How Urbani Truffles Used Postcards to Win Back High-Value Customers

For six generations, Urbani Truffles has specialized in selling one of the world’s ultimate luxury goods. 

Truffles may not look like much, but the aromatic mushrooms are so prized and rare that they can cost thousands of dollars a pound. Urbani’s truffles are gathered from around Italy by expert hunters and specially trained dogs, then shipped to the U.S. so quickly their intoxicating scent penetrates their boxes. 

But even with its pedigree, supplier network and deep-pocketed customers, Urbani faces many of the same marketing challenges as other ecommerce brands. 

Take the Apple iOS privacy changes that took effect in 2021—they reduced the effectiveness of Urbani’s online ads across platforms. So Leonardo Plebani, founder of DTC Gang, who has helping to grow the brand since 2020, implemented a powerful new channel—postcards—that is immune to sudden shifts in big tech.   

In this case study we’ll see how Urbani used postcards to win back valuable customers they couldn’t reach online, and how they’re now integrating direct mail across their marketing strategy. Urbani is using set-it-and-forget-it campaigns for winbacks, retention, relationship building and more. 

The Problem: Declining Ad Performance

Urbani has been around for more than 150 years, but it’s not stuck in the past. 

The company has a decade of ecommerce experience under its belt. Before April 2021, when Apple released its big privacy-protecting (and ecommerce-bruising) update, Urbani’s marketing budget was almost entirely devoted to media buying. 

The company advertised on Facebook, Google, and Instagram. But every online channel took a hit after iOS 14.5 was released. 

“We were looking around and thinking, ‘How can we tackle this from another perspective?’” Plebani said. 

He’s always been passionate about marketing, so he knew direct mail existed as a channel. But in the ecommerce world, it’s often considered old-fashioned and low-tech. 

Still, Urbani had a big list of past customers who had gone inactive. Many had unsubscribed from the email list; others had stopped opening the brand’s messages. The company couldn’t reach them through a custom audience on Facebook the way they had prior to the iOS update. 

Since customer acquisition costs are especially high for brands like Urbani, a lot of money was going to waste. 

“If you just multiply the lost customer by the customer acquisition cost, it would just be a crazy number, right?” Plebani said. “We paid for those customers, we have to try to get them back.” 

The Promise: Reaching Lapsed VIP Customers Offline

In the past, connecting with lapsed and unsubscribed customers was incredibly difficult. 

It meant manually managing a ton of data, juggling a bunch of spreadsheets to track results, and—oh yeah—handling the graphic design. No longer. 

Plebani chose to work with PostPilot because it makes sending postcards as easy as sending email campaigns. The platform integrates with Shopify and Klayvio. Its Campaign Concierge Service can even do all the design and account management at no cost. 

For Urbani’s first campaign, Plebani decided he would send postcards to customers who had placed at least four orders in the past, but hadn’t made a purchase in at least a year and were unreachable through online channels. 

Urbani had addresses for its lapsed customers, but not every brand is so lucky. That’s where PostPilot’s new proprietary feature, MailMatch™, comes in. With MailMatch, companies can send postcards to customers’ physical addresses based solely on an email address.

Plebani wasn’t sure what Urbani’s mailing would yield, but he knew it was worth a try—otherwise those customers would likely be lost forever. 

The Postcard: A Peak-Season Campaign at Year-Round Prices

Q4 is the best time of year for Urbani. Like most ecommerce brands, it sees a big bump from the holiday season. But it’s also the only time of year when precious white truffles can be found in the wild. 

Plebani decided it was also the perfect time to try to reactivate dormant customers. 

"If there is any period of the year when they should come back, this is it," he said. 

Online marketing costs shoot up in Q4 because there’s just so much demand and competition. Direct mail costs don’t. It literally takes an act of Congress to increase U.S. postage rates, which means that Urbani’s postcard-campaign costs were entirely predictable. 

Here’s what the first campaign looked like: 

Postcard - back

One side of the card was elegant and minimalist, with a friendly message from the Urbani family. 

The other side featured a generous discount. Urbani normally runs a big promotion between Black Friday and New Year’s, when customers like to celebrate with Champagne, truffles and caviar. Plebani took the 30% discount they were offering through online channels and carried it over to the PostPilot campaign. 

In addition to an enticing photo of a truffle-dosed plate of pasta (YUM), the card includes a QR code that takes customers directly to the site, and an expiration date to instill a sense of urgency. 

Postcard - front

The Payoff: A 1,500% ROI, then Lots of Full-Price Sales

Urbani’s first campaign was sent to just over 300 lapsed customers. It yielded a total ROI of 1,518% and brought customers back onto the email list. 

That convinced Plebani to try additional postcard campaigns. 

Urbani sent postcards to a segment of customers who had made more than four purchases but hadn’t bought in more than six months. The card included a 10% discount. 

The result was $80,000 in sales and a shocking 1,700% ROI. 

Also surprising was the number of full-price sales. Only about one out of every 10 customers used the coupon code, and instead paid full retail. 

“My theory is that our clients don't really care about the 10% off,” Plebani said. “I think it's more just the reminder.”

The Postscript: Integrating + Automating Postcard Campaigns for Retention, Relationships, and More 

“We are going to double down on postcards,” Plebani said. 

Direct mail has performed so well for Urbani that Plebani’s agency decided to integrate them into the company’s entire marketing strategy. They examined the customer journey and mapped out an entire system of automatic campaigns—12 marketing flows in total—to activate. 

For instance, customers will receive postcards if they don’t respond to a discount offer in a certain amount of time. The company is using discount ladders, ratcheting up the size of discounts as time passes, for customer retention. Customers receive emails for 60 days, and if they don’t convert, direct mail comes into play. 

“We really want to get customers to purchase again,” Plebani said. “We have seen that a customer that purchases a second time is more likely to come back. They bring us more clients, and overall they're better customers, than people who just do one order.”

Hand-written notes will be sent to customers who place an order over $100, to build customer relationships. Urbani is also using postcards to help with cross-selling, sending truffle-buyers a discount on caviar. 

DTC Gang, Plebani’s agency, created the strategy. PostPilot’s team is executing the designs and helping to implement it. 

“Postpilot is the ultimate profit reactivator,” he said. “It’s been a game-changer for my business.” 

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