t converted to buyers with offers and creative most likely inspire clicks. And don’t neglect to match your e-mail list to Facebook, YouTube or third-party newsletters to extend your reach via those vehicles! Although rented e-mail lists will not have the same intimate customer knowledge, you can still select by location, gender, age, product interest, and more.

Get Creative With Holiday Offers

Holiday e-mails have to grab attention in crowded inboxes, and that means you need to get creative with offers that drive opens and clicks. Constant Contact recently surveyed its small business clients and gathered 30 successful holiday e-mail ideas that may help inspire your marketing. Here are just the lucky top seven: a holiday preview sale, a campaign to drive traffic to your Cyber Monday specials, a free shipping offer, a gift card or gift certificate bonus offer, a holiday gift guide, the tried-and-true holiday coupon, a holiday sample sale (good for food and drink retail). Go to the Constant Contact post to see examples and read about all 30 holiday e-mail ideas.

Use Key Direct Marketing KPIs to Gird 2018 Plans

The busy year-end holiday season, especially for fundraisers and retailers, should not distract direct marketers from the working on the analytics they need to finalize next year’s marketing plans and ROI. A recent post by the Digital Dog Direct agency helpfully offers a checklist of basic marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Spending and Lead Generation

Marketing ROI is about effective spending and requires tracking results by channel and campaign. KPIs use actual annual outlay for direct mail marketing (lists, print, lettershop, creative, postage), digital marketing (e-mail, SEO/SEM, landing pages, social media and creative), as well as spending on PR/events/brand/content marketing.  Marketers must keep a tally of the number of outbound leads attributed to direct mail or e-mail campaigns, as well as the inbound leads generated by efforts such as SEO, blog content or PR. Then a cost per lead acquired can be calculated by dividing annual expenditure by the number of leads generated. Since the ultimate goal is sales not merely leads, the percentage of leads that become paying customers and the dollar sales per lead are key measures.

Multi-channel Performance Rates

Beyond evaluating general performance, marketing planners should use measurement to fine-tune future marketing plans and budgets. This means identifying the response rates and conversion rates for each channel, for each direct mail and digital campaign, and for tests of creative, timing, frequency, lists and segments. Performance rates should be measured not only for campaigns to acquire new leads/customers but also targeting of existing customers and reactivation of dormant customers. Website traffic reports from Google Analytics can not only show online ad and SEM effectiveness but also track spikes around direct mail or e-mail promotions to give a fuller picture of response. A simple ratio of the annual return on marketing investment, or ROI by channel and campaign, can be calculated by adding up incremental sales from marketing and subtracting marketing amount spent, and then dividing the result by amount spent on marketing.

Long-term Growth of High-Value Customers

But remember that a focus on annual or campaign results can be myopic since these do not necessarily deliver long-term growth–for example if attrition is high so more customers are lost than added. Marketers need to look at customer and prospect databases to make sure they are growing year-over-year. Because acquiring a single sale per lead also is less profitable long-term than acquiring a repeat customer, measuring average customer lifetime value is a vital KPI and is calculated by multiplying average dollar sale per customer by the average number of purchases per year and the average retention time in years.

See the full article for the KPI checklist.