What’s Old is New Again – E-Commerce in Shared Mail

By: Peter Wright, Client Marketing Director, Valassis
Published Friday, Aug 11, 2017

What’s Old is New Again – E-Commerce in Shared Mail

The advancement in technology has had an impact on all facets of our lives. The way we communicate, the way we drive and the way we shop have all evolved to a new level with the advent of technology. And, in the world of shopping, the way brands talk to us as consumers has seen significant change as well. For e-Commerce brands, the computer and the cell phone have become important conduits between brands and consumers, but traditional marketing is re-emerging as a valued medium – I’m talking about direct mail.

In the last year, direct mail usage grew with the expanded participation of leading e-Commerce businesses. According to a recent Mintel report on direct mail usage in the e-Commerce category, leading e-Commerce companies like Jet, Amazon, and Wayfair sent over 32.3 million pieces of direct mail to customers and potential customers in the first half of 2016.1 In the first half of 2015, that volume number was only slightly over 2.5 million pieces. That equates to significant year over year growth – over a 12X increase – in use of direct mail by these influential e-Commerce companies. 

And, their collective marketing messages were focused on driving sales with both new and existing customers. As is always the case with any marketing initiative, the question is: did it work? Often, getting a true read on the success or failure of marketing initiatives can be difficult, but with direct mail, it can be easier because codes can be used to track engagement/activation.

A June, 2016 article entitled, “Use Direct Mail to Attract New E-Commerce Customers,” cites a case study regarding the success of direct mail for one e-Commerce company:

An omnichannel retailer located in the northwestern United States has been using shared direct mail for a few years. Shared direct mail is a subcategory of direct mail wherein advertisers gang coupons together in one envelope or circular to reduce postage costs.

For a recent campaign, the company mailed 100,000 coupons to homeowners across two counties. This shared direct mail campaign resulted in 2,457 sales worth roughly $200,000 in revenue. All this for a $3,500 investment. 2

I think anyone would agree that this campaign was successful. And just like any other marketing tool, the success of direct mail campaigns relies on marketers to execute programs flawlessly. In this case study as well as others, a few key elements should be considered:

  1. Proper targeting – Make sure that you fully understand your brand’s target audience and either have the in-house capability to reach these potential consumers or partner with the right marketing entity to provide that targeting.
  2. Compelling incentive – Offer what the consumer wants. It’s essential to put the right offer in place to successfully compete in the marketplace.
  3. Attractive creative –Be sure to stand out in the mailbox – your direct mail piece is an extension of your brand. Stay true to the brand feel, but make it come alive with a dynamic design that has stopping power.
  4. Program measurement – Have tracking elements in place to understand performance and how your direct mail marketing initiatives contribute to your KPIs.


1. E-Commerce Direct Mail Marketing Review, Mintel, October, 2016

2. Use Direct Mail to Attract New E-Commerce Customers, by Armando Roggio, June 8, 2016