How Can Mailers Reduce Their Operating Costs?

Merchants always want to find ways to reduce costs. Now, with several post offices and mail processing centers set to close next year, and mailers unsure if they will bear additional costs, there is more urgency to find ways to reduce costs for mailers.

So here are some tips to reduce your costs:

Phyliss Mosca, president of plus-size women’s apparel cataloger Ulla Popken, offers five “great” tips:

1) Aggressively edit your product to the absolute best assortment. Cut out underperforming pages. Fewer pages, fewer costs – fewer books below break even.

2) Test lighter/lower paper grades.

3) Conduct a request for proposal (RFP) for printing and paper, particularly if you have not done one in the past two years. Costs have come way down.

4) Test whether your current frequency of mailings is needed for all segments.

5) Prospect versions: If you’re not doing them already based on top response products, then start. “Long gone are the days of being able to mail the full assortment at or above variable break even to prospect,” Mosca says. “About 90% of the time what sells to a customer sells to a prospect.

Ken Lane, president of marketing solutions provider Hathaway & Lane Direct, merchants should always look for comailing opportunities because the postage savings are significant and most of the major and mid-major printers are well-suited for this. “If you are not doing this, you are leaving money on the table,” Lane says.

1) Customer segmentation-based contact strategies. There are tiers of customers who cannot afford to be mailed as frequently as you are and some that can afford more. If you are doing this, consider a more “micro-segmentation” approach, Lane says.

2) Contact your elected officials and support the idea of a prospecting rate form mailers.

3) Leverage technologies: QR codes increase customer engagement/involvement with your mail.

Lane suggests working with your printer to adjust schedules accordingly. “While the bad PR for the USPS has really been about First Class mail, Standard Mail service levels are slipping and you need to build in some time,” Lane says. “Your printers can do this.”

What’s more, Lane says the USPS “is not going away and will not go away in the foreseeable future. But it will change; it has to change; if it were your business, you would be making similar changes.”

Michael Arking, president of school uniforms merchant FrenchToast.com, adds a few more tips for mailers to reduce costs:

1) Reduce page counts by pushing customers to the web for exclusive offers not available in the catalog.

2) Keep your paper cover stock heavy, and use lower weight pages for the inside of your books.

3) Consider removing you order form to save space because mail-in orders are disappearing.

Jim Tierney (jim.tierney@penton.com) is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.

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