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What Do the Holidays Look Like?

In July, a leading omnichannel commerce technology company (Radial) announced the results of their 2020 consumer insights study. Over 1,000 consumers across the US were surveyed todetermine their holiday shopping plans. Radial uncovered that despite the impact of COVID-19, shoppers do not plan to significantly change their holiday spend compared to 2019. However, the data did reveal a stronger preference for online shopping, with 66% of shoppers anticipating they will increase their online purchases during the 2020 holiday season.

While consumers are shopping more online, the survey found their habits aren’t changing significantly in terms of how much they plan to spend on holiday gifts and when they plan to buy. This means the 2020 holiday season will most likely be as busy as ever.

However, instead of the recurring and seasonal demand cycles retailers are used to, in the wake of COVID-19, brands must contend with consistent high demand for e-commerce year-round. Radial reported that this year, peak season for online sales essentially started in March and remained strong since. Retailers must leverage unique strategies like using stores as fulfillment centers and creative order management techniques paired with advanced technology in order to keep deliveries flowing by embracing curbside pickup and other emerging consumer expectations to satisfy the upcoming holiday purchasing season.

Given the continued high demands and online orders retailers will experience, scaling up for peak season will be more difficult than in years past.

The survey also uncovered:

  • 60% of consumers plan to shop less in-store this season due to fear of COVID-19 exposure. While there is still an appetite for in-store shopping, safety concerns and deeper consumer familiarity with online ordering indicates that e-commerce will certainly see higher activity than in previous years.
  • Despite the impact of the pandemic on delivery times, 41% of shoppers say they don’t plan to shop any earlier for holiday gifts meaning retailers will have no break between the current COVID-19 commerce climate and the already overwhelming holiday peak season rush.
  • 39% of shoppers plan to start shopping for the holidays in October into early November, and 30% plan to start on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
  • The majority of consumers surveyed plan to spend the same amount of money as last year on holiday gifts.

63% of shoppers say they are slightly or very much more likely to purchase from a retailer they knew was following COVID-19 safety precautions in-store.

Consumer expectations have eased up in terms of what’s an “acceptable” delivery time. While a Radial survey in 2018 found that in the U.S., over a third of consumers (34.6%) expected to receive packages in two days or less, this 2020 survey found only 14% expect their holiday gifts within two days. What is considered a reasonable timeframe for holiday gift deliveries has shifted, with 50% of respondents saying 5 days for delivery is reasonable, and 28% stating one week was acceptable. This leeway in delivery expectations will allow retailers to focus
on implementing practices that prioritize COVID-19 safety precautions and help them
manage the influx of orders.

It’s so difficult to forecast and plan for the future during these trying times. However, if this survey is a good indicator, it looks like our businesses will have a relatively positive fourth quarter.

 

All About Data

When preparing a direct mail campaign for prospecting new business, be sure and take advantage of the wealth of expanding demographics that are available today.

So much data is being collected, and a lot of it is self reported, allowing for a wide variety of demographics to select. Before you purchase your next prospecting list, take the time to
research the criteria of your best customer. Then use that criteria to select your list.

In addition to the tried and true staples such as age, income, and occupation; additional
demographics available today include:

  • Lender Information
  • Buying Activity | Average Spent
    • Vehicle types
      Primary or Secondary
  • Children in the Household
  • Generations in Household
  • Hobbies & Lifestyle Indicators
  • Newlyweds
  • Newly Divorced
  • Type of Vacations:
    Casino
    Cruise
  • Social Concerns
  • Music Preferences
  • Pets

Data from a source known as an ailment file is also available. Due to the nature of the data collected, there are a few restrictions that include pre-approval of art. However the data is reliable and net excellent returns. Data available from ailment files include:

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Birth Control
  • Bladder Leakage
  • Diabetes
  • Hair Loss
  • And more

Business list compilers are expanding their available demographics to include:

  • Expenses
  • Advertising
  • Payroll
  • Rent and Lease
  • Sales Volume
  • Square Footage
  • Woman Owned

Even saturation or walk sequence data is benefiting. Compilers stack the saturation file with consumer data and aggregate at the carrier route level enabling mailers to take advantage of the carrier route walk sequence postal rates.

Don’t limit your data when launching your next direct mail campaign. Expand your criteria
selects and watch your return expand too. With the data selects available today, we could probably find a list of skateboardinggrandmas!

The New Facebook.com


In early May, Facebook introduced the new Facebook.com. Announced last year during F8,
Facebook’s annual conference about the future of Technology, it is now the global web
experience for Facebook users.

For some time now, Facebook focused on the mobile experience, but found that the desktop site had fallen behind. Users need the desktop version to be kept up as well.

The new Facebook is meant to help you find what you’re looking for faster with new
streamlined navigation. It’s easier to find videos, games and Groups, and the home page and page transitions load faster. It’s similar to the mobile experience.

Lower brightness, alongside contrast and vibrancy, are part of the new dark mode. It
minimizes screen glare for use in low light, wherever you are.

The new site makes creating Events, Pages, Groups and ads on Facebook easier too. You can preview a new Group in real time, and see what it looks like on mobile before you create it.

As with all upgrades, there are some glitches and it may take you a few minutes to find features that have been moved around. Overall though, the new Facebook.com is faster and streamlined, something that was needed for a long time!

The Company Website. An Under Utilized Communication Tool

Your company website is a reflection of your business. It is the billboard for potential clients,
an invaluable resource tool for your existing clients, and a central focal point dedicated solely to
promoting your business. Why then, do so many companies neglect their website?

Numerous companies will dedicate an extensive amount of time building or rebuilding their site. Once it’s published, they forget it until four or five years pass when it’s time to make a new one.

At a minimum, every business owner should monitor their website activity monthly. And it only takes a few minutes.

Using the free version of Google Analytics, you can (very quickly) see so many important things. Items such as how many people are visiting your site, how many are first time visitors, the length of time visitors stay on your site, what pages they visit, and how they found your site.

It also helps to identify areas that are weak or maybe even irrelevant. Every business has tried to sell a new product or expand service offerings with something that just didn’t sell. It’s part of growing your business. Lack of activity and visits to certain parts of your website may be telling you that its time to delete the page, or simply update it.

Successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be a tricky balance. For example, Google likes for your homepage to be relatively static. You gain better traction when your homepage doesn’t receive a lot of alterations or changes too often.

On the same token, Google gives you “points” for keeping information on your homepage refreshed and current, which seems to be a conundrum, but it isn’t.

Adding a blog to your homepage is a great way to keep content current and fresh without changing the basics of its layout. Blogging also gives you a library of posts to use for your social sites which also enhances your SEO. A blog is an excellent medium to show your business expertise too. Enhance your blogs using keywords to help potential clients find you faster via the web.

Finding subjects to blog about isn’t as difficult as you may think. Go through the pages of your website, and use Google statistics as your guide, and you will find a wide variety of topics to blog about that clients are hungry for.

If your business is consumer based, you may benefit by adding a picture carousel to your home page. This allows you to feature selling points such as sales events, special offers, or highlight products.

The images that are loaded onto the carousel can enhance your SEO too. Be sure that you name every photo that you upload to your website. Instead of uploading “Image 9652q7”, save the image using your company name and specifically what the image is about. For example, save the image of a 15% off coupon as ‘Arrow Stores 15 percent off coupon’. This naming convention allows for search engines to verify content and will enhance your optimization.

If you haven’t reviewed your website or its statistics lately, now is a perfect time to check it out and see what is working or what isn’t. If you need assistance, we can help. We offer a website review for only $500. Call us for more information at 713-275-9045.

Letter from Ron – August 2020

Running a business during a global pandemic…where do you begin?
As we navigate through a strange and unfamiliar world, we hope that you and “yours” are safe and healthy; and hope that your business is successfully moving forward through this unprecedented time.

For us, the past four months have been filled with stressful learning curves. We have changed our daily operations to include
social distancing, sanitizing stations throughout the buildings, and wearing face masks. Honestly, I never would have thought that we would need to create a
protocol for possible exposure to COVID-19, or purchase thermometers in bulk. But, they are a part of our everyday life, at least for now.

BEB has remained open during the pandemic. We have been fortunate to retain 100% of our staff, and business has been (surprisingly) busy.

Our employees have been amazing. We have always been a tight-knit group that come together when times are crazy. Their willingness to “jump in” whenever or wherever needed are core reasons that we are extremely flexible for our clients. Our cohesiveness and camaraderie have increased over the last few months, and I am grateful for their bravery and commitment to our organization and clients.

The current economic climate makes it difficult to project and prepare for the future, especially since we don’t even know what the next week will look like. Even so, we are continuing with our planned system upgrades that started in the spring, and we have contracted with an outside firm to review and solidify our processes and procedures to ensure maximum efficiency and superior quality output.

Some mail delivery has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. First-class mail is taking up to 10 days both locally and regionally. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we recently had a client that received a flat-sized marketing mail piece within 24-hours after submission into the local mail stream.

Direct mail is gaining momentum during the pandemic as the number of people working and staying at home has substantially increased, and will remain that way for the foreseeable
future. It’s a perfect way to reach out and touch people safely. Mail is tangible, interactive, and sends a powerful message.

In turn, the digital world is booming. If you aren’t utilizing your website and social sites to communicate with your client base, you’re missing an enormous opportunity. As self-serving as it sounds, more than ever before, your business should be focused on marketing and retaining connections to your customers.

We hope that you enjoy this edition of The Bureau. It is the first since the pandemic started. Enclosed are items that review the latest marketing trends and we included a reference page for COVID-19 that lists numbers, websites, and general information that may be helpful with your day-to-day operations.

It is during tough times, such as these, that we reflect on how grateful we are to you, our clients, partners, and staff. Without you, we would not be here. We hope that you and your family and loved ones stay healthy and safe and hope your business continues to thrive as we weather through the storm. As always, thank you for your business and partnership.

Ron Royall
President

The Bureau – August 2020

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The Bureau – January 2020 Edition

Houston, TX– Happy New Year! We hope that 2019 was a successful year for you and hope that the coming year is your best yet.

For me, 2019 was like “driving in the fast lane”. The year passed at surprisingly accelerated speeds.
Overall it was a fantastic year for us. However, we had some unusual challenges too.

When tropical storm Imelda caused the North Houston Post Office roof to collapse; timely mail delivery within the city took a big hit. As late as mid-November we were seeing local delivery standards crawl between 8-12 days which had a negative impact on many clients.

Information from USPS HQ regarding mail acceptance, contingency plans, and progress to re-open the facility was slow to be shared. It was frustrating because the focus was on national super volume mailers. Invitations to calls with information updates weren’t extended to most of the local Houston mailers, printers or fulfillment houses. Many were left to secure information through the grapevine or other resources. Our involvement with local and national trade organizations really paid off during this timeframe. We were able to sit-in on many of USPS HQ calls and stayed current with progress.

Our partnership with Leo Raymond of Mailers Hub and Tom Glassman of Ricoh; both MTAC (Mailers Technical Advisory Committee) members, were critical and we appreciate their help with getting us included in the loop.

Also, we made a point to share the updates with as many local businesses as possible (even
competitors), through our blog, email blasts, and social media platforms.

It is these types of situations that remind us of how important it is to seed your mailing list and how tracking can help manage a campaign through a crisis and still be successful. Direct mail is a marketing powerhouse and still produces higher returns than its digital counterparts.
It drives people to websites, social media platforms and converts prospects into buyers.

Fortunately, local marketing mail delivery has since improved significantly. As of the first of 2020, our studies show local delivery times are (on average) between 4-6 days. We anticipate a return to a 3-5 day delivery by the end of January.

In November, we headed to Dallas for (the first ever) Printing United show. What a show it was! Over 30,000 attendees viewed print and mail equipment covering 724,000 sq feet at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. We were simply amazed by the technology presented by companies from all over the world. As a result of the show, we made some capital investments that will continue to expand our in-house capabilities and service offerings. We will share details with you in our spring newsletter.

We anticipate this year to be filled with change. For example, starting on January 1st, the CCPA
(California Consumer Privacy Act) went into effect. This represents the start of the US attempt to protect an individual’s privacy as it pertains to data collection. It’s similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was enacted in May of 2018 by the European Union.

Some of the things the CCPA allows (for California residents) include the right to know what personal information is being collected about them, if their information is being sold and to whom. They have the right to say no to the sale of their personal information and are allowed access to it.

As it is written today, our Consumer Bankruptcy data file is not subject to the CCPA. All Consumer Bankruptcy data is public information which is gathered by the federal courts and is exempt. Go to our online privacy policy page for details.

Privacy is important. However, government regulated consumer data collection could cast a negative impact on the marketing industry as a whole. Data collection goes far beyond social media sites and has been the backbone of our industry since its infancy. Over 20 other states have introduced bills attempting to regulate how data is collected and each bill has their own
idiosyncrasies which will make data compilation and compliance an enormous challenge in the
future.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the bureau. And, as always, we sincerely thank you for your business and partnership. Happy New Year.
Sincerely,

 

 

Ron Royall, CEO

 

September 1965 The Bureau


2019 has also been extremely busy with the celebration of our 70th anniversary and once again, we are including a scan of a newsletter that we created and mailed from the past.

In September of 1965, BEB featured a wooden postcard from Cutter Lumber Products of California as the Mailing Piece of the Month. We shared “Direct Mail Pointers” (most are still applicable today), and talked about how to serve the growing population across the nation. In so many ways, things have really changed. For instance, only 38% of the workforce in 1965 were women, and are seldom mentioned in any of these early articles. In other ways, things have not changed at all. For example, the most important part of a direct mail campaign remains data. We hope you enjoy the peek from the past.

2019-09 THE BUREAU R12

 

The Bureau – Fall of 2019

Volatility within the stock market and the instability of the global economy can be very unsettling.  Planning long-term becomes quite challenging and no one is certain how long the trade and possible currency war with China will last.

In July, the Federal Reserve Bank reported that the Houston business-cycle and leading indexes  pointed to a growing economy. Employment accelerated, particularly mining-related jobs, but the U.S. rig count and oil prices continue to fall. Manufacturers reported negative impacts from tariffs, while measures of global manufacturing show signs of slowing. Nonetheless, the Feds still reported that the outlook for Houston remains positive.

Meanwhile, we spent the first half of 2019 diving deeper into wide format and providing our clients with more signage and promotional products. A 6-foot horse cut-out and flip flop bags were only a few of the items produced this summer.

We also upgraded some of our equipment and software. We have been busy educating our existing staff on the new systems and have hired some new talent to help take us into the next decade.

As I often mention, our staff is very involved with local and national trade associations and we have had a busy first half of 2019. We were invited to speak about social media at The Printing Industries of the Gulf Coast Women in Print Luncheon in February, in May our friends at Mailers Hub invited us to conduct a session on direct mail marketing for nonprofits at the National Postal Forum, and we co-hosted the sold out Graphic Excellence Awards in April.

Both of our Marketing for Local Business series sold out and we met some fantastic entrepreneurs while hosting great guest lecturers from across Texas. We had to turn away students for the summer series, and as a result we decided to offer the classes again, beginning in October. It will be the last series of this year and it is already half full, so register soon if you’re interested. Click here for details and registration. Use promo code BUREAU at checkout and receive any two classes FREE.

2019 has also been extremely busy with the celebration of our 70th anniversary and once again, we are including a scan of a newsletter that we created and mailed from the past. In September of 1965, BEB featured a wooden postcard from Cutter Lumber Products of

September 1965 BEB Newsletter

California as the Mailing Piece of the Month. We shared “Direct Mail Pointers” (most are still applicable today), and talked about how to serve the growing population across the nation. In so many ways, things have really changed. For instance, only 38% of the workforce in 1965 were women, and are seldom mentioned in any of these early articles. In other ways, things have not changed at all. For example, the most important part of a direct mail campaign remains data. We hope you enjoy the peek from the past.

In contrast, this edition of The Bureau features several articles about new technology including artificial intelligence and how it is impacting our industry. We have a story on the successful driverless trucking test the USPS conducted between Dallas and Phoenix over the summer, and information on Informed Address or IA. The outgoing piece doesn’t have an address at all, just a barcode.

Fall is only a few, weeks away and the holiday marketing season will soon be upon us. Please keep us in mind for any and all of your marketing needs, and as always, thank you for your business and partnership.

 

 

 

 

Ron Royall
CEO, Business Extension Bureau