Newgistics Mail Campaign Goes to the Dogs

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After helping big multichannel merchants like Neiman Marcus and J. Crew manage their mail-in returns, Newgistics Inc. recently dropped a direct mail campaign letting midsize retailers know that its SmartLabel program is now available to them. Just 45 days after the campaign began, the company had signed one new client and had many leads in the pipeline.

SmartLabel was introduced in 2001 exclusively for large retailers with 100,000 returns a year and $10 million-plus in annual revenue. The program lets customers affix a label provided with their mail-order delivery to a return package and drop it off at any mailbox. SmartLabel's dynamic barcode links the package to the customer's invoice and provides package visibility early in the returns process, according to Newgistics, Austin, TX.

In August, the company introduced SmartLabel for midsize retailers because "returns can hurt midsize retailers just as much as they can big ones," said Jonathan Dampier, Newgistics vice president of marketing and strategic alliances.

This version is for companies with 10,000 to 50,000 returns annually, Dampier said. Companies above that threshold use the regular SmartLabel program.

Thanks to the Internet, midsize retailers are competing with the "big boys" like never before, he said. However, with that competition comes headaches such as one in four mail-order packages being returned.

Until now, only big retailers have been able to realize cost savings with SmartLabel, which reduces call center volume and knocks as much as 60 cents off the cost of a return.

"There's been a big piece missing for guys that are both trying to carve out a niche and emulate the big guy as much as they could," Dampier said.

That piece is returns management.

Several factors have let Newgistics offer SmartLabel to a broader customer base: The program now has 78 brands enrolled, which means Newgistics has realized some cost efficiencies of its own; technological advances that make SmartLabel more affordable and effective; and five years of experience operating the program, which has let Newgistics streamline it.

To make midsize retailers aware of SmartLabel, Newgistics mailed 800 names a tri-fold brochure that shows a big dog holding a stick and a little dog in mid-air trying to grab it. The copy reads: "Do Returns Just Like the Big Dogs."

The brochure dedicates an entire page to a SmartLabel starter kit, which recipients could request via a business reply card, an 800 telephone number or a unique landing page, On the Web site, there's a demonstration of the program.

The brochures mailed in three waves, the last batch dropping in early October. They went to top operations officers or the presidents of midsize retailers with e-commerce sites. The company followed up the direct mail with telephone calls to those who had requested kits and those who didn't respond.

Two to three weeks after the last mail pieces went out from the first wave, Newgistics mailed a second brochure to the same list with a slightly different message. This brochure had an image of two T-shirts, one with an L on the front and the other with an M. The copy read: "Intelligent Returns Management from Newgistics Is Now Available in Mediums."

So far, 20 starter kits have been requested via the Web site and another 95 recipients expressed interest in the product after receiving a call from Newgistics. In addition to the one client signed, another four contracts are in the pipeline.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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