Direct Mail Called “The Most Direct Pipeline” to Consumers

randal_ford_llbean_100_anniversary_catalogJust as the first iteration of direct mail disrupted retail, so too will direct mail 2.0 disrupt and transform the industry.

Budget troubles at the USPS aside, there is plenty of innovation going on in direct mail these days and the Post Office is working with retailers to make it happen.

“Maybe you’ve heard Megan Brennan, the 74th Postmaster General of the U.S. Postal Service, discuss the agency’s efforts to modernize and meet the challenges of the 21st century,” writes Lewis Gersch in Total Retail.

“If you haven’t — and let’s face it, postal mail flies well below today’s tech-targeted radar — you might be surprised to learn that the Postal Service partnered with to deliver groceries in San Francisco, built an augmented reality app to enhance what’s in your mailbox, and created an online hub that allows customers to give their carrier specific delivery instructions. In other words, neither rain, nor sleet nor technological disruption will interfere with the mail, and that’s good news because as Brennan put it, direct mail is ‘the most direct pipeline to the consumer.’”

Among the trends Gersh notes are the resurgence of catalogs like JC Penney to serve the omni-channel consumer; catalogs  like Anthropologie’s that contain high quality editorial content rather than sales pitches; and highly customized editions of popular volumes like LL Bean that add huge relevance to catalog shopping.

“We’ve arrived at our omnichannel future, and it looks nothing like we predicted it would, largely because of direct mail,” notes Gersch, explaining the concept known as “webrooming” in which customers “start the shopping experience online but go to the store to complete their purchase.”

Beyond catalogs, other retail direct mail innovations include Intelligent Mail Barcode technology that “makes it possible to sync up direct mail with online channels and capture attribution between online and offline,” and Real Mail Notification that helps retailers “align email marketing with direct mail campaigns.

“And, of course, improvements in printing technology combined with CRM and other real-time data tools have dramatically reduced lead times to the point where it’s possible for retailers to deliver a customized direct mail offer immediately after a store visit,” Gersch continues.

What’s old is new again, and direct mail is making a big impact on the future of retail marketing. That’s great news for marketers who are on top of the tech trends and able to deliver effective direct mail campaigns that make an impact.