HA-LO Adds Online Components to Direct Mail

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In an effort to boost its direct marketing capabilities, HA-LO Industries said recently that it has acquired Westminster International Computers Inc. and, more importantly, its customizable home page and e-mail marketing technology.

The acquired company will immediately become part of the direct division of Upshot, which is HA-LO's brand marketing agency. The idea is that by combining Upshot's data-mining and modeling competencies with Westminster's online capabilities, the company will be able to deliver superior response and conversion rates for its clients.

The premier product born of the acquisition is YourMail. This technology allows companies to offer consumers the chance to visit their personalized Web sites through a personalized Web URL. The site will address the visitor by name and will serve targeted coupons, offers and content based on the consumer's previous buying behavior and other offline data.

Other features include a system that automatically notifies a salesperson via e-mail if a consumer wants more information or customized driving directions for those looking to buy offline. HA-LO can create up to 150 million personalized Web sites for a company's clients.

The personalized URL can be sent to consumers through traditional direct mail as well as via Westminster's broadcast e-mail technology. However, HA-LO is hoping the added Web element will give its direct mail campaigns a spike.

"We can send out a direct mail piece to an individual telling them that they can have their own personalized Web site," said Max Coats, president of the direct division at Upshot, Chicago. "We ultimately want to boost response rates significantly from a direct mail package by adding another channel that allows you to respond via the Internet. We're excited because it bridges the gap between [online] and offline communication."

An early direct mail test with an undisclosed company showed significant results, with response rates improving by 40 percent, Coats said. It increased a typical 1 percent response rate to 1.4 percent while increasing costs by only 8 percent.

While there is an increased cost for the service, the results could save a company money in the long run, Coats said.

"If a customer now responds via the Web, it shows a channel preference," he said. "[Then, by using the Internet for future communications], the overall cost of servicing a client greatly improved."

To target the offers on the Web site, Upshot mines a client company's database of consumers or purchases the pertinent lists from companies such as Acxiom or Experian.

By creating personalized sites, the offers can be far more effective.

"If they have a projected high lifetime value, then they can be presented with a $100 offer," Coats said. "If they have a lower lifetime value, they receive a $10 offer."

HA-LO was also happy to add Westminster's e-mail technology to the mix, as the increased use of this medium is a "trend in business," Coats said. "E-mail is easily the most economical way to communicate with the consumer."

Upshot will target financial services, technology and Internet companies with its new capabilities.

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