This is the conclusion from the 2017 Epsilon Abacus Home Shopping Trends Report which is based on analysis carried out on the transactional activity of Abacus Alliance members for 2015 and 2016. The annual trends report covers brands within six categories – Clothing; Food & Wine; Gardening; Generalist Retail; Gifts, Gadgets & Entertainment; and Home Interiors & Household Goods.
Just last week we held our most recent Masterclass, Driving online sales through a new channel. Attended by e-commerce businesses, we're finding pure-play companies are really embracing the printed catalogue as a new channel to market.I was recently interviewed by print production agency Cousin on this theme. These were my responses to their questions around the renaissance of direct mail and its role in today's digital-first world.
What do you think is a common misconception about direct mail as a marketing channel?A lot of people view direct mail as outdated or only appropriate for retailers who target older audiences. I would say this is untrue, as there has been a recent surge of ecommerce start-ups using a catalogue or direct mail to drive new and existing customers to buy online.
What is driving this resurgence of direct mail?Start-ups these days will grow organically through one or several online marketing channels, whether that’s Google AdWords, retargeting or social media. Traditionally, this has been the cheapest form of marketing from a cost per acquisition (CPA) perspective. However, every retailer will eventually find that their growth curve through online marketing alone begins to plateau. Then they begin to explore alternative customer acquisition channels. Many have found that sending a piece of well-targeted print marketing at the right time with the right offer can open up a completely new audience.
How can the cost of direct mail compete with the affordability of online marketing?
The General Data Protection Regulation states that personal data must be kept “no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed” [Art.5(1)(e)]. This implies there’s a time limit on how long customers’ data can be kept. But this vague statement begs the question: “’how long’ is ‘longer than necessary’”?
Beyond 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) may result in a limit being placed on how long you can hold data. Although the wording is vague, stating personal data can be kept “…for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed.”, it could mean customers who have not bought from you in a certain timeframe may have to be deleted from your database. To prepare for this change, you should be focusing on reactivating lapsed customers so you don’t potentially lose them.
When print dominated, the catalogue was king. Visually stimulating, personalised, targeted and response-orientated, it was a key sales-generating channel. With the rise of digital, online is now dominant. A targeted medium, where success can be gauged instantly, personalised offers dynamically created, campaigns optimised easily and buying simple.
Next week the Black Friday bun-fight is once again upon us, and the differing predictions around retailer boom versus doom are in full swing.
For some companies, offline and online strategies are approached as ‘never the twain shall meet’: activities are siloed and offline and online treated separately. The reality is they’re just different channels that need to work together. Customers don’t think online/offline or in channels, so why should marketers?When it comes to data, the more information that can be obtained, the better, irrespective of the channel it has been derived from. Ultimately, though, it’s not about the data but how it’s used to drive action.
Online activity supporting offline actions
For multi-channel retailers, understanding cross-channel customer activity is becoming increasingly important. There are practical reasons why you should be collecting online browsing behaviour as it can instruct and support your offline activities.