How to Retarget Consumers IRL

Digitally powered direct mail creates new opportunities

Ad retargeting has long been an effective go-to for digital marketers. These days, however, consumers are wary of digital ads. In fact, one in four U.S. internet users has installed some type of ad blocker, according to a 2019 report from eMarketer. As this number grows, the effectiveness of digital ad retargeting becomes limited.

That’s where digitally powered direct mail comes into play. While other digital innovations in direct mail focus on driving traffic from the mailbox to a brand’s online channels and physical locations, retargeted direct mail uses specific actions a customer takes on a website to trigger custom direct mail.

How does it work?

Put simply, retargeted direct mail connects digital behavior with personalized mail. A brand or business can better understand and convert their prospects by monitoring the actions they take on digital channels and then send them individualized mail.

Similar to its digital counterpart, retargeted direct mail uses programmatic algorithms on a company’s website or other digital properties. When a prospective customer takes an action—such as viewing a product page or abandoning their cart—a personalized direct mail piece tailored to that action is triggered and mailed.

Each trigger uses a specific mail template which cuts production times down drastically. A piece can be mailed within 12 to 24 hours, meaning it is possible to reach that prospect one to two days after their online action. The timing is optimal, ensuring that the brand or product is still top of mind without feeling invasive.

An individualized and relevant piece of mail makes it more likely that a prospect will respond to a brand’s message. Companies that leverage retargeted direct mail (and other digitally powered direct mail innovations) gain a second chance to earn a customer’s interest and drive action.

What can it do?

Retargeted direct mail can change a marketer’s approach to the customer journey. Rather than isolating efforts to one medium, digital or physical, a brand can drive more attention, engagement and response by integrating them.

Coordinating digital channels and physical mail with precise, data-backed targeting helps to create real-time action after every interaction. For example, you can send a postcard with a discount on men’s jeans to a person who left a few pairs in an abandoned online shopping cart.

In practice, retargeted direct mail is highly effective. A USPS survey of 75 marketing decision-makers found that 47% of respondents saw increased conversion rates with retargeted direct mail.

In fact, one e-commerce retailer in a WARC study saw the conversion of previous customers jump 20% after using retargeted direct mail.  That same survey of 75 marketing decision-makers also found that 68% of those who used retargeted direct mail saw an increase in website traffic.

The use cases for retargeted direct mail are endless. Build it into an omnichannel campaign to strengthen the path to purchase, or use it to link together the entire customer journey from initial awareness to lasting loyalty. When used in lockstep with other digital marketing tactics and digitally powered direct mail innovations, retargeted direct mail can be a highly effective tactic for brands and businesses to win customers.


Christopher Karpenko leads brand evolution, customer engagement and branded content for the USPS, overseeing brand marketing strategy and positioning. Most recently, he introduced the USPS B2B social media channel and content marketing program. He has led the development of proprietary, sales-enabling mobile apps, such as the Marketing Impact Calculator that measures the incremental impact of various media to overall ROI.