What is Programmatic Direct Mail?

Creative Postcards

Although newer to the marketing scene, the concept of bridging the gap between online and offline marketing worlds is rapidly gaining momentum. However, there are different approaches to this new way of offline retargeting. Take a few minutes to learn about the differences between programmatic direct mail and web-powered direct mail.  

Marketing has had a serious face lift with the advent of internet advertising in the 1990s. And innovation within internet advertising has continued over the years with the introduction of new channels (email, display, social, mobile, SMS/MMs, video, etc…) and technology (retargeting, AI, RTB, programmatic, etc….).

But what about print? More specifically, direct mail. We haven’t seen an innovation in the direct mail space since 1990 when direct mail benefited from the innovation of cooperative databases.  Then, for 25 years nothing…until now. In 2015 we saw the first real innovation in direct mail with the introduction of web-powered direct mail, both a new channel and a technological innovation. Ironically, this is an important innovation to digital retargeting as well.

What is web-powered direct mail? Let’s start with what it is not. Quite often, I hear people talk about programmatic print interchangeably with web-powered direct mail.

How does Programmatic Direct Mail work?

“Programmatic” advertising typically refers to the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves…the human touch. It’s using machines to buy ads, basically. 

Direct mail is a form of art. Yes, I referred to direct mail as an art; an art that utilizes science and requires the human touch. That is probably the first thing I question with programmatic print. Can software alone correctly determine who should receive direct mail and how the content of the piece should be personalized, void of human intervention? As marketers, we all know the importance of the human touch. And, when has a marketing program even gone exactly according to plan? The art of marketing is the human touch and it requires being able to review programs mid-flight and manually adjust if / when necessary.

How does programmatic direct mail differ from both digital marketing and traditional direct mail?

The ability to programmatically buy ads online makes sense, in part because of RTB, real-time bidding. With so many advertisers vying for the attention of that same consumer, buying “rules” can be put in place to allow a marketer to bid on that digital ad space, to essentially bid on that consumer, in real time. The cost associated with “winning” that bid can vary and can be expensive, but that’s a blog for another day! Does this same benefit carry over to direct mail?

Traditional direct mail is typically delivered to an audience by using a current list of customer data or purchasing an audience list. When purchasing a third-party list, this can sometimes be a shot in the dark in terms of results.

Similar to digital marketing, programmatic direct mail is a more “automatic” way of delivering your marketing to an audience that may be a good prospect. As mentioned, there is a lack of human intervention and individualization with programmatic direct mail.

Web-Powered Direct Mail vs. Programmatic Direct Mail

Web-powered direct mail is the first new channel marketers have seen in decades. It is the first channel to truly bridge the gap between the offline and online marketing worlds. With web-powered direct mail, marketers are able to leverage browsing data to understand consumer intent, use that data to determine how to personalize content and deliver that content through the most highly responsive channel; direct mail. The underlying technology supports the transformation of unknown site visitors to known postal names and addresses – taking digital retargeting an important step further. With direct mail, we are not fighting with other advertisers to get the attention of that consumer. We are leveraging the consumer intent and getting a personalized offer in front of the consumer within 48 hours of the site visit. Retargeting, via direct mail.

Should every site visitor receive a direct mail piece? The answer is no. This is where science comes into play. Web-powered direct mail leverages statistical modeling and hundreds of variables to determine who should receive a direct mail piece and when. It’s a managed services solution (vs. self-serve) that has the added benefit of industry experts to review model segmentation, determine the appropriate depth and modify mid-flight based on real time performance metrics.

Web powered direct mail; the ability to mail yesterday’s site visitors today and finally, a reason to break down the marketing silo’s.

2020 Survival Kit