Print-Plus: Are Postcard Mailings Effective?
Sure, many multichannel retailers today are testing postcard mailings in an effort to drive web traffic in place of mailing catalogs. But, while mailing postcards is less expensive than catalogs, do they really work? And are they cost effective?
There's more to consider than simply the cost difference between the two format options. While postcards are less expensive to produce, sales per thousand pieces mailed is considerably less. And the cost per square inch of selling space is considerably more. In terms of contribution to profit and overhead, mailing catalogs is the clear winner.
In the marketing tool box, there's a place for postcards. They can be effective when used in conjunction with — and not in place of — catalog mailings.
Postcards are attention getting and can motivate buyers to take action as long as the mailing is clear, concise and actionable. They're OK when used to drive retail store traffic, and they can be effective driving web traffic (although not always).
However, a single, two-sided postcard cannot begin to replace a multipage catalog in terms of contribution to profit and overhead.
The chart here compares the cost of three different formats: a 48-page catalog, a postcard and a slim-jim catalog. The postcard costs approximately $0.21, or 40 percent less than the cost of mailing the 48-page catalog in our example. A 32-page slim jim is only $0.09 more than the postcard, a difference of 27 percent — more on slim jims later.
Depending on the quantity, the postage for a postcard would range from $235/M to $257/M, not that much less than a full catalog, especially considering the limited space. Postcard printers wouldn't typically have drop-ship savings, so postage may be on the higher end of the range. The printing would be in the range of $.05 each, so cost per square inch for a postcard is approximately $2.77 per million.
Postcards should first and foremost communicate what you want your customers to do and what's in it for them. The characteristics of an effective postcard include the following:
1. a clear call to action;
2. a bold and strong promotional offer; and
3. a deadline — "Act now!"
Postcards have their limitations. For one, they're not as effective when mailed to prospects. As a result, they should only be mailed to customers who know and trust your company. Also, keep in mind that readers spend very little time deciding if offers are of any value to them. Postcards should be used in addition to scheduled catalog mailings, not in lieu of them.
Effective mailing strategies for postcards include the following:
● mailing them to customers for whom you don't have email addresses, and encouraging those customers to go to your website to order so you can capture their email addresses;
● emphasizing a specific product or product line; or
● when RFM analysis doesn't support mailing a catalog to a previous customer, try mailing a postcard instead.
Some postcard promotions tell customers that if they log on and submit their email addresses, they'll receive an instant $10-off coupon via email. This type of offer addresses both main goals of postcard mailings: it encourages customers to place orders and gives you their email addresses, which have to be valid for them to receive the $10 off.
If you're looking for an inexpensive vehicle, slim-jim catalogs may be better than postcards based on the square inches of selling space. A "flat" would still look better as well in terms of design. The costs should be similar to these examples at 150 million to 200 million pieces:
32-page Slim Jim
• (6"x10-1/8" on 60 lb. paper) • 1,944 square inches
• Postage: $0.23 per piece (includes drop-ship savings)
• Mfg./paper: $0.173 per piece
Total: $0.403 per piece
Cost/square inch per/M: $0.21
• (8"x10-1/8" on 50 lb. paper): • 1,944 square inches
• Postage: $0.31 per piece
• Mfg./paper: $0.14 per piece
Total: $0.45 per piece
Cost/square inch per/M: $0.23
Remember: Catalog pages sell merchandise and therefore drive results. More pages is always better than fewer pages, so it's not a good idea to use postcards in place of a catalog simply to save money. Yes, you will reduce costs, but it will be at the expense of sales and gross profit dollars.
Instead, use postcards between mailings to get new buyers, reactivate inactive buyers, drive web traffic, among other things. But don't think a double-sided postcard is going to replace the sales and contribution dollars generated by a catalog.