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Retargeting Via Direct Mail: How PebblePost Is Connecting Digital To Snail Mail
With customized snail mails sent within 24 hours of a website visit, the NYC-based company claims response rates as high as 20 percent.
You select blue pants and a red shirt on an e-commerce website. But, wary of being too flashy, you abandon them in your shopping cart when you leave the site.
A few days later, you get a color, 4.5 x 6-inch printed card via postal mail. It offers a 10 percent discount to you, by name, for the same blue pants and red shirt.
That’s the scenario startup PebblePost is making possible. This week, the New York City-based company opened up its platform — which it is describing as “the first Programmatic Direct Mail platform” — beyond the 20 customer companies in its private pilot phase. It is also announcing the completion of a $3-million seed round.
The platform, which analyzes in real time the visitor activity on a desktop or mobile website or in a mobile app, segments users according to the campaign’s goals — such as “retarget anyone who looks at blue pants” — and then assembles a printed mail piece based on digital design templates provided by the marketer. API access to a range of e-commerce and CRM (customer relationship management) platforms enables street mailing addresses to be pulled, once the visitor is ID’d.
Of course, PebblePost only retargets site visitors who can be identified in some way. They’ve either logged in to buy something or have been identified before and are recognized by their cookie.
The printed piece can be built on the fly from design components, CEO/founder Lewis Gersh told me, but so far, marketers are just taking whole designs and inserting customer names. PebblePost then prints the mailer and gets it into snail mail within 12 to 24 hours of when you first looked at the blue pants and red shirt.
Usually, he said, direct mail employs demographic information, can generate a semi-customized mailer and takes 12 to 24 weeks between the campaign’s beginning and the end results. Direct mail is often called “junk mail” because its scattershot targeting throws mailers at anyone who might be in the right age, income, geographical or other group.
“Getting [snail] mail out in 12 to 24 hours from website activity is unheard of,” he said.
“Infinite A/B Testing”
Because of the quick turnaround, tracking of responses and analytics that show responses according to geography or other factors, Gersh said marketers can rapidly retune their mailer if need be. Blue pants might get great responses everywhere but in the southern US, so a marketer might then try sending red shirt mailers to that region.
“It’s like having infinite A/B testing,” he said. The quick turnaround, from intent-based activity to marketing pitch to response, also means that the connection of the mailer to the sale might be clearer.
Currently, PebblePost only covers the US, but the company expects to begin addressing markets in other countries next year. Gersh also said that social media and other data could be added as intention-based triggers, in addition to site visits. By the middle of next year, the company said it will print and snail mail micro-catalogs similarly targeted by intention data, such as a 10-page booklet focused on different kinds of blue pants, along with related products.
This kind of finely tuned retargeting — following up on an interest you demonstrated by a visit to a Web page — is commonplace for online marketing through ads or email. I visited an online vendor of glasses a couple of weeks ago, for instance, and have been seeing countless ads for opticians and the like since then.
But Gersh said this fast-turnaround retargeting does not exist for direct mail, a widely used marketing channel that is generating about $12 billion in annual revenue. He claims that direct mail sent out by the PebblePost platform generates response rates around 20 percent, and conversion rates of 40+ percent.
By comparison, he said, “a one to two percent response rate [for normal direct mail] is considered great.” The CMO Council reports that the average response rate for a direct mail to an existing customer is 3.4 percent.
Chris Paradysz, CEO/founder of marketing agency PM Digital, said in a statement that “the ROI of initial campaigns proves that Programmatic Direct Mail far exceeds pure digital or pure direct mail alone.”
Response rates for PebblePost are measured by return visits to the website or app, which are reported in real time. They can also be measured by other marketer-determined ways, such as a call into an 800 number.
“Nobody’s quite doing what we’re doing,” Gersh told me — utilizing real-time monitoring of site activity, custom printing of the mailer and next-day snail mailing. The closest competitors, he said, are called variable print data companies, where marketers provide a mailing list and the creative materials for the vendor to process, print and mail.
When I asked whether email marketing or marketing automation platforms could be readily adapted for an end-result of snail mail instead of email, Gersh replied that PebblePost’s workflow is specifically optimized for this kind of intent-driven, rapid-response direct mail.
He added that this quick turnaround of targeted content is the key reason for the high response rates. After all, you may still be thinking about those blue pants three days after you first saw them.