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E-Commerce Direct Mail Best Practices & Examples


E-Commerce Direct Mail Best Practices & Examples

In this article, we’ll talk about some best practices for e-commerce direct mail and show some best-performing examples.

Direct mail has long been an important channel for traditional companies, but it turns out that it’s also vital in helping disruptors; brands that use direct marketing over the web are proving that this is a vibrant medium.

With so many digital options, marketers want to grab consumers’ attention with mail, to stand out from their competition. In the debate of direct mail vs. internet marketing, it’s not easy to understand how to use direct mail marketing effectively without reviewing what some of the largest or most distinctive direct mail companies actually do to acquire new customers and keep current ones loyal.

What is E-Commerce Direct Mail?

E-commerce direct mail is sent out by companies that primarily provide services and products through online channels, primarily websites. That’s a fuzzy line these days as more traditional storied companies now rely on the web to make sales, and web-first startups now open brick-and-mortar physical locations to reach audiences. For the purposes of this article, we chose to look at mail from companies founded in the last 20 years or so.

Who is the audience for E-Commerce Direct Mail?

Potentially all demographics (age, income, gender, etc.) are good audiences for e-commerce direct mail as marketers understand the value in reaching customers where they are. And where they are is online – a lot.

Nearly all e-commerce direct mail we’ve seen is from B2C categories, such as:

  • Retail
  • Travel
  • Finance
  • Consumer Services

What formats work best for E-Commerce Direct Mail?

There’s no easy answer as to what format (postcards, folded self-mailers, and letters or flats) works best for e-commerce mail marketing. It seems like envelopes may be used the least. But on the other hand, some startups have tested the effectiveness of direct mail with ads in share mail – either a magalog format or envelope – before moving into postcards or FSMs.

E-Commerce Direct Mail Best Practices & Examples

Your direct mail can stand out by reaching the right prospect at the right time with the right message, and persuading them to act. With powerful words and compelling images, your mail can help you turn a prospect into a customer, and then, to keep spending money with you.

These examples are all from our Who’s Mailing What! collection. One other thing: Notice how many of the mailers shown here included more than one of the best practices and tactics.

1. New Movers

Ring direct mail

Tens of millions of Americans move every year. They are great prospects for a wide variety of products and services. The front of this postcard mailed in November 2022 by home security company Ring taps into an emotion – fear – and offers security, as well as discount.

2. Reactivate Customers

Stitch Fix direct mail

We all know that it costs several times more to acquire a new customer than keep or bring back an old one. In this win-back example from September 2023, styling service Stitch Fix tells its customers how much they’ve been missed – and proves it. Inside the self-mailer, it offers discounts on an order, waives the styling fee, and shows a personalized selection of clothes to match their preferences.

3. Leverage Testimonials

Bistro MD direct mail

Satisfied customers can be powerful brand ambassadors in a direct mail campaign. One panel of this August 2023 self-mailer by diet plan Bistro MD relates their experiences and includes before-and-after photos to support their claims.

4. Highlight Your Products

The RealReal direct mail

Postcards don’t have to be crowded or complicated. This February 2023 campaign by The RealReal, an online luxury goods marketplace, is simple and clean, thanks to plenty of white space. This allows it to showcase how the recipient can sell off 4 pieces of designer jewelry and their possible selling prices.

5. Humanize with Humor

Homeaglow direct mail

We get it. A lot of people just don’t like cleaning. The front of this November 2023 postcard mailed by Homeaglow, a nationwide house cleaning service, uses a humorous image to handle a customer’s pain points. The intro price (and QR code) makes it an easy decision to respond.

6. Emphasize Savings

DoorDash direct mail

Who wants a discount? Whether it’s a percentage or a dollar amount, customers love to save money. This postcard, mailed in March 2024 by food delivery company DoorDash, made the offer to a former customer. A peel-off card on the address side includes a discount code when ordering over the app or website.

7. Showcase Sustainability

Clare direct mail

Clare, an online paint retailer, sets itself apart from its competitors (big box and chain stores) by emphasizing a few points on the back of this September 2023 postcard. The icon for “Paint you can feel good about” is follow by “Sustainably made in the USA” and “Women-owned and led” – two important selling points for many customers.

8. Educate Customers

Credit Karma direct mail

Do your customers know all of their options? This August 2022 letter mailed by Credit Karma, the personal finance company, gives them some essential information to consider before following the simple steps shown when applying for a loan.

9. Holiday Promotions

Peloton direct mail

Seasons and holidays offer many opportunities to ramp up your sales. This postcard, mailed by fitness company Peloton in November 2022, doesn’t mention specific discount amounts or items. Instead, it invites recipients to visit the website to find out more.

10. Celebrity Power

Marley Spoon direct mail

Celebrities can bring star power to a brand, even more so when their brand fits seamlessly with the other. This August 2023 mailer by meal kit delivery service Marley Spoon trades on the lifestyle expert’s personal styling and recipes.

Get an Edge by Learning from E-Commerce Direct Mail in WMW!

There is no specific e-commerce category or sub-category in Who’s Mailing What! To find mailings by e-commerce companies in Who’s Mailing What!, the best advice is to simply search by specific company names.

Final Thoughts

E-commerce can be a lucrative channel all by itself. But direct mail offers a way for companies to differentiate themselves in a cluttered marketplace. It extends a brand, making it easier for them to reach customers not usually targeted with digital channels. And it provides a tangible, tactile experience that cements customer loyalty and increases trust. Ultimately, what many marketers find is that their channels must work together while building on their unique strengths to meet your marketing goals.

Direct Mail Evangelist

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