Adopting a new mindset to measure and test direct mail for better results

3 minute read

Data should always be in the driver’s seat. With customer journeys changing and touchpoints getting harder to predict, understanding if marketing campaigns are reaching and resonating with your targets has never been more important.

Marketers who successfully integrate direct mail into their mix are constantly gathering data to gain insights into what’s working and what’s not – and then quickly scale their best results to a wider audience.

So how do you do it? For direct mail campaigns, testing starts when you set up parallel mailings. Here’s how:

Create a control group and a test group

Begin by splitting your data 80/20. If you’re using a data provider or a Canada Post Smartmail MarketingTM partner, they can do that for you. The 80 per cent control group will get a mailing based on what’s worked before – your proven results.

The 20 per cent is your test group. Keep this group small to make the most of your budget – while still generating relevant insights. Around 250 responses should be enough to give you reliable information.

The difference in responses between the test and the control groups tell you what parts of your campaign were successful.

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Choose one element to test

Even changing only one thing about your direct mail can provide useful information. By testing individual elements, you can better understand things like how customers make choices or which offers they prefer. Doing things differently can also reveal reactions to the style and structure of the mailing itself, including preferences about format (e.g., self-mailer vs. postcard), creative (e.g., short copy vs. long copy), or offers (e.g., percentage discount vs. a dollar reduction).

Make your direct mail trackable

It’s important to have a means to track your results so you can compare them. Tracking doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Consider including these :

Coupon and promo codes

These can drive traffic in-store and online. Use exclusive codes for each direct mail campaign for full attribution.


A smart and easy way to track response is to drive to a marketing URL and landing page with promotional-specific content. This ensures that traffic is directly attributed to your mailing; for example,


A personalized URL is a unique landing page created especially for each recipient of your direct mail campaign. These create an intimate connection with the customer that allows you to understand their actions in a more detailed fashion.

Social media

Include social sharing icons in direct marketing channels and encourage customers to share the offers with others in their network – using your username tag, hyperlinks and hashtags. Knowing who engages with what content on your channels will give future campaigns and offers new insights.

Email and phone number

Provide dedicated toll-free numbers, email addresses or other points of contact. Using a call tracking phone number on your direct mail offers helps accurately track performance. Setting up a call tracking number is quick and easy. You can pick a local or toll-free number and forward it to your main phone line.

Augmented reality

Apply this technology to print. Recipients are encouraged to scan certain areas of a printed ad, catalogue or mailer to access additional content like videos, 3D images or digital games.

QR codes

Quick response (QR) codes are affordable and effective. These codes can be scanned with a mobile device to drive to a video or a landing page.

Apply what you learn

It’s easy to get bogged down in metrics, so try and stay focused on measuring what matters – the quality and quantity of responses. Leading companies are already providing perfect examples.
Take Wayfair Canada. The online home furnishings retailer tested the effect of adding direct mail to their digital media. Having identified the most active online shoppers, they targeted new users and retargeted those who’d abandoned their carts. The direct mail retargeting response rate was about double that of digital only.

“As a company, we’re data-driven and testing-oriented,” explained Davinder Singh, Chief Marketing Officer at Wayfair Canada. “Every decision we make is tested and once it’s successful, we scale it.”

And you can, too. Once you have the results from your 80/20 campaign, learn from them. Look for what resonated most with your audience and determine how you can apply that knowledge to future campaigns. Continue to test and learn – it will help you continually improve your marketing results over the long term.

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