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Acquiring customers online should be just like direct mail, almost to the letter

I'm not sure if you've noticed but there will have been a lot less direct mail popping through your letterbox since the start of the recession, which definitely supports the every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining principle - albeit a small one in this case. By Glynn Davis, City editor

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Acquiring customers online should be just like direct mail, almost to the letter

This is because it is not a particularly cheap way of recruiting new customers and a few of the main protagonists – the financial services companies – haven’t two farthings to rub together to pay for nationwide direct mail campaigns anymore.

Unfortunately, the recession has not staunched the flow of online ads seeking to acquire customers, and the reason for this is that the outlay is significantly smaller than for direct mail. In many cases it works on a pay-per-sale basis so the advertiser coughs up zilch unless a transaction is completed.

The only problem with this increased reliance on the online route to acquisition is that it is frequently done on the cheap and almost always indiscriminately so many of the new customers it attracts prove to be ultimately unsuitable and therefore costly as they simply increase the levels of the advertisers’ customer churn.

A possible solution to this problem is to apply some of the tried and trusted methods of direct mail customer acquisition to the online medium. This is a method that interactive marketing firm Acxiom is exploring with the help of its extensive database of customer insight and retail clients.

Simplistically, this could involve asking an initial question and if the respondent is identified as potentially relevant (based on various criteria) then they will be taken down a specific route of the acquisition path. And, if unsuitable then they will be dumped without them even noticing.When today’s advanced technology and customer data is combined with the established understanding of direct mail then online customer recruitment should no longer be an exercise in acquiring a whole load of consumers whose lifetime value negatively impacts rather than enhances the bottom line.

glynnd@theretailbulletin.com

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