Practical Ecommerce

Use Direct Mail to Attract New Ecommerce Customers

Online retailers Hayneedle, Wayfair, Virgin Wines, Graze, and HelloFresh use direct mail for marketing.

Online retailers Hayneedle, Wayfair, Virgin Wines, Graze, and HelloFresh use direct mail for marketing.

Online retailers Hayneedle, Wayfair, HelloFresh, and many more are using direct mail marketing to acquire new customers for their ecommerce operations. Direct mail may be a traditional, old-school way to market, but it can also be extremely effective.

An omnichannel retailer located in the northwestern United States has been using shared direct mail for a few years. Shared direct mail is a subcategory of direct mail wherein advertisers gang coupons together in one envelope or circular to reduce postage costs.

For a recent campaign, the company mailed 100,000 coupons to homeowners across two counties. The shared direct mail campaign resulted in 2,457 sales worth roughly $200,000 in revenue. All this for a $3,500 investment.

With a return on investment of, perhaps, $57 for each dollar spent, shared direct mail is certainly something to consider in your ecommerce marketing mix.

Target Your Direct Mail List

Email marketing is strongly influenced by direct mail strategies. Many of the same tactics digital marketers employ for email can be applied to direct mail and shared direct mail marketing.

With this in mind, target direct mail campaigns at those consumers who would be the most likely to purchase from your online store, just like you might segment and target email marketing campaigns. For example, Wayfair sends shared direct mail offers to folks who have just moved.

Like Wayfair, target those shoppers most likely to purchase the products you sell.

Like Wayfair, target those shoppers most likely to purchase the products you sell.

The offer says, “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” and provides a promotional code for an extra 10 percent off of a new Wayfair order. The products Wayfair sells, including furniture and home decor, are often helpful for someone who has just moved into a new home.

There are many direct mail firms that target specific sorts of customers, like homeowners with a particular household income, and there are many direct mail list companies capable of targeting very specific profiles, such as folks with a particular hobby or who have just moved into a new home.

When you use direct mail to acquire new ecommerce customers, be sure to target the list.

Aim for New Customers Near Your Warehouse

Online merchants are not limited to local markets. This is one of ecommerce’s advantages. An online retailer in Temecula, Calif. can easily sell to a shopper in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. But for direct mail marketing, it can make good sense to target potential shoppers who live near your warehouse or fulfillment center.

The close proximity allows you to reduce shipping costs and transit time, so the order can arrive quickly. Thus, when you target new ecommerce customers with direct mail, try your neighbors first.

Provide Instructions

If you believe using direct mail to promote ecommerce is a novel idea, how do you think your potential customers will feel?

Shoppers are accustomed to receiving advertisements and coupons in the mail. However, those advertisements and coupons are usually for stores around the corner or at the local mall. These shoppers might not be certain how to interact with your ecommerce business. Fortunately, some simple instructions can make shoppers feel a bit more confident.

Online wine seller Virgin Wines and snack-pack purveyor Graze do a good job of including confidence-building instructions on their direct marketing pieces.

Even simple instructions may help your potential customers understand that you're presenting an online offer.

Even simple instructions may help your potential customers understand that you’re presenting an online offer.

A recent Graze direct shared mailer explained, in four steps, how to get a free snack sampler.

  1. “Visit us at”
  2. “Enter your invite code”
  3. “Tell us the foods you like”
  4. “We’ll mail you a free box”

These instructions were printed on both sides of the printed offer.

Virgin Wines’ offer for a discounted case made it clear how shoppers could get the offer. The “SECRETCODE” is a hypothetical stand in for the actual offer code printed on the wine voucher.

  1. “Go to or call 1-866-426-0336 and quote code SECRETCODE”
  2. “Use this $100 voucher on a 12-bottle case of your choice (reds, whites or the best of both) worth $169.99, yours for JUST $69.99”
  3. “Get 3 Free bottles of top-estate Malbec (worth $59.97) plus tasting notes on every wine”

Including even simple instructions in your direct mail offer may help shoppers feel more comfortable.

Create a Great Looking Direct Mail Piece

Appearances matter for direct mail marketing. When you create your direct mail piece, take advantage of print’s ability to render beautiful images and rich colors.

Try to develop attractive direct mail advertisements.

Try to develop attractive direct mail advertisements.

A Hayneedle direct mail piece, which, like the Wayfair offer mentioned above, went to folks who had just moved into a new home. The offer showed vivid, seasonally appropriate products well suited for a consumer who was likely doing a bit of decorating.

If you want to attract new ecommerce customers with direct mail marketing, create a beautiful, eye-catching ad.

Measure, Test, Improve, Repeat

Good marketing requires a regular regime of measuring performance, testing, improving, and repeating. Direct mail marketing is no different. Ecommerce marketers can use direct mail and shared direct mail to help attract new customers. But it will require the same work and diligence as the rest of your marketing toolbox.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Reed June 10, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for the analysis of this marketing method. We have had the idea on the back burner for quite a while. It looks like something we should be trying out.

    • Armando Roggio July 16, 2016 Reply

      Reed, I have personally had a lot of success with shared direct mail. If the first half of 2016 is an indication, one store that I manage marketing for is on pace to have $5.9 million in transactions from shared direct mail marketing this year. The total cost of those promotions will be less than $50,000.

  2. John Beech August 20, 2016 Reply

    In your opinion, do all offers have to include a discounted price, or free shipping? I’m making a really good product, offering it at a very competitive price, and am afraid of training consumers to expect a ‘deal’ when my pricing structure doesn’t accommodate the margin structure to give better prices. Should I just raise prices so I can make discounts?

    • Armando Roggio October 5, 2016 Reply

      I don’t believe that you always need a discount.