How direct mail can boost the retail sector

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We are continually telling consumers to go online: are we surprised that they’ve not only gone online but gone full stop?

Business to consumer communications are changing, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is forcing organisations to rethink the way they communicate with their prospective audience. But how has the legislation affected the retail sector, which makes up a large proportion of the direct mail market?

In the US and UK, retailers are regularly closing stores, save perhaps large superstores. Since the digital boom of the mid to late noughties, retail marketing has focused on sending potential consumers online for their purchases. It should be no surprise perhaps that footfall, in turn, has declined, to the extent that stores end up closing. In fact, a good number have shut up shop both online and in-store, with some high profile retailers going out of business.

So, the question is, why have so many retailers chosen to focus their marketing on sending consumers away from their shops?

Presumably, the cost is the main factor, with potentially lower overheads for online business models. However, statistics I have seen from the US tell us that there is a 1 in 7 chance that shoppers will make a purchase when they visit a high street store, compared to just 1 in 35 when they visit online. Perhaps it is a numbers game, with many more consumers viewing online than in store, but the fact that stores and businesses are closing isn’t a coincidence.

My advice is to play safe and mail people; giving offers or vouchers or other forms of engagement to direct shoppers in-store. Ensure that the call to action is clear, specific and set up online. That way you can gather data and seek permission to continue to communicate and engage with them.

In fact, we have seen that this tactic is effective for business to business communication as well as business to consumer. Send people packs, drive people online for a response (encourage consent) and continue the conversation using both email and mail. Why take the chance that an online only conversation will retain them as a repeat consumer or client?

Invest in print and show how much you value your customers by communicating, engaging and directing people in-store. Just like the large superstores – communicate well, communicate often and use the print & digital mix.


Nigel Copp, CEO of KPM Group

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