Mark Friedman, chief marketing and chief digital officer for AmeriMark Holdings, shared how paper mail can pay off for online retailers and other tidbits at IRCE@RetailX on Tuesday.

Shoppers are so bombarded with ads on electronic screens, they may pay more attention to ads and catalogs that they can hold in their hands, Mark Friedman, chief marketing and chief digital officer for AmeriMark LLC Holdings, said Tuesday at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition @RetailX in Chicago.

Friedman offered insights and tips to retailers in his session “Dive In! Your Technology Game Plan Just Got Easier” during the Ecommerce Technology Workshop.

AmeriMark, No. 417 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000, is a $750 million direct-to-consumer business with 15 brands and nine websites that generates roughly 30% of its revenue via check or money order through the mail.

But, perhaps more importantly for retailer attendees in the audience are statistics Friedman shared that suggest digital-minded retailers may want to use paper mail as a medium to reach shoppers.

“Customers today are still engaged with traditional marketing,” he said. “We still mail over 200 million catalogs a year.”

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Friedman pointed to several digital brands and retailers using direct mail. For example, Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) mailed a toy catalog this past holiday season, he said. And home furnishings retailer Wayfair Inc. (No. 12) has mailed a paper catalog since 2015. Meanwhile, men’s apparel retailer Bonobos (owned by Walmart Inc., No. 3) has said customers who receive its paper catalogs spend 1.5 times more than new customers who do not receive a catalog in the mail. And, shoppers at U.K.-based apparel retailer Boden (No. 187) spend up to 20 minutes with their paper catalogs compared with an average of 1 second with an email and 5 minutes on Boden’s iPad app, Friedman said in his presentation.

What’s more, 50% of millennials say they ignore digital advertisements while only 15% say they ignore catalogs and other direct mail, Friedman said.

Consumers don’t distinguish between shopping channels, he said. They use all channels to research, review and compare products. ”It’s evident that there are no distinct lines between online and offline shopping,” he said. For example, he said 17% of shoppers visit a store to examine products then buy online, according to marketing agency NavigateDigital.com. And 32% research items online, visit a store to see a product in person and then return online to buy. 44% research and buy products online. And over half—51%—research online and visit a store to purchase.

Friedman also stressed looking at the data—that is, how shoppers actually behave—more than putting weight into what shoppers say they will do.

“Just because customers tell you something doesn’t mean that is the action they are going to take,” he said. “They may say free shipping is the most important factor in online shopping. Or even that they won’t buy without free shipping. But we know customers will pay for shipping if you are offering something unique and valuable.”

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But he added it is also important to have the staff and resources to understand, draw conclusions from, and act on that data. “Companies receive huge amounts of data through POS, online chats and email interactions. But many companies aren’t making use of the data,” he said. “You can have all the tools in the world, but if don’t have people and process to support them, technology alone isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

Meeting consumers’ wants quickly is also paramount with today’s impatient shopper, he said. He said he still sees retailers without live chat and that take three to five business days to return customer service emails. “That isn’t good enough,” he said. Customers want their tasks solved on-the-spot, he added. Customers want to know that if they walk into a store and the store doesn’t have exactly what they want that the retailer can ship it to their house or order it from another store, he said.

When retailers are deciding how to spend budgets and what goals to set, Friedman said it’s important to remember that each team has its own ideas and objectives. For example, customer service will likely care the most about appeasing the customer—sometimes at a price other employees teams deem as too high. Meanwhile fulfillment and marketing teams will have their own goals and approaches. It’s a good idea to put a neutral mediator in place while hashing out plans and resources, Friedman said.

Friedman also stressed the importance of getting a full 360-degree view of the customer. For example, earlier in his career, Friedman worked at men’s clothing retailer Brooks Brothers (No. 183), which operated four business units separately including retail stores and direct-to-consumer. The units didn’t get along and each thought the others were cannibalizing its sales. But perhaps most detrimental aspect was that they all kept consumer data completely siloed in their own channels.  “One of the first things we did to fix that was unify the data so we could see the full view of the multichannel shopper, whether that was across phone and mail or mail, stores and web.” Once the various channels came to understand how the channels worked together to aid shoppers and prompt them to buy, staff were less hostile and competitive, Friedman said. “Stores used to tell us to stop sending catalogs but when we showed them how catalogs drive customers to stores, they begged us to send more catalogs out.”

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