Western Union Enters Coupon Field

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CHICAGO -- Western Union Commercial Services is rolling out Western Union Priority Gift, a letter with an attached coupon aimed at marketers and retailers looking to boost customer acquisition, retention or reactivation rates.

"It's a device to drive point-of-sale traffic, and it's also a tool to give something back to loyal customers," said Julie Richman, Parkland, FL-based regional sales director at Western Union. "Western Union mail has an opening and read rate of approximately 85 percent. We are not actually marrying the mail with money transfer, since the coupon is not a live negotiable check."

A typical Priority Gift letter will carry a message on 75 percent of the page. At the bottom, a coupon of a certain dollar value from the retailer or marketer can be torn off and redeemed online or offline. Marketers also can include their brochures.

The Priority Gift letter will be encased in a two-window envelope for return and mailing addresses. It can be mailed First Class, Standard A or presorted First Class. Clients provide the text and database. Western Union will handle printing, lettershop and mailing. It will charge clients based on the piece and the quantity of mailing.

Displayed for the first time at the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing's annual conference, the product has just completed two beta tests for Western Union clients.

Richman declined to disclose the beta testers but said one was a retailer and the other was a training materials company. Besides its own customer base, categories that Western Union is targeting include retail, publishing and travel and tourism.

Richman said this new product from Western Union should resonate with consumers.

"Younger people will open us because they'll think there's money," she said. "The older demographic will open us because they think it's an important message. It usually is a very important message because our customers tend to use us very strategically."

The company knows that the Priority Gift service might hurt opening and reading rates of its other products like the overnight Mailgram, certified Mailgram, Priority Letter and Custom Letter.

"The difference in look, as well, as the positioning of the piece differentiates it from the rest of the product family. Additionally, Priority Gift is a line extension, not a product replacement, and we really don't feel that there will be any cannibalization or negative effect to the rest of our product line."

And, of course, there is competition. By tacking on coupons, Western Union is entering the turf of firms like Catalina Marketing and Val-Pak. Those companies typically mail consumers a bunch of coupons, which can contain discounts, offers or simple commercial messages.

But Richman thinks that the Western Union Priority Gift will stand out.

"With this product there will always be something attached of value," she said.


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