Not Your Average Traffic Builder
Innovation rarely makes an appearance in the retail traffic builder segment of direct mail. From time to time, an adventurous store will break out of the humdrum mold that centers on sales items and promotion dates, and spice things up with, say, a plastic discount card affixed to the front cover or a product sample bound in to one of the circular's spreads.
But these glimpses of boldness are few and far between. That is unless you're a specialty retailer like Ulta Salon, Cosmetics, Fragrance Inc., a brick-and-mortar retailer headquartered in Romeoville, IL, that also offers an online storefront.
The advantage of being a niche retailer lies in the opportunity to offer a loyalty club to promote more frequent purchases with higher average order value. Where department stores like Lord & Taylor and J.C. Penney use store charge cards to build a customer database to target, their housefiles aren't as easily segmented as that of a niche retailer with a tight merchandise mix. Thus Ulta can be more targeted in its mailing campaigns to entice more frequent store visits.
The Who's Mailing What! Archive received one of Ulta's "beauty events" mailings, as they're called by company personnel, in August. The 8-1/2" x 10-1/2" catalog-style mailing offers an assortment of featured products and sales items, just like a usual traffic builder. Where it leaves the so-so pack behind is in its use of a coupon, right on the front cover of the mailing. The coupon is personalized with the club member's name and the number of reward certificates she's earned during the promotion period. The promo copy on the "Ulta Reward Certificate" directs the club member to stop by the store to select her free gift from the "in-store reward brochure."
Further personalization can be found on the back cover, including an ink-jetted message that highlights a promotion in one section of the traffic builder and an attempt to supply the member with computer-generated store maps. These maps, however, didn't quite hit the mark; the customer lives in New Jersey, and the maps are for stores in Illinois. Oops.
According to Linda Anderson, executive assistant to Ulta's Direct Marketing Manager Lori Watson, Ulta has four million "Club at Ulta" members. This database is broken into segments depending on the time of year and the marketing goal to create the variations of the "beauty event" mailings. For example, a mailing that focuses on a fragrance event (such as the one shown here) will be targeted to the top buyers of fragrance in the club.
Annually, the company sends about 11 beauty event mailings to club members. The format mix is mostly catalog-style circulars peppered with some postcards, and all efforts feature personalization. Anderson notes that the mailings do not always feature maps, though, since store locations are shared only when the traffic builder is dropping in an area that is a fairly new market for Ulta. She was uncertain as to what could have happened with this particular effort, but noted that the maps are pre-printed on the traffic builders, not created during the ink-jet printing process.
Proving that this is a retailer with direct response in its blood, the coupon serves two tracking purposes. The pre-printed barcode on the left of the coupon ties into the particular promotion focus of this mailing; the ink-jetted barcode on the right contains the club member's details. When a store associate processes the barcode, the store computer registers the reward activity and captures any other purchases made by the club member.
This sharing of data between store and databaseand vice versaallows Ulta to customize its sales approach to the shopping behaviors of the customer, while she's in the store. Consider it the ultimate blend of retail and direct.