The Thrill of Direct Mail

September 19, 2018

Author: Megan Rainey

Signed, sealed, delivered! What is it about direct mail that continues to drive value and a great experience for customers? According to research, there are several reasons. Read this week’s blog to learn why direct mail is proving to be a tried and true channel for making a meaningful connection with people.

The Thrill of Direct Mail

Remember a time when you heard the dogs barking down the block or the sound of a little engine stop and go in front of your house, and knew it could only mean one thing? The mail man has arrived! There is a certain excitement that comes from seeing an envelope or a package with your name on it. A parcel or postcard, wrapped up and addressed specifically to you. The feeling of suspense as you ponder… what could possibly be inside?

With all the ways to communicate with people today via email, tweets, posts, texts…etc. there is a certain sentiment that remains with a physical letter that is stamped and sent directly to your door to your attention. There are so many reasons that validate that “Direct Mail is Not Dead” in 2018…and one of the most powerful reasons…is that certain “thrill” that mail incites in a person.

The launch of the Internet in the 1990’s opened the door for new ways to reach customers online. This brought along some competition for our beloved “snail mail” and rumors of its extinction. However, the numbers are proving otherwise. According to the DMA’s 2017 Response Rate Report, direct mail continues to provide the best response rate above all other marketing channels. This report explains that postcards on a house file are showing a 5.7% response rate. Compare that to response rates from other channels: .6% email, .6% paid search, .2% online display, .4% social media. Again, the proof is in the numbers here, that direct mail is indeed alive and well. Overall, the DMA found that direct mail’s response rates were anywhere from 10-30 times higher than that of digital, citing that consumers may be overwhelmed by cluttered inboxes of unsolicited emails, and more responsive to the mail they’re receiving in their postal mailbox….mail sent direct.

So, what is this hold that mail has on us? Think about when your door bell rings. You’re instantly curious…what is waiting behind the door? Is it a delivery? A package? Why do children love running out to the mailbox at the end of the day? Someone took time out of their busy day to send me something!?! It’s a human experience. Opening that tiny door to your mailbox is a gateway into something you can tear open, you can hold it, you can save it, you can tape it to your fridge, you can pass it around and share it with others. It has your name on it. Someone took the time to lick the stamp and thought to send YOU something. You can depend on that daily delivery. Your post person most likely comes around the same time each day – you can rely on it.

It’s no surprise then that a study conducted by the UK Royal Mail, The Private Life of Mail, concluded that the upswing in the use of direct mail and its enduring effectiveness is because, “Giving, receiving and handling tangible objects remain deep and intuitive parts of the human experience.” The study goes on to mention this emotional effect is what’s at the bottom of the effectiveness of direct mail: 60% of those surveyed said this effect made a more lasting mental impression on them, making it easier to recall later on. And, 57% of respondents said that postcard marketing makes them feel more valued and creates a more authentic relationship.

Some perceived advantages of direct mail are evoking feelings of trust, convenience and personalization. In the world of marketing, this presents a giant opportunity to reach your customers and prospects through this physical and direct experience. Establishing this emotional relationship with them is a truly pivotal step in the customer journey.

When considering its impact on a household, think of mail in terms of its ability to be seen, to be shared and to stick.

Mail is seen.

In one study, 39% of people surveyed said they have a dedicated display area in their home where they put mail. This should give marketers that boost of confidence and creativity they seek when creating new content and ways to catch consumer attention.

Not only does the mail exist within a prominent place in the home, but people are checking for their mail every day. According to the USPS, 98% of people check their mail on a daily basis. No ad blockers, no spam folders…people are genuinely interested in opening their mailbox.

Mail is shared

The same study showed that an average of 23% of all mail is shared between people in a household. And what should be noted is that 21% of promotions and special offers are shared. Marketers, continue giving consumers a positive reason to share and discuss your mail.

When you consider campaigns designed to reach your customers and online shoppers through programs such as triggered direct mail, this is a great way to present an offer that is relevant to them and others in their household. Give them a reason to talk about it at the dinner table and make a plan over the weekend to go ahead and make that purchase they’ve been researching and considering at a discounted price.

Mail sticks.

According to our own research at NaviStone, we’re finding that people hang onto a physical postcard for sixty days, ninety days, and even beyond. This means that a single piece of mail can have a big impact on your customers and prospects. In general, people place value on things they can touch versus things they can only see.

Millward Brown, a research agency, found that physical media left a “deeper footprint” in the brain than digital media. If people can touch and see a piece of direct mail, they’re likely to be more engaged with it. And, this isn’t just with an older demographic that direct mail “sticks with”. There is a surprising love story between Millennials and direct mail. Gallup reported that 36% of people under the age of 30 look forward to checking their mailboxes every day. Additionally, 95% of 18-to-29-year-olds have a positive response to receiving personal cards and letters. This generation will have a combined $1.4 trillion in spending power by 2020, as reported by Accenture.

I’m not saying that all digital marketing is ineffective. In fact, I’m a big proponent in the right marketing mix. Both online and offline. There are even some great solutions that blend the both. Solutions that bridge the gap from online visitors to home addresses. This combination presents the best of both worlds. The idea of a consistent, relevant and personalized offer across channels. Why not incorporate the physical impact that direct mail delivers into your marketing programs? It could be just the right nudge and token of value that your customers and prospects are looking for!


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