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6 Basic types of Retail Direct Mail

Direct Mail

While there are hundreds of different varieties of direct mail used for retail promotion, six basic types account for most of today's volume:

Statement Stuffers: Probably the most universally used form of retail direct mail is the enclosure sent along with the monthly statement to charge customers. The majority of these "stuffers" are supplied to retailers either without cost or for a very minimal charge by manufacturers. They range all the way from simple black-and-white imprinted sheets the size of a statement envelope to elaborate full-colour folders. Often they have a coupon for use in ordering featured products by mail. But, like other retail direct mail, they are primarily designed to build store traffic.

A number of department stores prepare their own statement enclosures, frequently featuring a variety of products. There are three basic types of store-prepared enclosures:

  1. Single sheets, ranging from pieces just the size of the folded statement to elaborate broadsides folded to fit the mailing envelope.

  2. Packets of uniform-size slips, each featuring a separate product or group of products. A Boston firm regularly inserts a miniature envelope-size portfolio containing about a dozen individual sheets describing special products with its monthly statements.

  3. Small envelope-size booklets which are really miniature catalogs. A Chicago firm, for example, includes a 3-3/4 by 5,5-inch booklet with each monthly statement. It illustrates and describes about 50 items and includes a page which can be torn out and used as a mail order form.
Weight of the stuffers constitutes a major problem for many retailers. The custom of enclosing customers' sales checks with statements has reduced the number of enclosures which many retailers can use and still stay within weight limitations. Many times, the selection of manufacturer-supplied enclosures is decided primarily on a weight basis.

The use of statement enclosures is usually scheduled many months in advance, with store-prepared material always given preference over that supplied by manufacturers. However, when a newly developed store enclosure forces replacement of supplied material, the manufacturer's enclosure may be rescheduled or used as a package enclosure instead.

Dealer-Identified Direct Mail: Frequently, the only direct mail used by a retailer is that supplied by the manufacturers whose products he sells. In most fields, a retailer has a wide variety of direct mail programs from which he can choose. Because there are so many special factors to be considered in the development of successful dealer-identified direct mail programs, these are discussed in detail separately.

Catalogues and Flyers: The use of multiple-page direct mail units is common among many retail businesses. There are two basic types:
  1. seasonal catalogs and
  2. flyers advertising special sales.
Department stores are the most frequent users of catalogs, including both the seasonal variety (January White Sales, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Graduation, Back-to-School, and Christmas) plus special catalogs covering such related item categories as housewares, furniture, and fashions.

Flyers, which usually take the form of multiproduct promotions printed on newsprint stock, are most frequently used by discount houses and more specialized retailers including hardware, auto supply, variety, and garden supply stores. Frequently these flyers are used to promote special sale events.

Special Letters: Retailers use special letters for announcements, invitations, maintaining contact with customers, securing new customers, reactivating old customers, collecting overdue accounts, building goodwill, and dozens of other purposes. Some of the letters are individually typewritten; others are printed, mimeographed, or multigraphed.

Syndicated Programmes: Since the syndicated packages for specialized businesses are widely promoted directly to those in each field, we will not attempt to describe them here. There are, in addition, a large number of syndicated services which are applicable to most any type of retailer.

Group Direct Mail: Co-operative direct mailings usually involve participation by a number of merchants who have a common location. They are an extension of the "Shopper" or "Daily Reminder" throwaway that usually contains nothing but advertising and is distribuie3 without charge to all families in a given area.

Many "Shoppers" are commercial publishing enterprises, but others are a co-operative venture of a group of merchants - frequently those located in a common shopping centre. While these publications usually are in a newspaper format, they are essentially a form of direct mail advertising.

A group of Main Street merchants in New Jersey banded together and began an extensive promotion program designed to keep customers from neglecting the downtown area for the new shopping centres. After establishing some basic customer-oriented policies, the merchants pooled their charge account names.

From these names, a basic list of over 5,000 families was compiled and each was sent a charge card, extending credit privileges at all 27 stores, along with a folder containing a booklet describing the centre's plan plus individual slips describing each of the stores, the national brands they handled, and any special services they rendered. In addition, a regular direct mail programme promotes the merchants to 51,000 families in the trading area. Catalogs and special tabloids are used regularly.

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