Direct Mail: Why It’s Still Relevant

Nothing feels more archaic in the post-digital era than direct mail. But you’d be doing your ecommerce business a huge disservice if you counted it out.

The Data & Marketing Association found that customer response rates for direct mail has increased 43% year-over-year. This might come as a surprise considering actual mail volume has steady declined since 2006. Apparently, fewer pieces of mail in the postal system means that less competition is seen in customer’s mailboxes.

And the generation most receptive to direct mail marketing? Millennials.

According to a report from the United States Postal Service (USPS), 47% of millennials check their physical mailbox daily. They also spend almost twice as much time sorting and reading their mail compared to other age groups.

So if you’ve been scaling down your direct mail efforts, perhaps it’s time to ramp them up again. Here are three reasons why:

Direct Mail Is Flexible    

Small budget? Try using postcards to keep costs down. Small companies can also include free samples. According to the Sampling Effectiveness Advisors, most consumers say they are more likely to buy a product after trying it. Coupons are also an effective way to recruit new customers. Overall, direct mail works for companies of all sizes and all budgets.

Direct Mail Feels Individualized

According to the USPS, as many as 55% of people are eager to read their mail. Seeing their name on a parcel only enhances the experience, which ultimately leads to more sales. If you’re going the direct mail route, we highly recommend personalizing your parcels.

Direct Mail Is (Perceived as) Trustworthy

According to the USPS, 82% of millennials view messages printed on paper as more trustworthy than digital ones. In fact, it’s believed consumers trust direct mail over email because of the unique way that paper-based advertising connects with the parts of the brain that influence how people feel and remember things. For example, a study by Canada Post found that direct mail marketing “requires 21% less cognitive effort to process” and “elicits a much higher brand recall” compared to digital media.

Another reason why you should use direct mail? Consider this: 50% of all email sent on a given day are spam. With consumers’ digital inboxes flooded with junk, a physical message feels like a welcome reprieve.

So while it may be tempting to focus your efforts entirely on online marketing, don’t neglect direct mail; it has earned a place at the omnichannel marketing table. Not sure where to start? Follow these direct marketing tips to maximize your return on investment.

Ecommerce Return Policy Checklist

Returns. They eat away at your profit margins and eviscerate your conversion rates. According to Statista, return deliveries will cost online retailers more than $500 billion by 2020. And that doesn’t factor in restocking expenses or inventory losses.

But did you know a well-executed ecommerce return policy can actually drive sales and strengthen customer loyalty? That’s because paying attention to your customers’ after-buying experience pays off. According to comScore, 63% of consumers say they actually take the time to read a return policy before deciding whether or not to make a purchase at an online store.

If customers are taking the time to read your return policy, make sure it lives up to the hype. Use our easy to follow return policy checklist to craft one that is detailed and jargon-free:

1. USE PLAIN LANGUAGE

Plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. When writing your return policy, use:

  • “You” and other pronouns
  • Active voice
  • Short sentences
  • Common, everyday words
  • Easy-to-read design features (like itemized lists and short paragraphs)

2. SPECIFY A TIMEFRAME FOR RETURNS

Let your customers know how long they have to return a product. Keep in mind that a longer return period increases confidence in your customers and the likelihood of a sale.

3. SET CONDITIONS FOR RETURNS

Because of the intangible nature of online shopping, ecommerce stores get more returns than brick-and-mortars. Some common reasons for returns include:

  • A product that was damaged in shipping, or the wrong item was shipped
  • A customer purchased the wrong thing
  • Gift returns or exchanges
  • The product didn’t match the description

But there are also customers who engage in “wardrobing.” That’s when someone buys an item, uses it, and then attempts to return it for a full refund.

Protect yourself from wardrobers by clearly defining the condition a product must be in before a return can be processed. It’s the easiest way to avoid getting stuck with merchandise you can’t restock.

4. CREDIT OR REFUND?

This is a biggie. Let your customers know if you offer full refunds or just in-store credit.

We recommend offering your customers full refunds on returned merchandise that meets your conditions for returns. Shoppers prefer having options for returning products. If you only offer in-store credit, you risk losing a sale before your customers even commit.

5. SHOW FEES & SHIPPING COSTS

Will your customer have to pay for shipping if they return an item? Will they be charged a restocking fee? Be upfront about what it will cost customers to return your products, or you’ll face consumer backlash later.

6. THINK INTERNATIONALLY

Do you have a return policy for international orders? Make sure to provide clear instructions on where returns should be shipped, and how items will be refunded, including shipping fees for preference-based returns. Will refund amounts be credited in the same currency and using the same exchange rate as the original tender?

If you are an international ecommerce selling globally, make sure to include these details.

7. MAKE IT VISIBLE

Your policy won’t matter if your customers can’t find it. Feature a direct link to your return policy on the footer your ecommerce homepage, or make it a part of your checkout process.

We also recommend including a printed copy of your return policy inside every package you ship and inside your email confirmation to customers.

When it comes to your ecommerce return policy, don’t skimp on the details or fill it with legalese. Be upfront with your customers about how you handle returns. You’ll save yourself headaches down the line and, if you offer a generous return policy, be rewarded with more sales.

3 Best Practices to Better Your BOPIS Retail Strategy

Thanks to fierce competition in the retail world, consumers have more and more options when it comes to shopping. And whether it’s online, mobile or in-store, both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retailers have diligently stepped up their games to keep up with new demands.

One option still gaining popularity is buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS). According to a report by Adobe Analytics, BOPIS increased 50 percent over the 2018 holiday season. But effective BOPIS retail strategies have proved somewhat challenging for retailers. What makes click-and-collect so tricky to execute?

There are several components that can trip up a BOPIS strategy, including inventory inaccuracies, communication, and execution.

However, there are best practices you can use to better your BOPIS retail strategy and improve the consistency of your service offering.

TRACK YOUR INVENTORY (ACCURATELY)

Today’s fulfillment options mean many moving parts for omnichannel retailers. Things can get especially tricky when online customers shop for products specifically marked as available for BOPIS. Imagine, for example, two customers add the same item to their online cart, but your store only has one of those items in stock. Come checkout, one of those shoppers won’t be happy – you’ll likely lose a sale, and possibly a customer.

This is why as a retailer, you need to implement real-time cross-channel inventory tracking and order fulfillment to keep your inventory as up to date as possible.

Inventory that isn't carefully tracked and managed can create big problems down the road. Make sure to incorporate best practices into your day-to-day inventory management. It is crucial to the success of your BOPIS retail strategy.

SWEAT THE DETAILS

If not everything you sell online is available for BOPIS, be clear about it from the get-go.

Enable your online customers to set their store location and add a filter that gives them the ability to shop for products that are only available for in-store pickup. Be sure to promote your filter at the top of your product pages; you want shoppers to know if they can pick up their orders in-store before they begin shopping.

Once your customer places a BOPIS order, communication is key. Send an immediate confirmation and include order details, clear directions on where to pick up in-store, and what forms of identification are needed.

NAIL YOUR PICK-UP PROCESS

Are you placing your BOPIS pickup points at the back of your store to seduce customers into buying more stuff? Don’t. Instead, make it easy for your customers to retrieve their orders by placing your pickup location at the front of your store. Use clear signage or even consider curbside service to designated parking spaces. Remember, your customers don’t want to feel manipulated; they chose your BOPIS service because they want a quick and convenient online shopping experience.

Another important factor in the pick-up process is to make sure your staff has the information they need to make your customers' BOPIS experience a good one. They should be able to retrieve orders quickly and know how to handle potential problems such as returns. Or consider having dedicated staff specifically for your BOPIS orders. Either way, proper staff training will help ensure a successful BOPIS strategy.

Do you even need a BOPIS strategy? What if it’s just a fad?

According to a Signifyd survey, millennials' shopping preferences are what’s driving the need for BOPIS. And despite its implementation challenges, BOPIS is here to stay. If you’re a retailer wanting to make the most of this shopping experience, make sure you understand and follow BOPIS best practices.

Tips for Writing Better Product Descriptions

Product descriptions are the key to conversions for any ecommerce site. But how do you make them enticing enough to turn online browsers into buyers? Stop thinking of them as “descriptions,” for one. Specifications such as color and size may describe your product accurately, but they hardly have the persuasive juices to make a shopper “Add to Cart.”

Remember, a product description is also a sales tool. Here are three tips to help you write product copy to improve your bottom line.

1. Know Your Audience    
Who is your product for? Which demographic do they fall into? What are their interests? The more questions you can answer about your target audience, the better you’ll be able to relate to their needs.

Ask yourself why this person would be interested in your product. This will help you bridge your products’ features and benefits to your potential buyers’ motivations.

2. Link Features to Benefits
By better understanding your audience, you’ll recognize what their pain points are and how your products can help them.

Let’s say your online store sells thermal coffee mugs. One of the features of this mug is the stainless steel double wall. What is the takeaway for shoppers? Nothing, unless you let them know how this feature benefits them.

Example:  The Onyx Thermal Coffee Mug’s stainless steel double wall keeps your drinks piping hot for up to 8 hours while keeping your cup cool to the touch.
Always follow your feature with a clear benefit.

3. Nip Objections in the Bud
Buyer’s guilt is real and it usually strikes sometime before checkout. Objections that generally pop up include:

  • Do I really need this?
  • I shouldn’t be spending money on this.
  • Let me think about this some more.

According to Moz’s Martina Mercer, you can eliminate buyer’s guilt by using and avoiding certain words. Don’t, for example, use words such as “treat” or a “luxury” to describe your products. Instead, label your product as “essential.”  Highlight your products’ multi-use and target words that make them sound exclusive. Refer to your product as a “bargain,” and if your offer is a limited-time one, say so. It will create a sense of urgency.

Following these tips will help, but your product descriptions won’t make an impact if they’re hard to read. Avoid using long paragraphs when writing them. Use a couple of sentences as an introduction, but list out your features and benefits with bullet points. This will make your copy easier to scan.

Shoppers rely on your product descriptions to make purchasing decisions, so write description that sell! If you’re not sure about what content to include on your pages, here are some recommendations on the best information to include on your products pages.

Back Office Efficiency for Ecommerce Businesses

Expanding an ecommerce business is more than just expanding product catalogs and opening more distribution centers. The administrative strategy and operational support functions of your back office are vital – and their capabilities need to scale alongside business growth for overall success. In this blog post, we'll cover some fundamental elements to consider when evaluating your current back office's capabilities and ensuring they keep pace with the growth of your business.
    

Customer Relations

You need more than just a well-designed website to provide a great customer experience. Accessible and attentive customer service shape the final perception of unsatisfactory experiences and are a must for long-term success – so it's critical to assess your company's approach to customer relations from multiple angles and improve where necessary. Periodically review customer service call monitoring stats, product reviews, and fulfillment reporting you have in place and look for gaps to fill. If your reporting doesn't identify any ongoing problems, you may be able to find new growth opportunities through customer satisfaction surveys.
    

Taxes & Accounting

Tax laws and financial reporting requirements relevant to ecommerce can be more difficult and time consuming to manage as your business expands. Evaluate whether the software, staff, and strategies you’re using to maintain compliance are "right sized" for your current, and future, business goals.

Billing & Invoicing

Providing multiple payment options for your customers certainly has its benefits, but it can add complexity to back office operations. Verify your level of protection from payment fraud, optimize your chargeback management process, and ensure you are able to efficiently process refunds for all of the payment methods you accept.

Data Reporting & Analysis

Data plays a big role in the decision-making process for product expansions/reductions and is important for growing your audience and sales numbers. You’ll need to make sure your warehouse management solution can provide this data in actionable reports that can provide clear insight into the future of your business.

At Fulfillment Works, we support our clients’ back office operations with Manhattan Active™ Supply Chain software, which provides enterprise-level solutions for all of the above areas (and then some). To learn more about how we can support your business growth behind the scenes, contact us today.