For discount department stores, 2012 is prime time for reinvention. Many consumers who used to frequent luxury department stores now flock to big box stores as discretionary budgets have taken a hit in recent years. More and more top designers and celebrities have created unique lines for these chain stores, presumably to help attract more mid- to upper-income consumers.
One company is banking that its reinvention will also bring back consumer dollars. According to Stores, jcpenney is the 22nd largest retailer in United States — placing it behind some of its chief competitors, which currently occupy four of the top 10 slots on the list.
Since the $17.8 billion company kicked off a revamped merchandising, marketing and pricing strategy in late January, new ads have flooded the networks, promising consumers that the company will no longer engage in crazy discounting.
Along with “fair and square” pricing, the company website discusses a plan for monthly promotions. The multichannel marketing strategy includes a mammoth direct mail book mailed to customers 12 times a year. These book are fully integrated with digital and contain several QR codes throughout to link customers to additional content.
“We’re focused on targeting our customers through an integrated marketing campaign, and direct mail is a key component to this outreach strategy,” says Coultas.
This is yet another example of how direct mail — as well as various integrated campaigns featuring direct mail — is being used to drive consumers to large retailers throughout the country.
“We are actually seeing more direct marketing campaigns drive consumers to brick-and-mortar stores through the use of direct mail,” says Rob Williamson, senior account executive with Baltimore marketing and ad agency Vertis Communications, which includes several household department stores in its clientele. “Part of the reason is because customers shopping in stores are more likely to make impulse buys than when they are shopping online, typically for one specific item.”
The monthly direct mail book presents gorgeous imagery, and the print copy is sure to make a sharp impression on fickle consumers. The book, which is also appealing in an online version, could be a critical piece of the company’s 2012 reinvention.
“This brings innovation to a ‘legacy’ business within a category that has been somewhat resistant to change,” says Andrea Timmerman, senior director of client services for Paradysz, a direct marketing agency headquartered in New York. “This looks like the right step forward for a complete brand shift and new identity that is fresh, authentic and relevant, and which is what consumers are looking for at this time.”
The book is not a catalog, and doesn’t include stockkeeping units or prices.
“These books are completely different from anything we have ever done,” says jcpenney spokesperson Kate Coultas. “We have never had just a monthly book before. The look and feel, addition of editorial content, shape (square, like our new logo) and even paper used (a premium quality paper) is entirely different.”
The books are mailed to 14 million existing customers with the intent of inspiring them to visit a jcpenney store that month to take advantage of the monthly deals showcased on the pages, according to Coultas.
“Rather than inundating the customer with countless direct mail pieces featuring the latest promotions, we’re now focused on a monthly book strategy,” Coultas explains. “We will also send out a few direct mail postcards reminding customers of Best Price Fridays.”
Just how groundbreaking is the new strategy for jcpenney?
“The book sets the stage to start changing the perception to ‘this is not your mother’s department store anymore’,” says Paradysz’s Andrea Timmerman.
How direct mail books can win
Andrea Timmerman of Paradysz and Debra Ellis of the Asheville, North Carolina-based Wilson & Ellis Consulting offer some advice on how other retailers can launch a successful direct mail book:
1. Make it super simple to buy.
“The easier it is to move from initial desire to delivered product, the more sales,” Ellis remarks. Including an item number so that a customer can easily find the product on the retailer’s website or in a physical store can help bridge the gap from lookers to buyers.
2. Integrate with other channels.
Retailers using direct mail books should consider how the documents will integrate with e-commerce sites, physical stores and other channels such as social media. “The key is making everything work together to provide an easy and fun shopping experience,” Ellis says. Offline marketing programs should have consistent messaging with the digital brand, adds Timmerman.
3. Consider mobility. A growing component of integrated marketing campaigns is to offer customers a way to interact with content using their mobile devices. One way to do this is to include QR [quick response] codes in your book, but make sure to give instructions for using them, Ellis says. A direct mail book may also be a perfect opportunity to promote any shopping apps a retailer has developed for smartphones and tablets.Catalogs, Large Business, Strategy, Targeting