The Power Of Direct Mail To Recall Conversions In Digital Channels

The era of ascendant digital channels has come with a concurrent war on paper.  Why write a check when you can swipe a card (or tap your phone)? Why mail a customer a coupon when a quick email is cheaper to get out and just as usable to the consumer who collects it?

But, as the team at Dermstore has spent the last six months learning, sometimes an old school, paper-based solution is just what the doctor ordered, particularly if the disease is cart abandonment.

Cart abandonment is endemic in online retail. The customer gets all the way through checkout and then wanders off. Sometimes they hit a friction point, sometimes they quickly dig up a better price elsewhere and jump ship and sometimes they merely run out of time. Whatever the reason, it’s a big problem for the retailer who failed to make the sale.

But Dermstore — the Target-owned eCommerce beauty brand — is loathe to let its customers go without a fight. Over the years the company has spent lots of time and money working with a host of digital marketers to figure out the best way to remarket to a lost customer.

And while their efforts were effective, Dermstore still felt it could do more. BumSoo Kim, the beauty brand’s director of marketing, noted that among Dermstore’s key demographic of women between 30 and 45, it’s not easy to get a customer back once they’ve actually left the eCommerce site.

“Not everyone looks at their screens all the time,” Kim said.

So, the skincare website decided to think outside the box, with an assist from PebblePost — a direct mail company that specializes in tracking a customer’s online actions and using that data to send a customer a personalized postcard inviting them back to finish their shopping trip.

Not a virtual postcard, either. A real, physical postcard delivered by USPS.

The tech behind the tool runs off a pixel installed on the site that provides five Dermstore insights into the customer’s onsite actions; i.e. what products they’re looking at, how many pages they visit, what items are added to their cart, etc. Using their own customer relationship management (CRM) system, Dermstore then matches the customer browsing with their contact information. Should the customer look but leave before buying, PebblePost instantly sends out a postcard via U.S. mail that includes a personal promo code.

Snail mail in support of digital commerce? Sounds crazy, right?

But since testing began a little over six months ago, the Dermstore team has seen undeniable results. According to their internal metrics, the beauty brand saw more than a three times return on ad spend based solely on promo code redemptions.

Moreover, Dermstore’s Kim noted, those customers are not only coming back when tapped via direct mail, they are also spending more and converting far more often.

It’s a solution that works, though one that does take some getting used to, particularly when it comes to measuring effectiveness. Digital channels work fast, efficacious in terms of consumer returns.

Direct mail channels, Dermstore quickly learned, are much slower. The average return time for a customer who received a push via postcard was much, much slower. Two months, to be exact.

“We knew we’d have to adjust to longer lead times,” Kim said. “But we were surprised just how long those lead times were for so many of the customers who ended up making a purchase.”

But in retail, better late than never is a key concept when it comes to conversions, and customers who show up two months later are far superior to those that disappear into the ether, never to return again.



Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out the latest PYMNTS Digital Drive Report 


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