USPS, Imagitas Test Catalog Change-of-Address Program

Aug 01, 2004 9:30 PM  By

New movers make great prospects for home furnishings and housewares catalogers. They can also be steady customers who seemingly disappear from a cataloger’s database once they change address.

To help marketers reach or keep after these buyers, Waltham, MA-based marketing services firm Imagitas is testing an addendum to the U.S. Postal Service’s change-of-address card. Called Mover’s Mall, the program adds two detachable cards onto the standard change-of-address card available at post offices. The cards feature offers for up to 39 catalogs; consumers can check off the catalogs they’d like to continue receiving or begin receiving in their new home.

The two-month beta-test kicked off July 15. J.C. Penney, Coldwater Creek, L.L. Bean, Brookstone, Pottery Barn, and Williams-Sonoma are participating in the test. They’ll pay $0.25 for each new name they capture and $1.50 for each existing customer that checks off their name. Steve Lamoureaux, Imagitas’s vice president of marketing, says that the pricing may change should the program roll out.

The cards are available at 500 post offices in six regions around the country — San Francisco/Sacremento, Chicago, New York, Boston, Houston, and Atlanta — to give the test “a balanced consumer profile,” Lamoureaux says. An online version is also available at the USPS’s Website. When customers check off multiple titles on the card, the catalogs are sent together in a single package with each cataloger paying its share of the weight of the package. If, for instance, one catalog weighs the same as three other titles combined, the heavier book will pay half of the postage. Catalog participants will be charged a fixed handling fee of about $0.05 per catalog by SmartMail, the Forest Park, GA-based high-volume shipper that is handling the catalog fulfillment.

“There’s a ‘dark’ period when customers move, because the USPS doesn’t forward all the catalogs,” says Dave Abbott, vice president of marketing for Plano, TX-based J.C. Penney Direct. “Obviously that’s an important time, especially for our home catalogs, and being ‘in the faces’ is important to us, so we thought it was an important program to test.”

Indeed, “tracking customers is critical for any direct mailer,” says Tim Dilworth, director of marketing for Sandpoint, ID-based women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Coldwater Creek. “So the ability to get the change of address faster and have a secondary change-of-address source besides [the USPS's National Change of Address file] for our current customers is the biggest reason we’re testing this program.” Dilworth says that if Coldwater Creek can gain the addresses of even half a percentage point more of its customers who move, “it would be a huge win for us.”