A World of Opportunity
U.S. Marketers still have room to grow in global markets; they just need to rethink their strategy.
By Lisa Yorgey Lester
Press headlines have led many U.S. direct marketers to believe international direct marketing is all doom and gloom. But quite the opposite is true. Despite the reluctance of many companies to take the risk associated with global expansion, direct marketers have continued to achieve higher response rates abroad. What's more, new trade agreements will open untapped and underserved markets for U.S. exports.
As direct marketing began to grow worldwide in the 1990s, it became a new avenue of expansion for U.S. mailers. As such, many marketers got used to pretty high expectations for international response. With the exception of the Asian economic crisis, the past 10 years have been quite heady for global direct marketers.
"Anyone could rent a bunch of lists; throw together a mailing piece similar to their domestic piece; mail it internationally and get extremely good response without much work because it was such an explosive market," recalls May Katz, executive vice president of Direct Media International, a mailing list broker and manager with headquarters in Greenwich, CT.
Catalogers, too, struck gold—particularly in Japan. At the time the market was extremely growth-oriented, and the dollar was weak against the yen. Unfortunately, the coffers dried up when Asia was hit with an economic drought in 1997.
U.S. direct marketers with no room for growth in a mature domestic market traditionally have expanded into international markets for one of two reasons—to boost sales or to increase profits. These reasons remain, and while the days of big payoffs with little effort may be over, one fact rings true: International campaigns still net higher response rates than their domestic counterparts.
Compared to the United States, most of the world receives fewer direct mail efforts. In the United Kingdom—home to one of the more developed direct marketing industries outside the United States—the average British household receives 13 direct mail pieces every month.