Why Do I Still Get So Much Junk Mail In The Era Of Big Data?

It’s amazing how much junk mail we continue to receive, considering the cost and waste associated with each mailing that gets tossed into the recycle bin daily. In many cases, I get the same letter from the same company about a dozen times. If I haven’t responded after the first five mailings, you’d think they might cease efforts. And, worse than junk mail are the evening phone calls from telemarketers with non-relevant offers.

Customize Programs and Offers  

Organizations track customer transactions, record customer service phone calls, communicate via email and chat sessions, and many now monitor social media discussions that relate to their brand. However, most still don’t leverage this data effectively enough before sending out a new offer to a large customer segment or launching a new marketing campaign. Instead of tailoring customized offers based on customer behaviors and preferences, some companies prefer the law of large numbers hoping for even a 1% response rate from a mass customer list. What may be overlooked is that even if 1% responds, you may be causing more harm by alienating the other 99% that may now subconsciously have a negative perception of your brand. 

Many television commercials are also non-relevant, but thanks to DVR capabilities we can fast forward or skip the commercials. The cable company has the potential to track every show I watch, and maybe even every commercial I skip. While I’m not sure if they’re allowed to use this information, I would be happy to authorize them to screen out all commercials they think are non-relevant for me. Perhaps viewers could fill out a survey regarding their areas of interest. This may save them from having to click through channels and commercials.  

Marketers and advertisers would probably gasp at the potential loss of ad revenue from such actions. But, if commercials were more relevant, people wouldn’t skip through them as much, and the actual conversion rates and awareness would likely be much higher and more positive. Companies like Amazon and Google are perfect examples, as they have built their empires on the value of customized ads, offers and suggestions. 

Converge Multiple Worlds 

In today’s social era, many people seem to happily trade in their privacy and share their preferences so they can download a free song, app or even just for the sake of expressing themselves. Organizations take advantage and constantly collect more customer data. It’s somewhat paradoxical that so many offers are still so off message and target. I believe the root cause is not the lack of data, but instead the missing integration between all the different customer channels. Big data holds the promise to change this as long as organizations also break down their internal silos.

Different departments own and manage varied customer channels so everybody sees a different version of the customer’s voice. From a single department perspective, each customer survey, marketing offer or campaign may seem relevant, but the customer ends up being bombarded with all these non-relevant offers, requests and confusing messages.

In 2014, try this experiment: pick a single customer and try to find out everything you can about this candidate. This includes leveraging all their transactions, phone calls, web chats, emails, and feedback surveys even social media postings if available and try to tailor one single personalized offer. Sure, there is cost and effort involved, but you may find the value for the customer and your business worth it. If it works on one customer, there must be a way to scale it to many more and multiply the returns. 

May the New Year bring us all less junk mail and more high-value engagement opportunities!

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5 comments about "Why Do I Still Get So Much Junk Mail In The Era Of Big Data?".
  1. Louis j Figurito from United States Postal Service NY Sales , December 24, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.
    Mr Ziv, there are so many holes in your story I hardly know where to start, so lets just start at the beginning. The reason you get multiple mailings is the same as getting multiple emails or any other form of advertising. People get over 3K messages a day and only remember 4. Even if you target correctly three events need to coincide, the right offer to the right person at THE RIGHT TIME. I agree with your assertion that companies need to utilize their data effectively but singling out one channel as being problematic when bad data effects every channel is unprofessional to say the least. What is the difference between a discarded mailpiece, deleted email, blocked pop-up, dvr skipped commercial, screened telemarketer or a deleted SMS? All these events occur, every channel has a relatively small response rate per 100 yet I dont see your lament about those failed attempts. Your assertion to take all the data and create " tailor one single personalized offer" is still bound to the right offer, right person, right time. The first two are addressed by data management but the third is only answered by consistent messaging. Marketers should utilize multiple touchpoints to engage the customer in the brand and all messaging should be homogenous yet there has to be multiple messaging. I also dont agree with your contention that 1% is successful and the other 99% creates a subconcious negative image of your brand. Where is the data to support that claim? In closing I will remind you that customers still purchase by getting offers via their preferred channel. For the last several years Epsilon research has shown customers prefer offers via direct mail over other channels. So in reality the answer to your question which was the main tenet of your article is you still get so much direct (junk is not really used anymore) mail because it WORKS!
  2. D. daniel Ziv from Verint , December 24, 2013 at 1:19 p.m.
    Dear Mr Figurito, I appreciate your comments and definitely agree that direct mail is not the only channel where consumers are bombarded with an overload of many non-relevant messages. As you noted, people get over 3000 messages a day, and only remember 4. That is what I hope will change when companies effectively leverage the customer data available to them today.
  3. Louis j Figurito from United States Postal Service NY Sales , December 26, 2013 at 11:58 a.m.
    Mr. Ziv, Thanks for the reply and Happy Holidays to you! I appreciate your concurrence that mail isn’t the only channel which could be aided by efficient use of data. My question is why your article would be targeted at direct mail and why call it "junk?" Direct mail is still the workhorse of many companies' direct marketing efforts. I think your point would be better served by giving examples of data inadequacies in every channel and providing direction on how to remedy them. Singling out "junk" mail suggests that direct mail has no value and companies are foolish by not only wasting their money, but customers perceive them in a negative light because of their efforts. That is a 180 degree turn from the facts. Yes companies can target better with every channel but they still need to prospect and make offers based on list broker’s best advice or mining their own data. Waste is just the nature of the business, one that good data management might decrease but never eliminate. How about an article acknowledging the importance of direct mail as the most effective direct marketing channel and how a company might use their data to lift ROI and positively grow their bottom line? Thanks again for the response!
  4. D. daniel Ziv from Verint , January 2, 2014 at 7:12 p.m.
    Mr. Figurito, I had no intention to devalue direct mail which I believe can be a very effective marketing channel. I love your idea and will consider a future article demonstrating how leveraging the abundance of new customer data from various channels can be utilized to significantly improve the effectiveness of direct mail. Thanks again and happy 2014!
  5. Louis j Figurito from United States Postal Service NY Sales , January 3, 2014 at 2:19 p.m.
    Mr Ziv, Once again your response is appreciated. I am really looking forward to your new article on leveraging customer data. That would be something I will bring to my clients and share!