It takes more than personalized URLs to make direct marketing personal

Sarah Miller | June 12, 2012

Customers have high expectations on what you, as a retailer they’ve done business with, should know about them. Thanks to advanced segmentation strategies, they’re no longer surprised when they receive direct marketing materials suggesting products they might like based on purchase decisions they’ve made. They don’t feel creepy when you refer to information you know about them, especially if it’s information they provided to you. In fact, with more personalized solutions comes more relevance, and customers appreciate that.

One technology that’s been around for a few years now but is still being explored from a best practices standpoint is the Personalized URL or pURL. In this structure, customers receive a traditional direct mail piece or an email that drives them to a personalized landing page. The idea is that the marketer customizes all touchpoints with information they know about the recipient, increasing relevance  – which in turn increases response rates (the Direct Marketing Association estimates as much as 20–30%). While it leverages an advanced mail merge technology, your strategy needs to be more complex than simply inserting names into variable fields.

When considering a pURL campaign as a way to increase response rates or support email acquisition efforts, here are some best practices to follow:

Don’t Forget the ‘Personal’ in Personalized URLs

Use the recipient’s name. It tells them the piece is for them and works similarly to a personalized license plate, demonstrating ownership and customization.

Employ highly personalized segmentation strategies. Make sure that your creative is targeted to your demographic segment by utilizing aspirational imagery (who they see themselves as, not necessarily who they are). Speak to them about benefits that are congruent with their unique system of values and beliefs.

Include the recipient’s name in the main address rather than appending it after some forward slashes (e.g., Putting the name at the front just helps drive home the ownership message.

When personalizing, develop a system that ensures consistency across all variable fields. Decide if you’re going to use all caps, salutations, etc.

Accurate Tracking of All Cross-Marketing Material

The great advantage to pURLs is that everything can be measured on an individual level. When evaluating results here are the top metrics to review:

  • Which customers responded
  • What they did on the landing page
  • How long they stayed on the site
  • How often they came back
  • Open rate
  • Click-thru rate
  • Conversion rate

Once you start to evaluate these metrics, you can build cross marketing campaigns that address your learnings and develop test/learn/apply scenarios that delve deeper into why respondents are interacting with your communications as they are.

Creative considerations

As you design the elements of your campaign, here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Components should not mirror each other, but there should be a similar look and feel. You want to make certain that each component has a separate objective.
  • Landing pages should be optimized to ensure layout and content follow best practices for hierarchy and visual navigation.
  • Keep your creative direct. The fewer distractions the better. Utilize minimal links to other pages. Focus each component on one or two objectives – don’t try to serve too many masters.
  • Ensure that the URL is memorable, especially if you’re driving the recipient from a traditional direct mail piece to your online environment.

Finally, before you launch your pURL campaign and invest dollars in creating an infrastructure to support it, make sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Do I have personalized information about my audience?
  • Can I offer personalized messages and solutions?
  • Am I willing to invest resources in the following areas to make this a success?
    • data mining
    • creative message structure
    • execution (hosting, email server setup, etc.)
    • metrics & tracking

A pURL campaign will just be a shiny new toy if you don’t fully utilize the technology to its full potential and deliver on your customers’ ever-increasing expectations.


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