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Print v digital

In the red corner, let’s hear it for printed mailshots. In the blue corner, give it up for digital marketing. Your referee is Andy Wood.

Andy Wood is Chairman of Go Inspire Insight

Amid high street turbulence, the health food sector remains strong with the UK organic market valued at 2.2bn in 2018. As demand for healthier, organically sourced products and supplements continues to increase, retailers should be looking to maximise opportunities for long-term growth and honing their marketing strategies accordingly.

How does your business get in touch with customers with offers, new products and company news? What is the success rate of these methods?

Opponents or allies?

Companies tend to set email and mail in opposition when it comes to connecting with customers. At Go Inspire Insight, we noticed that despite the raft of information available on direct email versus direct mail strategies, there is a lack of clear and objective information on the performance of each channel. So we decided to design a randomised control trial (RCT) to compare direct mail and email on a level playing field.

We selected a retail client offering a product range with broad appeal across the population, regardless of age, gender, wealth or geography. Just under 240,000 customers were then selected at random to receive a single campaign; one randomised segment received offers solely by post, another only by email and the third via both channels.

Quite often, emails are accorded with less creative input than direct mail as businesses push out emails quickly and cheaply. To ensure that the trial was fair, we ensured that both post and email campaigns received equal creative effort and the same number of creative variants were applied. We then recorded the incremental revenue generated by tracking activity from offer, to response, to conversion, to value.

A false dichotomy

The trial findings show that while response rates are almost even, the concrete commercial outcomes diverge depending on the channel. Incremental revenue differed significantly across the three segments: the email-only segment generated incremental revenue per customer of under £1; the direct mail segment generated an incremental revenue per customer of around £5; and the segment that received offers via post and email generated incremental revenue per customer of over £6.

The combination of both channels produced the highest return, meaning that retailers could be getting more from their marketing investment by using both channels rather than leaning on one channel over another. In particular, companies that currently favour email for marketing communications could make substantial gains by introducing direct mail to their customer interactions.

Best of both

When putting together a marketing strategy, businesses must evaluate the characteristics of each communication channel, and how to maximise their value. Each email costs 20p to produce, compared to 70p to produce and transmit a direct mail piece (Marketing Minefield, Direct Mail Costs, 2018). Emails can be produced and sent quickly, which is ideal for limited-time offers or company announcements. However, customers now receive a high volume of emails from businesses that are all taking advantage of this easy, inexpensive method of reaching customers.

This means emails are getting less attention; in fact, UK consumers typically have 2-3 different email accounts, with 44% of us sending all marketing email to a secondary account (Direct Marketing Association, Consumer email tracker 2017). In the Health and Fitness sector, a Mailchimp report found that the average open rate is 20.06% (compared to 19.36% for the wider retail sector), while the click rate is 2.18% (compared to 2.24% for retail).

On the other hand, while half of emails are deleted within two seconds, advertising mail has an average lifespan of 17 days (Proactive Marketing, March 2018). Rather than getting lost in a full inbox, print mail is more likely to stand out to customers and grab their attention. Now that digital channels have become so prevalent in our daily lives, mail has greater impact. In fact, 42% of millennials are more likely to find mail memorable than the UK population as a whole (DMA, October 2017). With millennials spending more on healthy foods, retailers should not assume they can only reach this age group via digital channels.

A winning combination

As most consumers do not exclusively use one medium over the other, marketers should consider how email and print can be used in a complementary manner. The advantages of each channel should be measured so that marketing efforts and resources can be adjusted accordingly.

A winning combination could see your business making real gains in profit and this strategic approach can also help to increase customer interest in your communications.

Go Inspire Insight (part of Go Inspire Group, provides a complete approach to data marketing, covering database build, loyalty programmes, analysis, strategy, campaign execution and fulfilment.

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