Every day, the average consumer is exposed to thousands of marketing messages and personalization is one surefire way to cut through the clutter. Simply including someone’s name in a subject line increases the odds that email will be opened. Irrelevant advertising is the most common catalyst for downloading ad blockers. Last year, the Boston Consulting Group even estimated that prioritizing personalization would help brands outsell their competitors by 30%.
Personalization is far easier to pull off on the Internet. You have (or should have!) detailed profiles about your customers and a marketing automation platform that helps you send personalized messaging at lighting speed. Direct mail is more challenging to measure and naturally, there’s also the high cost of printing at scale.
Direct mail is also an effective way to capture consumers’ attention. According to the United States Postal Service, 81% of people read, or at the very least scan, their mail. Email marketers can only dream of an open rate that high.
Luckily, direct mail and email aren’t competing. According to The Little Book of Bigger Returns, direct mail boosted ROI by 20% when it was part of an integrated campaign. In other words, they’re part of the same ecosystem, as are ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores. Surveying 2,000 consumers last year, Sailthru found that about one-third of them have been driven to a retailer’s physical location by digital communications, whether that’s an email promoting an event at a store or a push notification promotion.
At its best, personalization is about using customer data from every channel to improve the experience any channel. That includes those that are offline, like the mailbox and the mail.
At Home: Taking Email Triggers Offline with Direct Mail
Like analog batch-and-blast email marketing, many retailers send catalogs to just about anyone in a given area. Things like inserts, wraps and belly bands provide ample opportunities to bring personalization to direct mail. Retailers can also segment sends, ensuring those customers who have historically purchased jewelry or men’s clothing, for example, receive the most relevant catalogs.
However, when it comes to email marketing, nothing produces the ROI like triggered messages. Behavior-based triggers, which follow actions such as signing up for a list or abandoning a shopping cart, are inherently personalized and generate more than three-quarters of email revenue. And the data that makes them possible can be used just as effectively offline.
Personalized welcomes are such a staple of Chewy’s customer experience that the online pet retailer employs in-house card writers. Sending thank you cards has also long been a staple for sales associates at luxury retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co.
Whether in someone’s mailbox or their inbox, welcome messaging is designed to roll out the red carpet for a new customer, assuring them they made the right choice and sharing your values. Post-purchase messaging aims to turn customers into loyalists, whether that’s incentivizing the next purchase or fostering a sense of community by asking for feedback. In both cases, they help endear customers to a brand, setting the stage for loyalty later.
Direct mail could even make that more effective. When Bond surveyed 2,000 American adults, the handwritten note service found that 81% consider handwritten notes more meaningful than digital communications.
Subscription-based snack service NatureBox demonstrates how applying personalized triggered messages to direct mail can drive business value. Re-engaging those customers who hadn’t been active in a while but still had store credit, NatureBox sent personalized postcards with promo codes. The campaign contributed to a 60% lift in net revenue per customer with a redemption rate of approximately 8.9%. That’s significantly higher than most retailers can expect to achieve from email, search, social media or display advertising. However, it’s standard for direct mail, which had a 9% response rate last year, according to the Data & Marketing Association.
Out and About: Location Data and In-Store Personalization
In many ways, smartphones are the common thread tying the entire customer experience together. Mobile commerce is perpetually on the rise and last year, mobile devices accounted for 58.3% of retail traffic during the holiday season. Of course, smartphones also play a crucial role in brick-and-mortar store shopping as well.
The majority of Americans don’t go to the bathroom without their phones, let alone a store. Carrying all the information in the world in our pockets lets us research items before we buy them. It’s increasingly common practice to read reviews and compare prices in-store. As a result, smartphones influence 56 cents of every dollar spent in brick-and-mortar stores, according to Deloitte Digital research.
Location data has a huge impact because it lets retailers one important thing about customers: they’re here. Beacons let you know someone is close by, giving you a heads up. Use those few minutes to get the red carpet ready, before rolling it out once the customer takes their first step inside the store. When high-ranking members of Frank And Oak’s loyalty programs walk into a store, their mobile app activates a nearby Bluetooth beacon. This alerts the staff, who then prepare a freshly-brewed cup of coffee for the customer, elevating his experience before he’s even started shopping. DSW uses geolocation data and beacons similarly, messaging DSW VIP members with rewards and personalized product recommendations when they stop by stores.
Nordstrom is another retailer that leverages location data in a smart way. Using beacons, the Seattle-based department store reminds nearby customers about sales or let them know which of their favorite items are available. That’s just the beginning of the personalized in-store experience. Last year, the Seattle-based department store acquired a personalization-focused conversational commerce platform and a mobile clienteling called BevyUp. These acquisitions enable Nordstrom to deliver a better personalized customer experience on- and offline. Sales associates use a feature called Style Boards, where they can create outfit recommendations for their clients.
Every year, Sailthru analyzes retailers on their personalization prowess and ranks the top 100. Nordstrom is a consistent top performer and it’s no wonder why; in 1996, the company literally wrote the book on customer service.