Dr. Lila Malliari has worked at Unilever in senior marketing and sales positions for major European brands. She later joined Toyota as the CMO responsible for the restructuring of the department and the successful launch of the Corolla, Prius, and RAV 4. She joined academia in 2008, and over the last eight years, she has been working on research projects specializing in quantitative research and direct marketing. She has taught at GEM; Webster University; and Regents University, London. She is currently consulting on direct marketing projects.
Since the beginning of 2008, the European economy has been undergoing a severe economic
crisis. Despite the fact that customer retention has been seriously challenged during the crisis,
and direct mail, still the dominant direct marketing tool has been at the heart of customer
retention strategies, there have been no studies that measure the effect of direct mail on
customer loyalty during a financial crisis.
This study fills this gap by presenting a theoretical framework on the subject. The author
develops a model on the effect of “action-oriented” direct mail on attitudinal and behavioral
loyalty during times of economic crisis and on its role in customer satisfaction.
To achieve this goal, an extensive review of the literature on loyalty was conducted. Within
the context of an economic crisis, the literature review contributed to the definition of a
general framework of the effect of direct mail on customer loyalty. Next, a conceptual model
exploring the relationship of these variables was presented and tested using an empirical
investigation. The experimental fieldwork was conducted in partnership with automobile
manufacturer Toyota Hellas and the consumer research agency Millward Brown Research
International (RI) Hellas on a sample of 383 customers. In order to test the hypotheses, the
statistical analysis was conducted in two stages: Analysis of Variance with Covariates
(ANCOVA) and Mediated Regression Analysis.
The results show that direct mail has a dual effect on customer loyalty. First, there is a direct
effect on attitudinal loyalty. The second effect is on behavioral loyalty if customers are
satisfied with the mail. In turn, when customers are satisfied with the mail, attitudinal loyalty
is indirectly affected through the increase of customer satisfaction. Thus, the mediating role
of customer satisfaction on the direct mail to attitudinal loyalty was also substantiated.
Managers may gain interesting and valuable insights on the use of direct mail as a tool to
build customer loyalty during an economic crisis. When designed properly, direct mail can be
an effective tool to increase customer profitability and thus increase the ROI of marketing
activities. The results also contribute to the academic world new knowledge on the effect of
direct mail on customer loyalty during economic crises.Key words: economic crisis, customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, direct mail