Case Study: Direct Mail – Brick & Mortar Retail

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Is My Direct Mail Effective?

The Assignment:

While working for a marketing agency, a local specialized retail client came to us to help them improve their sales. They relied heavily on a variety of channels, but believed their direct mail, postcards and newsletters, were most effective. I began there to see what was working and compared it to other channels.

The Challenge: 

The initial review showed that these channels weren’t markedly effective. They were measuring success by a 5% response rate on a small send to existing customers. But the numbers were more important than the percentages. Most recently they had sent out print newsletters and postcards to 200 existing customers, who received both the newsletter and the postcard a week apart. These same customers also received weekly sale emails. Over the 6 week period following, only 10 customers responded, four of which were weekly customers anyway, six of whom clicked through emails.

The real challenge became helping them improve their view of their efforts and their outcomes, and make more efficient and effective use of direct mail.

The Approach:

I began the engagement by doing a full analysis of their current customers and buyers, segmenting them by type of customer and then further by frequency.

I analyzed the attribution influence of the different campaigns and developed individual and influence reports for each segment. I then reviewed their list partner who they had a long-standing relationship with and maintained loyalty to to determine different opportunities within their offerings to find look-alike audiences for the newly segmented audiences targets.

The Work: 

  • Developed a cadence and process to send and track campaigns across channels to audience segments.
  • Set up exclusions and alternate processes for specific customers based on responses.
  • Worked with the in-house marketing team to develop a strategy to target these segments with specific, timely campaigns of interest based on their history.
  • Directed new customized creative for the audiences with specific messaging and clear Calls to Action.
  • Recommended product inclusion based on inventory and margin, aligned with known customer interest and seasonality.
  • Coordinated with the list company to target a wider audience, added in exclusions of existing customers.
  • Modified income and zip radius to incorporate their different store locations.
  • Tagged existing customers and added system triggers for SKU purchases to align with customer service scripts and tracking.
  • Set up reporting to allow for deeper analysis and view of the customers and the attribution influence of the omnichannel campaigns.
  • Coordinated timing and feature of messaging, product offerings in weekly sales flyers, newsletters, and emails to align but not duplicate messaging and targeting.

The Outcome: 

  • Increase in overall batch rose from 200 to 850.
  • Non customer Direct mail send increased from 200 addresses to 325 (of ONLY non-customers).
  • New customer increase, a direct result of the new list was12% (39 new customers) over 4 weeks.
  • Existing Customer response averaged overall (attribution influence) 44% (35 customers) and direct attribution of 18 customers per customer segment. (direct mail lists of existing customers averaged 125 unique addresses).
  • Purchase of featured items in direct mail was now trackable (previous the campaigns were awareness reminder campaigns).
  • A Full process including tips and recommendations, direct steps and reporting developed. Lower cost for production (smaller books, in-house and product photography, targeted distribution, reduction in mailing cost).
  • 25-35% margin increase increase return on investment based and tracked on SKU designations in orders and re-orders.
  • 17% Increase in new users based on first time buyers in our system.
  • Ongoing reporting and analysis set up to track omnichannel purchase behavior based on these catalog customers.


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