The news analysis in your excellent e-volve section (MW March 30) looked at the Fletcher Research prediction that booming online ad spend will affect direct mail spend. I am sure we will see direct mail volumes fall, but e-commerce is good news for the direct marketing industry as a whole which will, as a result of Internet marketing, continue its “meteoric rise”.
E-commerce is, after all, the purest form of direct marketing – allowing marketers to communicate with customers on a one-to-one basis in real time. The dot-coms which survive will understand the importance of fusing together online and offline data to gain a full understanding of customers and prospects. They will use this information to predict what the next purchase will be, and the future value of the customer. This will enable them to plan their communication strategy, forecast customer demands to ensure they can fulfil them, and tailor websites to individuals to make information as relevant as possible. Direct marketers have been doing this in one form or another for years.
Although there will be less of it, direct mail will continue to play an important part of the media mix for a number of reasons. Firstly, as ISPs are still developing and changing the way they charge for and provide their services, people are likely to change their server – which will quickly put e-lists out of date. It will therefore be a while before e-lists reach the volume and quality marketers expect from standard mailing lists.
Secondly, companies which sell mainstream products online do not need to explain to prospective customers in detail why they should visit their website, as their products and services are easy to explain in brief on awareness advertising.
However, niche companies with more complex offerings will need to use direct mail to explain what they offer.
Also, “clicks and mortar” companies must not forget that some customers prefer not to shop online. For these people direct mail remains a crucial medium, which will grow in importance as more companies develop customer relationship management strategies for online and offline business.
Marketers have only just started to realise the potential that the Internet can provide – but what about WAP technology and digital TV? What impact will they have on how we do business?
The key for successful companies in the twenty-first century is not so much understanding media, but understanding customers. We need to understand which routes to market – traditional and new – are most appropriate for different customer groups.