CommentaryAug 9th, 2018

Digitally Reactive Direct Mail Takes Retargeting to the Next Level


Automotive dealerships and OEMs have always aggressively chased leads. It’s the bread and butter of their marketing efforts. As digital marketing became more effective over the years, most OEMs and dealers quickly jumped on board. Across the industry, billions are spent each year to build and maintain automotive retail websites — investing in both content and user experience improvements to keep car shoppers engaged.

Dealers and manufacturers understand the importance of converting intent signals (website clicks) on their sites to leads. Many of the dollars they spend, however, are inefficient because they fail to move anonymous shoppers down the funnel and then convert them from consideration to purchase.

The trend of shifting traditional ad dollars to digital display advertising, both directly purchased and retargeted, is sure to continue. The effectiveness of these dollars is losing some of its luster, however. According to J.D. Power, most auto intenders visit 9 to 12 websites during their purchase journey, which creates a relevancy challenge for digital retargeting.

To add to the challenge, ad blockers and “banner blindness” make digital retargeting less effective and efficient across the board. But with challenge comes opportunity, and digital display’s shortcomings leave room for something new. How about reaching out to those demonstrating in-market intent while they are inmarket?

What works today is an innovation that combines digital’s programmatic intelligence with the response-driving power of direct mail. It’s a relatively new tactic, but it’s very effective. The USPS has coined a term for this new channel: digitally reactive direct mail. Here’s how it works: Consumers’ real-time online intent and behavioral patterns are transformed into physical mail sent to their home within two to four days of their site visit.

That highly relevant direct mail acts as a respectful reminder to that auto intender of their expressed interest in the OEM or dealer site. This isn’t trigger mail, but rather a sophisticated use of programmatic decisioning that digests a variety of signals around the in-market buyer’s behavior on the site.

For example, imagine a consumer who spends time researching and customizing a vehicle, requests a quote, searches for a local dealer, etc. These key buying activities (KBAs) show intent and interest — in real time. The immediacy of this physical reminder allows automotive marketers to continue the conversation with many anonymous shoppers while they are in market for a new vehicle.

The consumer decides when to take action rather than being hounded across every device by digital retargeting. And, while digital impressions are fleeting, digitally reactive direct mail has a long lifespan, gaining additional exposure in the home as it moves from the mail sort to the fridge to a conversation piece around the kitchen table. How is it different from direct mail?

The traditional direct mail lists that marketers are accustomed to buying from the usual vendors are typically too stale. By the time your bundled bulk mail hits the post office, half of those leads have likely already made a purchase.

This new channel is much more efficient and effective than traditional bulk mailings, not just because the piece arrives while the buyer is still on the path to purchase, but also because it is only sent when the customer takes a series of actions that qualify them as a potential buyer.

So rather than sending 10,000 pieces at a time, digitally reactive direct mail is sent on a 1:1 basis, in response to specific actions the shopper has taken on a manufacturer or dealer site. If you think that direct mail is old-school and no one takes paper seriously anymore, think again. The fact is that “junk mail” now comes to your email inbox, so consumers are once again paying attention to physical mail. In fact, compared to the single-digit (or lower) open rates marketers see on email campaigns, 81% of direct mail is opened or scanned by the recipient, according to a USPS study.

Of course, none of this is to say that digital doesn’t work, or that direct mail should be the only channel marketers use to drive site visitors to their dealerships.

There are many effective digital tactics that work well to support both digitally reactive direct mail and other marketing efforts. In an industry where products are being marketed online but sold in-person only, dealers have to be smarter about measurably driving foot traffic.

Digitally reactive direct mail is an effective way to close the gap between the digital sales funnel and the actual sale.

Rich Flynn is VP Automotive at PebblePost, inventor of Programmatic Direct Mail®. He brings nearly 20 years of auto experience to the company, having worked with Ford, General Motors, and others. Rich is excited to introduce “the brains of programmatic and the brawn of direct mail” to automotive marketers hungry for innovation.

Authored by

Rich Flynn

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