Understanding the Impact of Direct Mail on Customer Behavior & Business Impact: A Q&A with Paul Fredrick

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As traditional offline media continues to strengthen its mark in the digital landscape, we wanted to take a closer look at how successful brands are leveraging cataloging and direct mail marketing to impact their customers’ buying decisions. We sat down with Scott Drayer, the Vice President of Marketing at Paul Fredrick MenStyle, to discuss the ways customers have continued to respond to catalogs over time, and how a direct mail approach ultimately enriches the customer experience and relationship with the Paul Fredrick brand.

PMX Agency: Tell us about Paul Fredrick, the brand. How do you position yourselves in the menswear market?

Scott Drayer: We’re a private label menswear apparel business that’s exclusively direct to consumer. Because we don’t have in-store retail, we have a substantial focus in direct response based advertising efforts. Paul Fredrick is all about finding the right balance of style and value, offering fashion forward clothing at reasonable prices.

PMX: Being that you focus in direct response marketing, can you tell us a little more about Paul Fredrick’s channel mix? How much is that devoted to Direct Mail initiatives, and how do you measure the impact of DM more specifically?

SD: One of the main channels we focus our efforts on is catalog, with a combination of the usual suspects on the digital side.

We’ve run testing in order to quantify the incremental value of sending a catalog or not, as well as the frequency of mailing. We found that while there was a certain portion of revenue that could still be achieved without the catalog drops, ultimately the combination of catalog and other marketing channels had a more positive impact on revenue, and the overall business.

PMX: Marketers are always looking to be more efficient in their media spend. How have you approached that objective with catalogs? What are some of the things you’ve seen work in terms of lowering your DM costs without jeopardizing sales, and on the flip side, what hasn’t worked so well?

SD: Including direct mail in the mix is certainly a costly endeavor, but in terms of the overall marketing strategy, it adds a lot of value. We really focus on contact management, and look at different customer segments to determine what the best contact strategy is for one type of customer versus another. Does catalog have a role in this customer’s journey, is it more significant to one group versus another? These are questions we’re constantly asking ourselves. Paul Fredrick is a legacy cataloger, and being that we don’t have a brick and mortar presence for folks to show up at, we have to think more creatively about how to personalize the experience for different customer groups. The more we narrow in on what really works for each type of Paul Fredrick customer, the more we can create efficiencies in our spend.

PMX: Talk about how direct mail resonates with your customer. How does it enrich the experience of the Paul Fredrick brand for them, as well as their overall buying journey?

SD: We really try to look at our marketing channels in respect to how our customers interact with them, and what preferences they show for engaging and buying. And sometimes in digital, it’s actually challenging to communicate the brand as effectively because you have less time with that customer.

The catalog is a vehicle to fully represent the brand and all that we’re about. As a brand, we can position things we’re really excited about through the catalog creative development. And for a customer, someone can flip through the pages and really understand our product, and who we are. We have this focused time to reach a customer, and communicate the feeling of the merchandise in a more tangible way. That’s been key for us.

PMX: With all the experience your brand has in DM, what advice would you give to marketers that are thinking about exploring direct mail marketing for the first time? And for those legacy catalogers like yourself, what advice would you share with them?

SD: For first timer’s, I would recommend thinking about direct mail as a component of your overall contact strategy and marketing mix. The first time out, you have to think in terms of “These are the people I mailed, and this is the incremental impact I see from different customer groups who I mailed to.” With attribution being so important today, you always need to ensure you’re thinking of DM as a complement and a component to your strategy, rather than measuring it as a standalone. Where is its place in your customer mix?

For those who’ve been in the channel for a long time, I think it involves understanding that sometimes the inverse is true. While a catalog isn’t always going to be a good choice for one customer, it could certainly be for another. There’s a lot of opportunity for cost cutting measures where you can also maintain efficiency, but if you’re not going to mail, make sure it’s because those customers do not respond well to the channel. We have to continually shape our understanding of our customers – you might be cutting costs in the short term, but in the long term, you may be losing out on revenue because you’re not providing the right experience.

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