Direct Mail or Email: It’s Not a Choice

Posted by Craig Swerdloff on

We found ourselves intrigued by Bill McCloskey’s Email Insider column last week about his experience at the Annual Conference for Catalog & Multichannel Merchants. In summary, he found scores of people who weren’t doing much of anything with email and weren’t really concerned about it. “Direct mail works just fine, thanks.” You buy a stamp, you get delivered. No problem…

It’s a bit amusing to hear anyone praise the Post Office, especially in light of the fights going on right now over rate hikes. But the bigger point is that we interactive marketing folks have to work harder to convert these latecomers to the email bandwagon. Yes, it can be challenging. But few rewards come without a little sweat and hard work. Return Path works with lots of catalogers and there is no question that they see huge success from the email channel. Have they thrown out their paper catalogs? No way! They still print those suckers – but now they do it smarter and augment the customer experience with relevant, well-timed email.

In 2007 integration is the order of the day. Over reliance on any one marketing tactic (including email, actually) means missed opportunities. The synergy created by using mulitiple tactics increases your ROI far beyond what you could expect if you spent the same amount of dollars in just one area.

Why? Because we live in a multi-channel world. Consumers want to browse the catalog while they watch TV, then go online to see additional colors and styles. They want to receive email to tell them when the merchandise they are interested in goes on sales or when new products are available. They want coupons that work online and in-store. They want merchants who help make their lives easier by integrating into where they live – which is online, on-the-go and in the world.

And then there’s the issue of list growth. If you have 6 million people on a postal list but only 300,000 email addresses (one example cited in the column) then you are in trouble. I don’t care what business you are in.

Consumers love email. The love the convenience, they love the bargains to be had. Numerous studies have come out recently to back up this point, most recently from Pew. The fact that it’s hard for marketers really misses the point. If you aren’t investing time, money and energy in email marketing then are missing the boat and your business will ultimately suffer.


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