Direct Mail Marketing, Shopper Marketing, Visual Merchandising

Top Tips To Improve Direct Mail Marketing

Despite the predictions of many experts, the age of technology hasn’t destroyed direct mail marketing. In fact, direct mail is more important than ever. Companies that employ email marketing compete with hundreds of other companies for the user’s attention. However, since traditional mail is used less frequently, it stands out much more in the recipient’s mind.

Of course, just because your company stands out doesn’t mean it’ll be remembered in a positive light. A poor attempt at direct mail can do more harm than good. Therefore, it’s vital to get it right the first time, and the best way to do that is to consider the basics of direct mail marketing. Getting back to the principles of direct mail will show you where you need to go.

Modern Direct Mail Marketing, Shopper Marketing

Give Your Best Offer

The offer is the centerpiece of direct mail marketing. It’s got to be good, and it has to solve the needs of your recipients. Let people know exactly what’s in it for them and why they should be interested in what you’re offering. Clearly state any incentives that come along with the offer, as well as any strings that may be attached on the customer’s end. If size permits, it’s not a bad idea to include a sample of your product. Remember, direct mail isn’t the avenue to withhold things.

Know Your Customers

It seems obvious that you have to know your customers in order to sell to them. Yet, knowing that all of these people are different doesn’t stop companies from sending the same message to everyone. Understand the different segments of your audience, then tailor your message to each individual group. They’ll thank you through their purchases.

Test Early, Test Often

Every company wants to believe that its direct mail campaign is perfect. Unfortunately, some companies have to learn the hard way that their vision doesn’t align with what people want to hear. That’s why testing is so important. If you try several direct mail approaches, you’ll quickly learn which ones work the best. The more you test, the more you’ll hone in on the ideal formula for getting your customers to take action.

Cut to the Chase

Direct mail marketing gives you the ultimate one-on-one interaction with your customers. However, you still have to deliver the goods. Recipients of your mailers will only give you a few seconds of consideration before they move on, so make your communication counts. Get to the point and hook people early. If you don’t do this, you’ll not only hurt your response rate, but you’ll also hurt the reputation of your brand.

Sell Solutions

Although your direct marketing is done with the hope of selling a product or service, you have to present your message in the language of the consumer. A great way to do this is to identify the pain points of your customers, then show how your product can resolve those issues. People might not want to buy a snow shovel in September, but reminding them of how much snow they had last winter will help you to illustrate why your shovel is the perfect solution. Moving people is the real way to get them to take action. 

Go Mobile

Direct mail doesn’t have to take place exclusively via physical mail. After all, it’s much easier to track responses by sending recipients to a landing page created specifically for people receiving your offers. Why not make it easy for people to get there? Include a QR code in your mailers that will take readers exactly where they need to go. It makes the lives of your customers easier, and it also enables them to learn more about why your company is the best in your industry. It’s a win-win.

No matter how high your response rate, there’s always room for improvement.

Remembering the principles of direct mail marketing can tell you a lot about areas where your direct mail efforts may be lacking. Creativity in your message and building bridges between the paper and digital worlds can also help. As long as you adhere to the basics of compelling offers, personal communication and traceability, you’ll go very far with direct mail marketing.

About the author:
Courtney Tobe is Marketing Manager of Tobe Direct. She develops, manages, and implements the physical, digital, and content marketing initiatives. Her strong background in corporate communications and writing has been a true asset for Tobe Direct and, one of the company’s products.


4 Critical Questions to Ask Before Building a PPC Campaign for Your Online Store

Online stores need to think very strategically about PPC campaigns prior to launch. In this article, we’ll look at important strategic questions to ask that involve merchandising. The goal of these questions is to put a framework in place upon which keyword research, campaign structure, offers, ads and landing pages can be built.

Question 1: Go Deep or Go Wide?

An e-commerce site can approach PPC either by trying to get a little exposure for a lot of products, or a lot of exposure for a smaller group of products. Unless your business has an unlimited budget, it’s hard to do both.

There are many factors to consider when answering this question. More specifically:

  • Do we have products with particularly high margins?
  • Do we have products with particularly low margins?
  • Do we have products that are especially appealing or unique?
  • Are our products generally thought of as commodities?
  • Does the sale of one product lead to the sale of other products?
  • Are our products purchased once or repeatedly?

The answers to these questions get at a supremely important PPC metric: cost per lead (CPL). You don’t want to build a campaign where a conversion costs $50 and the profitability of a sale is $20. Thus, if your campaign targets, say, 1,000 low-margin items, you’re going to need a very, very low CPL to succeed. On the other hand, if your campaign targets 300 high-margin items, you’re in a better position to generate healthy ROI.

At this point, you don’t need a definitive, granular answer; but you should have a general idea about how many products, and which products, make sense to target.

Question 2: Where Are the Competitive Opportunities?

Another aspect of the ROI equation involves a second crucial PPC metric, cost per click (CPC). The more competitive your target keyword, the more expensive it is to have a winning bid and get your ad to display.

Certain market segments are extremely competitive — office supplies and auto parts, for example. If you are in a competitive niche, bidding on the highest of the high-volume keywords may be cost prohibitive. On the other hand, if your niche is less competitive, your budget goes further and you can target more keywords and/or promote a greater number of products.

If you are in a competitive niche, PPC can still be effective, but a more narrowly targeted approach is called for. For instance, you can promote your more specialized (less competitive) products, or target a particular geographic area, or only display your ads in off-peak hours.

Being in a competitive niche usually leads online stores to a “go deep” strategy; whereas less competitive niches bring a “go wide” strategy back into play.

Question 3: What Is Our Offer?

One of the big traps of PPC is spending so much time on keyword strategy, campaign structure, and even A/B split testing, that companies forget a very basic fact: without a great offer, it’s hard to sell things.

For a solidly built PPC campaign, the offer should never be an afterthought, nor should there only be one offer on the table. Instead, develop three or five or even 10 offers that you think will truly interest someone in making a purchase. You may not deploy all of your offers initially, but you will be able to test them as time goes on, and eventually, identify the offers that produce the most conversions.

Question 4: How Much Can We Budget for Six Months?

Finally, determine how much your company can budget for PPC for six months. Any time frame short of that will not provide enough data for an accurate assessment of campaign ROI.

A lot of companies design great campaigns, but get sticker shock when they see, after a couple of months, that their $2,000 monthly budget is only generating five monthly conversions.

Trends are more important than raw numbers in the initial stages of a PPC campaign. If you have a sound testing methodology in place, and are accurately and completely tracking results, CPL and CPC should go down, and overall lead generation should go up.

Exercising patience and managing expectations are key components of setting up your PPC campaign for success. That’s why a healthy discussion of budgets should take place early in the process, and not after money has already been invested in keyword research, technical setup and creative deliverables.

Author Bio:

Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North LLC, an Internet marketing firm that helps online retailers build/optimize their paid search campaigns. Check out the rest of his work on Google Plus

Personalized Shopping Experience is King, Shopper Marketing

Improve Customer Satisfaction with these 8 Inventory Management Tips

In today’s world of instant gratification, inventory management is a large contributor to customer satisfaction. Customers expect to order an item and have it delivered immediately. Many people wait until the last minute to order gifts for special days, or have limited time to shop thereby needing quick turnaround on purchases.

While inventory management is not something that customers see, it still has a large influence on outstanding customer service. For retailers, achieving customer satisfaction is a high priority. Happy customers will return for future business as well as refer people to your business. Effective inventory management will improve the customer experience, while mishandled inventory management will drive customers away. Here are some tips for better inventory management:

1. Counting and Labeling Inventory

Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store or online store, effective inventory control will keep customers coming back. It is important to maintain an actual count of what you have in stock: Counting actual inventory and labeling it properly for tracking will help you fill orders more readily. When labeling inventory, create a system that is simple to maintain and input to your inventory software.

2. Training Employees

Most employees do not understand the importance of accurate inventory tracking. However, by linking accuracy with customer satisfaction, you can give your employees a better set of goals to strive for. During employee training, offer small rewards for accuracy and give them the opportunity to read customer reviews that relate to inventory. Empowering employees to create a positive customer experience is a win-win result for everyone.

3. Partner with Suppliers

Working directly with suppliers to manage lead times and fill orders on an as-needed basis through a partnership will help manage inventory flow. While it is impossible to predict every supply issue, a good communication system with your supplier will allow you to anticipate problems and find alternate sources of inventory.

Retail Localization and Profitability

 4. Maintain Accurate Spreadsheets

With electronic tracking, it is easy to assume that your spreadsheets are always accurate, however computers are only tools and they can misinterpret data from time to time. Errors in spreadsheets can cause financial disasters as reported in Merchandising Matters. Errors can also be caused by human mistakes such as transposing numbers or accidental duplication or deletion of keystrokes. Implementing a fail-safe system to look for inaccuracies or to double check inventory input can potentially save money and future business headaches even in the smallest of businesses.

 5. The Right Software

There are many software choices for inventory tracking. Each industry has a favorite software choice, however the most important criteria for selecting software for your company is how well it works for your business needs. When choosing software, ask for a trial period and have several people in your operation test it for accuracy and efficiency.

 6. Inventory Consultant

Hiring a highly regarded inventory consultant is a good way of getting an objective examination of your inventory system, finding leaks or potential weaknesses that you may not see. A third-party assessment may reveal problems that you overlook because you have always worked within your particular system. A consultant can also give you advice on what to consider as your company grows, how to eliminate inventory loss and preventing typical inventory issues that seem cyclical in your industry.

7. Inventory Turns

Maximize your inventory space by studying how your inventory turns. Reducing slow-moving and increasing fast-moving inventory items will lower your inventory cost and improve your sales. Even if your gut tells you that customers love widget X, if your metrics show that in actuality widget Y is a faster moving product, then widget Y is the one you should be stocking in higher numbers. You may find that widget X is not a good product at all. You can also learn more about your customers by surveying them about why they bought widget Y.

 8. Follow the Data

Your metrics will tell you how your inventory moves, where it goes, when it needs to be better managed, and what to eliminate. Use the hard data to improve your inventory management and you will improve your bottom line, retain more customers and get increased referrals.

About the author:

Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Business owners use the company’s forms, form labels, tags and labels to streamline day-to-day processes and work more efficiently.


Merchandisers beware: companies could lose billions because of crappy spreadsheets

The Spreadsheet: a program we all use to organize, analyze and store data in a tabular form. Merchandisers cherish their spreadsheets as we forecast, plan, calculate, execute and analyze all of our most crucial data. Spreadsheets hold enormous power as we usually make our most critical merchandising decisions off what we interpret. However, with the vast amounts of consumer data, campaign cycles and products spreadsheets merchandisers have grown to be victims to spreadsheets errors.

In a recent report put out by The Telegraph UK,  claims stupid errors in spreadsheets could lead to Britain’s next corporate disaster. One in five large businesses have suffered financial losses as a result of errors in spreadsheets, according to F1F9 . In total, spreadsheet calculations represent up to £38bn of British private sector investment decisions per year. Yet 16pc of large companies have admitted finding inaccurate information in spreadsheets more than 10 times in 2014.


The article focuses on financial institutions but retailers are just as much in jeopardy, many retailer laggers are still using spreadsheets to manage important processes in the supply chain, such as assortment planning, pricing, logistics and space planning. Mistakes in any spreadsheet calculation can have a bullwhip effect through entire company and cost retailers financially. Merchandisers especially should consider abandoning spreadsheets and invest in more automated, less error-prone systems. Systems that can offer business intelligence, remove human calculation errors, provide more optimal insight and execution of products and promotions.

Please click here for the full article in the Telegraph




Written by: Rebecca Shirazi

Rebecca Shirazi is the Marketing Manager at RBM Technologies. She is a frequent contributor to, where she writes in the areas of marketing, merchandising and supply chain.

Pop-In Shop_merchandising

5 Tips on How to Create a Successful Pop-In Shop

Emerging specialty brands, such as West Paw Design, are marketed across thousands of boutiques, with a couple pieces here and there. They also often have a fledging direct-to-consumer e-commerce business. Yet nowhere are customers able to experience the brand holistically and completely in a single location. Without that experience, the brand may not thrive.

Enter the e-pop-in. The brand gets full creative control of a presentation of product samples in a location frequented by solid traffic, along with an incentive for the customer to buy online. The best part — it’s efficient and within budget for emerging brands.

Here are some tips for emerging specialty brands wishing to pop-in:

1. Think of service providers as the location to create the e-pop-in. They already have a relationship with the customer, yet aren’t selling competing merchandise. For example, if you’re a fashion orthodics brand, get your e-pop-in into podiatry offices. This is particularly suitable for Aetrex, which has developed a line of fashion orthodics footwear and can benefit by following the trail blazed by Vionic.  

2. Think about strategic synergy. In other words, make sure the service provider’s brand message is in sync with your own. For example, a line of activewear that can also be worn to the office is strategically aligned with a personal training regimen like Inform Fitness that’s brief and efficient (covers all muscles intensely) and doesn’t even require a shower. 

3. Try to align your brand with a growing industry (e.g., wellness). This would include massage spas, personal trainers, fitness in general, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, nutrition, physical therapy and psychotherapy. The prevention rather than the treatment of disease is becoming increasingly mainstream. 

4. Ensure that the service provider’s customer profile matches yours. If your demographic, for example, is an over 50s wealthy client, be sure to partner with a service provider that has the same demographics. 

5. Engage a partner whose key service is to create, produce, install and operate the displays, including refreshing them seasonally. 

Published by Retail Online Integration on February 18, 2015 By Janet Valenza

Janet Valenza is president of Pop-Up Artists, a marketing agency for turnkey, short-term selling space. Janet can be reached at [email protected].

Showrooming retail store, shopper marketing

NRF: The 3 New Rules of Retail Merchandising

In a panel discussion at Retail’s BIG Show, LVMH North America’s Gena Smith, Nordstroms Rack’s Paige Thomas sat down with HSN’s Sandy Soto speaking about the increase of challenges retailers face in bringing newness and inspiration to the shopping experience. These challenges have put new pressures on the retail merchandising department, where concerns lied mostly with product selection and visual presentation. Today, the top merchandising position has broader accountability and is heavily involved with talent development, change management and customer experience.

Here are 3 new rules of retail merchandising discussed by the panel and written up by


ENCOURAGING DIGITAL DISCOVERY, IN-STORE AND ONLINEWe’ve seen that customers want to shop on their own terms nowadays, and as a retailer or brand you need to respect that,” PSFK Labs’ Scott Lachut said. That’s the thinking behind a push to bring shopping cart functionality to every online experience, from “buy” buttons on Twitter,image recognition features within apps andstreamlined purchasing from social mediaand mobile. The option to reserve products online for in-store or curbside pickup helps stores like Gap and Walmart give customers more control over delivery, too.NRF_merchandising_twitter

Smart multichannel retailers not only encourage customers to look up product information on mobile devices, but find thoughtful ways to bring digital features to the retail environment, adding a useful layer of information over the “real world” shopping experience. House of Fraser is testing beacons inside mannequins that let shoppers access information and special offers for the products on display. ModiFace’s appgenerates personalized skincare recommendations by analyzing hundreds of photos from a shopper’s linked Facebook account. And Neiman Marcus’ memory mirror helps “shoppers short-circuit the process of trying on, and re-trying on, clothes.”


Smart multichannel retailers not only encourage customers to look up product information on mobile devices, but findNRF_modiface_in-store_experience_merchandising_multichannel thoughtful ways to bring digital features to the retail environment, adding a useful layer of information over the “real world” shopping experience. House of Fraser is testing beacons inside mannequins that let shoppers access information and special offers for the products on display. ModiFace’s app generates personalized skincare recommendations by analyzing hundreds of photos from a shopper’s linked Facebook account. And Neiman Marcus’ memory mirror helps “shoppers short-circuit the process of trying on, and re-trying on, clothes.”


What does the store do, beyond just selling things? PSFK Founder and President Piers Fawkes says the future belongs to retailers that transact in culture, experiences and relationships. Stores become hubs for communities of like-minded consumers, with services and experiences beyond products. Club Monaco’s Manhattan flagship store is home to a bookstore and coffee shop; Urban Outfitters’ Herald Square concept store offers salon services, bike repairs and Instagram photo Warby_parker_retail_merchandisingprinting. Warby Parker takes it a step further with a unique theme at each new location — retro classroom décor in Dallas, a photo studio in Chicago and a reading nook in San Francisco.

Thomas noted that forecasting data drives decisions at Nordstrom Rack, but every time the company spot-checks a forecast, they realize customers are evolving even faster than they thought. “Even when we’re being aggressive, it’s not fast enough.”  

To stay ahead of consumers, Smith says general merchandising managers and their teams need to understand and appreciate how quickly technology is changing and channels are converging. What’s more, Smith says, cultural sensitivity and an awareness of what’s going on around the world — not just in selected markets — is also critical in retail. It takes more than tech skills to bring “Future of Retail” ideas to life; merchandising teams must also have a deep understanding of how customers are living their lives.

shopper marketing, the future of retail

The future of the retail model

In a recent article published by Transworld Business, Jeff Harbaugh a consultant who has been analyzing “omnichannel” strategy gives his opinion on the evolution of marketing and the future of the retail model. Harbaugh states, brands today almost need to run two companies in order to sell to both millennials (born 1982-2000) and baby boomers (born 1946-1964). Though obviously there is some overlap, today you probably can’t sell the same product lines to both groups. The two generations shop, get their information, are influenced and have different expectations with brands. This difference affects all parts of the supply chain and today retailers are struggling to cope.


Read below on what Jeff Harbaugh thinks is going to happen within retail:

• Retail space is going to contract.

• Malls (with the exception of the high end ones I’m told) will be in trouble. Fewer people are visiting them. They will spend less. This is a slippery slope. Lower traffic means fewer sales which mean some stores close, which means lower traffic which means more stores close.

• Advances in robotics and technologies like 3D printing means that more product can be customized in a short time scale.

• Online/mobile generated sales will continue to grow (duh) energized by our logistics capabilities that get product to (and from) consumers quicker.

• Inventory requirements for retailers will decline as will the square feet needed for physical stores.

• Real product differentiation will continue to be hard to achieve. Making a product at least occasionally hard to find will matter.

Increasing Retail Foot Traffic: Infographic

Everyone that walks by your store is a potential customer and you need to view things that way or you won’t exploit the potential that it presents. The issue is about how to actually get those random passersby to actually make the choice to come into your store and take the time to peruse your offerings.

First impressions really are everything and so you need to ensure that your store looks really inviting, firstly from the outside and then once the customer gets inside. These ideas may require some element of investment but if executed well, you should get a return for your input in the form of increased customer numbers and in turn increased revenue.


This info-graphic from SMS Store Traffic aims to give a comprehensive guide on how to increase the number of customers that your store gets in the door. The info-graphic outlines methods to get your store looking appealing both from the exterior to the interior. It also outlines what it believes customers are really looking for thus allowing you to attempt to meet those needs and as a result positively affect your return on investment.  


Fastest Growing Trend in Supermarkets : Glass Door Merchandising

It’s no secret merchandising produce is not an easy task, the cost that is associated with keeping fruit, vegetables, dressings and dip staying fresh continues to haunt retailers. Utilities constitute a large amount of supermarket expenses and refrigeration is one of the top components of a store’s utility bill. With supermarkets making very little margin on products cost control is important.

Displaying food products in open-top refrigerated cases are quickly coming to an end though, thanks to a new fixture trend making its way into produce departments. Glass door refrigerated display cases are being installed by many retailers as a better way to merchandise items in the produce department. Ideally, glass door cases can help retailers keep their energy costs in check.


Here are some of the basic benefits of glass door merchandising from The Produce News:

Visual impact

There is a dramatic product presentation that immediately captures a customer’s attention. The impact of seeing a line of glass door units with produce stocked from top to bottom as a solid wall is very impressive. Shelf after shelf of produce is facing the customers and motivates explosive sales.

Additional space

The vertical height of the cases opens up supplemental space to stock product with better inventory control. This allows for more item variety and choices for the shoppers.

Energy saving

One of the largest portions of supermarket expenses is related to energy. Installing the glass door units in the produce department can result in as much as a 70 percent reduction in energy costs.

Shrink control

The addition of the doors on these units contains refrigeration and maintains the proper temperatures, allowing the product longer shelf life. For this reason, there is a 20 percent reduction in shrink experienced by the produce department on items displayed in the cases. Bagged salads experience up to 30 percent less shrink.

Less maintenance

Refrigeration compressors experience much less wear, resulting in fewer service calls and replacement parts.

Jeff Tomassetti, produce director for Buehler’s Fresh Foods in Wooster, OH, said, “We love the look and the efficiency [of glass door refrigerated cases]. Customers are really shopping the door units. Juice, vegan and salads look great behind doors. We definitely have seen less shrink in bagged salads and organics.”

Doug Weikert, produce supervisor and buyer for Coborn’s Inc. in St. Cloud, MN, added, “Coborn’s believes glass door merchandising is the wave of the future. We have 30 percent of all produce departments now and moving to 50 percent in the immediate future with the exception of misted products. There is energy savings with less cooling costs in cases. No reduction in sales where glass door merchandising has been installed and no dehydration issues with produce. Less overall shrink.”

One of the challenges for retailers at this point is getting over the merchandising hurdles. Many are still in the experimental and learning stages of trying different ways in which to put the entire layout design in place. Most packaged items are there, but bulk produce still requires resolving.

The key to merchandising with glass door cases is using the proper types of equipment racks for each product category. There are shelf sets, POD sets and vertical sets of shelving equipment for the glass door merchandising units.

Carlson-Airflo, based in Brooklyn Park, MN, has innovative solutions for customized equipment racks designed to enhance merchandising profiles, especially for bulk produce. Check its website at for more information.

The future is here and now. New trends continue to rise up in the produce industry. We must recognize these changes and move on them quickly in order to help raise the bar on produce industry growth.


Verizon Destination Store at Mall of America – Wins Best Store Design at World Retail Awards

World Retail Congress is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual forum for retail CEOs and leaders to share, debate and network with both domestic and global peers. This year’s annual World Retail Awards Show in Paris, nominated a number of notable and well recognized retailers to complete in nine categories from the Best Store Designs’ to Omni-channel Retailer of the Year.

This year, Verizon Destination Store, Mall of America, (AKQA & Chute Gerdeman) was the chosen as 2014 Winner of Best Store Design < 1200sqm. The store was selected on successfully demonstrating a real customer experience, enhancing the retail brand while proving to be a truly innovative and commercial success. The judges believed most telecom retailers treat smart accessories as uninspiring commodities. The Verizon Destination Store shifts the focus from selling devices to helping customers learn all that wireless technology can do for their mobile lifestyle. The new customer journey is an interactive playground that empowers customers by entertaining, engaging and educating. Ultimately, they’re changing brand perception by making Verizon the go-to destination for the mobile life.


Link to the article here