Dynamics of Customer Response to Promotional and Relational Direct Mailings from an Apparel Retailer: The Moderating Role of Relationship Strength
Although direct mails have traditionally been used to sell a product or service, they can also be effective in enhancing retailer–customer relationships. This study examines how customers respond to ‘promotional’ (‘call to action’) and ‘relational’ (‘retailer-image enhancement’) direct mailings. The study develops a model that includes: (i) the dynamic effects of both types of direct mailings over time; and (ii) the moderating role of strength of the relationship that a customer enjoys with the retailer. Past purchase behavior is also considered. The model is then used in a study of customers of a Belgian apparel retailer. The results show that relational mailings positively affect customer response, irrespective of when they are sent. In contrast, the effects of promotional mailings are less clear-cut: although they work well in the short term, their effects can vary in the longer term. In addition, the study finds that a direct-mailing strategy should be planned in accordance with the strength of the relationship between the retailer and the target customers. The results of the study provide valuable insights for retailers in optimizing the effectiveness of their direct-mail initiatives.