Direct Mail is More Important than Ever in the Digital World

Blog Post by Fred Phillips

Direct mail has been around for a long time; in fact the first campaign was launched in 1835 by abolitionists targeting religious and civic leaders in the south according to the Smithsonian. The ability to target different people with different messages has clearly stood the test of time.

There is another benefit of direct mail that makes it especially effective in today’s digitally-focused world. Direct mail gets noticed. The average customer’s shopping habits have changed significantly in the last decade – people are no longer going to a physical store to talk to a salesperson. Instead, they are doing their own research at home on a computer or tablet and/or on-the-go via their mobile devices. They often know what they want to buy prior to walking into any store.

For example, research shows that car shoppers only visit an average of 1.6 dealers before purchasing a car, which is down from five visits as recent as 10 years ago. These customers are arriving at the dealers with a good idea of what they want to buy and what they want to pay. This means that the sales pitch needs to take place in the customers’ home rather than at the store. This is where direct mail flexes its muscles - by reaching customers at their house where they are actively making their purchase decisions - and companies that use this media are seeing results.

But what about targeted email and digital display ads which so many companies are favoring now? According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail has proven to be more effective than email. “The response rate for direct mail to an existing customer averages 3.4%, compared to 0.12% for email.” That’s almost a 30x gain! And the reason is simple, consumers receive only two pieces of direct mail per day on average vs. 157 emails so the direct mail is more prominent when we are scanning through them. Also, since direct mail is a physical piece, it is a constant visual reminder and often deemed more credible than email and digital ads.

Direct mail is also very personal, and savvy companies are capitalizing on that fact. They know their customers – their value, shopping behaviors, purchases, loyalty, lifecycle, sentiment etc. and they are using direct mail to create a 1-to-1 connection with their customers. They are printing their customer’s name on the piece, and more importantly they are sending timely, personalized messages and offers that provide a good customer experience that builds loyalty and generates revenue. Plus, targeted direct mail can drive more topline sales than typical broad based channels alone.

For example, during a recent client assignment we discovered that a private direct mail offer to a targeted audience group generated a 12% sales lift over the same offer delivered via traditional TV/digital/print advertising and partner networks.

Direct mail is here to stay and when used strategically as a component of a marketing program, it can generate very positive results.

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