How Triggered Direct Mail Campaigns Can Perform Better

How Triggered Direct Mail Campaigns Can Perform Better

Advancements in technology and solutions have modernized the direct mail channel, enabling many of the beneficial features of its digital counterparts. Triggered direct mail, also referred to as programmatic direct mail, allows brands and advertisers to follow up with targeted mail pieces in response to consumer actions. While this approach is great for a variety of reasons, like providing an additional conversion or branding opportunity in the physical world, it can also be costly over time if the consumers are not actually the right fit.

There are many points throughout the customer lifecycle where brands are integrating targeted direct mail pieces. Some use cases are straightforward, while others beg for more strategy and optimization. Visitors signing up for content, potential buyers abandoning a shopping cart, an upcoming birthday, and expiring subscriptions all present opportunities to connect. These will help prospective customers progress through the funnel or engage and build relationships with current and lapsed customers.

Where to Start Optimizing Triggered Direct Mail Campaigns

Use cases in the mid and lower funnel are inclusive of consumers who have already proven some level of value to a direct marketer. However, actions taking place in upper funnel awareness phases are different. Utilizing a brand’s web traffic, or a flow of various lead sources, can result in a large volume of unqualified prospects going into the mail, with a huge margin for error.

Recently a major online pet retailer sent me several direct mail postcards at home after I visited their site for business purposes. These multiple fold cards promoting pet products were beautifully printed. Yet, I do not currently own a pet nor have I ever owned a pet as an adult. Had this brand taken the time to know more about me, I would have quickly dropped from the mail campaign, saving money and resources.

Investing in further qualification with data enrichment and real-time optimization allows brands to filter out unqualified leads and mail the best prospects. Return on investment will quickly improve with a lower cost per acquisition and even greater value will be recognized down the line with higher lifetime value customers.

How to Get Started Optimizing

Mailing smarter is more important than ever with the challenges facing direct mail, such as supply chain delays and increased postage costs. More personalized, targeted campaigns are a start but there is more that can be done.

Here are data-driven ideas for brands to ensure they are mailing high value consumers who are truly ready to engage with their brand and product.

1. Establish Smart Segmentation Rules

Make sure triggered workflows are set up based on source and other pre-set parameters. Organic and direct web traffic may behave very differently than web traffic from affiliate sources or social media. This will provide a foundation for subsequent steps, helping optimize each source differently.

Additional segmentation parameters can be set around traffic, using metrics such as bounce rate and time on site to set definitions of an engaged visitor that is worth mailing. Someone who engages with content over the course of a few minutes is more likely to be qualified for follow up than another that looks at one page and bounces in less than a minute.

2. Data Enrichment for the Win

A brand’s 1st party data will only tell them so much about a current or potential customer, particularly in the upper funnel stages where a relationship is yet to be established. Data enrichment can fill in more detail on these consumers, creating a clearer picture. Additionally, to take web traffic to direct mail, brands will need to match digital identifiers like IP or email to a physical address. Enrichment can provide additional link keys that will increase match rates across channels. These incremental data attributes will help marketers decide who might be qualified for direct mail while also informing which products to highlight and other creative decisions.

Another benefit of enrichment is that it can be tailored to the needs of a particular business. Additional data points can be delivered in real-time to power programmatic decisioning, or in daily batches for on-going analytic initiatives.

3. Model for Performance

Speaking of analytics, predictive modeling is another step beyond enrichment that will lead to better performance. Not all web visitors are well-suited for direct mail promotions and models can predict which visitor is more likely to respond to direct mail promotions, have a propensity for specific brands or products, or order multiple times.

Modeling can be done in-house, through partners like Alliant, or a hybrid of both. By using an external partner, a brand can tap into their expertise in data and analytics and quickly activate on-demand solutions. If a customized solution is preferred to solve for business-specific needs, they can serve as an extension of an in-house team and create powerful bespoke models.

Keep in mind that while we focused on the upper funnel use cases here, enrichment and optimization can impact all stages of triggered direct mail. The Alliant DataHub incorporates over 15,000 predictive attributes in analytic solutions to determine the best multichannel audiences. Interested in learning more about how our solutions can improve your campaigns? Reach out to our team and we will be happy to schedule time with you!


Kaitlin Dunn, VP, Marketing & Customer Experiencee

Kaitlin leads the Marketing and Creative teams at Alliant, supporting sales and product in communicating what we do and how we do it. Kaitlin’s career includes managing acquisition for Martha Stewart Living magazine and Director of Marketing, Merchandising. After working in some of the country’s best restaurants and honing her hospitality skills, Kaitlin joined the Alliant team in March of 2019. She graduated from Franklin and Marshall with a double major in Art History and Business and has an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America. 

2020 DataHub Trends & Predictions for 2021

2020 DataHub Trends & Predictions for 2021

Member data is updated monthly in the DataHub, providing the Alliant team insight into the purchase behaviors of consumers during the pandemic. Monitoring this consumer purchase data across channels and verticals, the team has identified trends in purchase frequencies, order size, new customer acquisition, and more. Here are a few of our highlights as well as some predictions for 2021.

DataHub Trends By Channel

New Customer Count from Direct Mail was up 19% YOY in the first quarantine (March-May), however was mailers pulled back, the trend reverses June through October resulting in a 13% decline in new customers from direct mail for Jan-October of 2020.

Despite the lower count of new customers from Direct Mail – all Direct Mail shoppers were spending more in 2020, a 24% increase in average order amount per customer, up from an average of $134 per customer in 2019 to an average of $166 in 2020.  Overall, the total direct mail order amount for Jan-Oct 2020 was up 7% YOY. 

Comparatively, Email, Internet and TV saw a steady lift in new customers in 2020 compared to 2019, with customer count up 143% in new customers attributed to email, 41% from internet, and 84% from TV.

The average order amounts for email, internet and TV were also up 24% collectively.

On a whole, consumers were shopping across channels and they were spending more than in 2019.

DataHub Trends By Vertical

Subscription Model DTC Brands performed well during the pandemic with new customers count up 70% across verticals for Jan-October. This jump which began in the early quarantine – up 73% in March through June – has held steady for the balance of the year.

Within this category, Food & Beverage DTC companies have been an obvious source of growth experiencing 91% growth YOY in new customers March-June, and then steading out an overall 75% increase in new customers across January-October.

Overall spend across consumers for subscription DTC Brands was up 68% January-October with the average order amount per customer up 20%

Multichannel retailers saw smaller gains, with a 10% increase in new customers YOY.  Spending did not increase dramatically here, but rather average order amount per customer was flat to 2019 and total overall spend up 1%.

Publishers were not so fortunate, seeing a 20% decline in new customer acquisition in 2020 compared to 2019. They also experienced a 20% decline in total order amount, however the average order amount per customer was up 7%.  This confirms a strategy Alliant observed in this category: focusing pandemic marketing efforts on existing or expired customers.  A decrease in new customers, but an increase in spending from existing ones, helps to balance out the year for publishers.

2021 Predictions

Prediction #1: Marketers will adopt more flexible advertising strategies across channels to keep up with consumers’ quickly shifting behaviors

With two vaccines set for distribution in the U.S. before the end of the year, we may be poised for another quick shift in consumer behavior. So for 2021, marketers will need to stay nimble; and while many continue to invest in direct mail, they must stay flexible with more creative online programs.

If the DataHub trends illustrate anything, it is that all channels are fair game for growth.  Wise marketers will observe trend channels in their own consumer data and understand where expansion opportunities are.  

Prediction #2: Creative development efficiencies will accelerate

This year, marketers were forced to accelerate campaign timelines to keep up with changing consumer behaviors. Top global brands accustomed to evolving their strategies and adapting ad creatives in-real time such as McDonald’s, IKEA, Ford, and others successfully responded to the emerging pandemic with uplifting messages. For example, Guinness’s St. Patrick’s Day message went viral earlier in March with comforting reminders of community resilience and assurance. 

Unfortunately, not all brands have the budget or production horsepower to conceive and adapt creative as quickly to different mediums. In 2021, marketers will be forced to re-think the creative development process and how to make it more efficient for stakeholders and across channels. Beyond responding to consumer behavior, agile creative will also help marketers make the most of audience targeting, by serving the same campaigns and offers across channels.

Prediction #3: The Universal ID space will see leaders emerge, but Amazon DSP is a dark horse to watch

As the industry inches closer to Google’s loose 2022 deadline to deprecate cookies, expect to see a continued thinning out of third-party data providers and traditional data marketplaces — balanced by the organic rise of new data marketplaces that aren’t beholden to cookies.

In 2021, the industry will be forced to navigate a whole slew of questions surrounding identity. The Trade Desk has charged ahead with its Unified ID 2.0 initiative—recently inking high-profile, collaborative deals with LiveRamp, Criteo, and Nielsen.

One outlier to keep an eye on is Amazon DSP, which will continue to grow and establish staying power for a post-cookie world with audience targeting built around logged-in users rather than cookies.

Explore Your Quarantine Data

SVP of Data Acquisition and Activation recently noted, “The quarantine buying behavior supports how important it is to connect directly with consumers during challenging times, and how companies are in a unique position to build relationships with new and existing customers.”

Isolating new customers who purchased for the first time during quarantine and comparing them to your existing customer base will help illuminate differences, but also identify ways to better engage with these new customers. Since they became customers in unique circumstances, they will most likely require a unique approach for retention.

Interested in a deep dive on your brands pandemic trends? We have provided interesting learnings for Members, many of which are helping to evolve audience strategies and move their businesses forward in 2021. Reach out to your AE for an analysis of your customer data.  


Kaitlin Dunn, Senior Director Marketing & Customer Experience

Kaitlin leads the Marketing and Creative teams at Alliant, supporting sales and product in communicating what we do and how we do it.  Kaitlin’s career includes managing acquisition for Martha Stewart Living magazine and Director of Marketing, Merchandising.  After working in some of the country’s best restaurants and honing her hospitality skills, Kaitlin joined the Alliant team in March of 2019. She graduated from Franklin and Marshall with a double major in Art History and Business and has an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America.

How to Justify Spending on Direct Mail Optimization

How to Justify Spending on Direct Mail Optimization

Extensive campaign analysis embodies the scientific beauty of direct mail, allowing savvy marketers to test, evaluate and roll out creative, audience and offer variations. Today, close scrutiny of direct mail performance has become a means of survival, with marketers trying to prove ROI to stakeholders at every drop. With rising costs and shrinking campaign universes, proving return on direct mail investment is more important and challenging than ever. Therefore – one thing is certain – no promotional piece should enter the mail without campaign optimization.

Optimization is the use of predictive modeling to refine audiences. It is the secret weapon of marketers who consistently deliver high-performing direct mail campaigns.

Yet with this tool easily in reach, some marketers are hesitant to introduce new twists to an already complex process. Many DataHub Members utilize Alliant Direct Audiences in their campaigns but have yet to invest in optimizing the full campaign. A common worry is that stakeholders will see optimization as an unnecessary additional cost, especially in the current climate. The key is to do your homework and know exactly how the ROI from campaign optimization outweighs the additional effort.

Here are four common objections marketers encounter when selling through optimization to stakeholders. To arm you with the knowledge to ensure approval for optimization on your next campaign, and help you stand out as a marketing rockstar, we’ve also included counter arguments informed by Alliant’s years of experience executing direct mail optimization solutions for DataHub Members.

I still have to pay for a larger audience in order to optimize it. What about the audiences that I drop from the campaign? How will that result in savings?

Negotiate Net Name Arrangements: It has become quite common to create a net name arrangement with your audience provider, meaning you only pay for the names that go into the mail. This negotiation can save hundreds of thousands in list costs, but the greatest cost savings is in avoiding printing and postage for the dropped mail pieces. Even if you pay full price for a larger initial audience that you ultimately plan to only mail half of, you will still save thousands on printing and postage costs. Reference the direct mail scenario for Company X below. It models costs for a large bi-annual mail campaign, with and without optimization. By negotiating a net name arrangement, they save over $115,000 on list costs in the optimized scenario — but the real savings come from eliminating $800,000+ in printing/lettershop and postage.

I can already mail my whole post merge profitably, why spend money on optimization modeling?

Optimization Lets You Improve KPIs: While it is terrific that your merge is made up of profitable list sources, your business may benefit from further optimization to achieve other, perhaps more exacting campaign goals. Within those profitable list sources, custom optimization solutions can provide a deeper level of insight to identify prospects who may prove to be less profitable over time and replace them with even more profitable audiences that drive longer term revenue and performance goals.

Further optimization can also help meet specific KPI goals. There is always room for improvement – perhaps response could be .5% higher, or you could model specifically for customers who purchase multiple shipments. In the example below, Company X is reviewing results from a model optimized for consumers with 2+ shipments. While response rate goes down slightly, this model focuses on targeting consumers who will continue to return and purchase, improving ROI even in the near term. From another perspective, this model also identifies consumers who may deserve a little extra effort in messaging — or value-adds like free shipping. Optimization is a powerful tool that can go far beyond a simple binary mail or don’t mail signal – it can provide deep insight into how to grow a loyal customer base, drive marketing strategies forward, and increase profit margins.


Our mandate is to maintain a certain mail volume. I have tried in the past to mail less, but I can’t afford to cut any volume at this time.

Optimization Can Extend Your Addressable Universe: Maintaining volume is a critical concern. Losing volume can feel bad across the board as the issue is often not just less consumers, but also smaller revenue. While few can argue the benefits of cost savings, one of the key benefits of optimization is the ability to select qualified customers from sources and audience segments that would other wise be unprofitable. With a robust optimization program you can not only optimize your initial audience and weed out unprofitable names, you can then replace cut volume with qualified audiences identified by the same model. This additional audience can be arranged in a bundle with optimization for more cost savings. Optimization used to increase the volume of qualified prospects and decrease unqualified consumers ultimately meets total volume and performance goals. It is a win-win.

Our timeline does not have flexibility to send post merge files for optimization.

Time is on Your Side: While many phases of a direct mail campaign can be time consuming – especially waiting for those orders to drip in – the optimization part can be quick and painless. You will need to invest some prep time in building a great model. Data scientists will do the heavy lifting, but providing insights into creative, past results and costs will help to develop a powerful, predictive, and stable model that you can use for years to come. After this initial development, optimizing the audience becomes a brief stop on the way to lettershop. Investments in technology, like Alliant’s recent upgrade to SAS Viya, have reduced processing times ten-fold. Most optimization files arrive directly from merge and can be turned around in a day, some in hours.

Campaign optimization will not only drive profit, but it will put the fun back in direct mail strategies. By saving costs on low performing audiences, printing, postage and fulfillment, marketers can redirect campaign budgets into testing new audiences, offers, creative, and even new channels. Bump up a campaign by delivering the same optimized audience promotions on social or programmatic for an additional lift in response. Still struggling to sell optimization through to your team? Don’t give up on your marketer’s intuition and give us a shout. Our team of optimization experts and data scientists will help prove the value of optimization to your team and your bottom line.


Kaitlin Dunn, Director of Marketing

Kaitlin leads the Marketing and Creative teams at Alliant, supporting sales and product in communicating what we do and how we do it.  Kaitlin’s career includes managing acquisition for Martha Stewart Living magazine and Director of Marketing, Merchandising.  After working in some of the country’s best restaurants and honing her hospitality skills, Kaitlin joined the Alliant team in March of 2019. She graduated from Franklin and Marshall with a double major in Art History and Business and has an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America.

A Tribute to Greg Dunn

A Tribute to Greg Dunn

Remembering Alliant Co-Founder and CFO

This September the Alliant team suffered the sudden loss of Co-Founder and CFO, Greg Dunn.  Greg was a true Renaissance man and entrepreneur — his worldly outlook and creative approach to problem solving was a driving force in Alliant’s success. While our hearts are heavy with loss, his impact on our story is profound, and we are forever grateful.

Greg was a graduate of Clark University in Worcester, MA receiving his BA in Political Science. He later completed all but his dissertation for a PhD on Childhood Education at SUNY Albany. Greg had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, taking music and art classes, teaching himself Spanish and devouring books on every topic from woodworking to business strategy and Buddhism. In recent years he continued his creative pursuits: writing, painting and sculpture, and he became deeply invested in his practice of yoga.

Greg and JoAnne – Alliant Holiday Party 2018

Greg began his extensive career with his family’s pioneering list management and brokerage company, Mal Dunn Associates. He later owned and operated a restoration construction company.  When his wife JoAnne began to simmer with the beginnings of Alliant, they assembled a team, often gathered around their kitchen table.  Rick Witsell, founding team member and current SVP of Communications, remembers that time fondly, “Greg was at his best. He was passionate about the business and totally engaged. This was the time I first experienced Greg’s wicked sense of humor and his intense loyalty for JoAnne. He loved the idea of Alliant. He knew we were onto something good.”

In his role as CFO Greg never wasted resources, but when something needed doing, he was fearless.  A true believer in “go big or go home”, Greg supported key technology initiatives at Alliant — Alliant’s real-time platforms, the Hadoop environment, our analytic systems. He was a masterful businessman, and his superpower was the art of negotiation. Greg understood the motivations of our partners and could articulate Alliant’s interests clearly, calmly and persistently. He ensured that both camps were partners and not adversaries.

The people side of the business really made Greg shine.  He loved the Alliant team. Over the years he developed many genuine friendships at Alliant. As Greg and JoAnne’s daughter, I often joked that Alliant was like another sibling. Greg and JoAnne treat the team like family and their sincere care and interest for others is a cornerstone of Alliant culture.  So inspired by what they built, I decided to join the Alliant team in the spring of 2019.  It was a true blessing to work alongside my father for these last few months.

Greg was a brilliant man with a big heart and a genuine wit. He encouraged all around him – his family, friends, colleagues and especially children – to explore and question, be kind and curious, measure twice – cut once. And anyone who was ever a part of the Alliant team is going to deeply miss his kindness and laughter.


Kaitlin Dunn, Director of Marketing

Kaitlin leads the Marketing and Creative teams at Alliant, supporting sales and product in communicating what we do and how we do it.  Kaitlin’s career includes managing acquisition for Martha Stewart Living magazine and Director of Marketing, Merchandising.  After working in some of the country’s best restaurants and honing her hospitality skills, Kaitlin joined the Alliant team in March of 2019. She graduated from Franklin and Marshall with a double major in Art History and Business and has an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America.  She attributes her deep love of art and sushi to her father.