Is Variable Data Direct Mail Worth It?

If you’ve tried direct mail and you’re searching for a better way to target your messages to specific customers, variable data mail might be a good option. Variable data mail allow you to personalize each mailing to each customer, which has the potential to increase your response rate. Your messages are delivered to a ZIP code, yet customized to a household.
For example, a furniture retailer could target sales offers directly to new homeowners, or auto dealerships could focus on households with vehicle leases about to expire. The advantage of this approach is that it allows an advertiser to deliver a very targeted call-to-action to a customer who is potentially the best fit for a product or service.

Variable data also offers other benefits. Instead of simply viewing direct mail as a numbers game and sending out 10,000 postcards in hopes of obtaining a 1 percent response rate, an advertiser using variable data cards can potentially generate a strong response rate through a smaller mail campaign. And that can translate into lower overall direct mail costs. Variable data also offers the opportunity to develop a stronger relationship with new and existing customers by delivering more personalized messages that are more in-line with a consumer’s actual needs.

Of course, variable data mail has its drawbacks, as well. The cost of personalizing each card to reach a specific address can be very expensive, often as much as $1 to $1.50 a piece or more. The cost of buying a targeted list can also add up. So, while the overall cost of a campaign might be less because fewer cards are required, the cost of acquiring each customer is likely more.

Variable data programs can also be complicated to manage. Let’s say an automotive repair shop wants to use variable data cards to remind existing customers about upcoming oil changes. That shop needs to find a way to make its customer database work with the direct mail supplier’s system, to ensure that the postcards reach the right households. If advertisers buy data, they also have to spend time checking the information to determine whether it’s reliable. There’s also the added challenge of making sure that the printer imprints each postcard with the right offer or message for the intended recipient.

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