Since email became a broadly available form of marketing in 1975 people started to question the relevance of direct mail, and whether it had become redundant in the marketing mix.
We’ve been exploring rumours about the death of direct mail in a digital world. Previously we have looked at strengths of direct mail in comparison with email as well as direct mail as part of a mixed media campaign.
In a bid to supply our customers with further clarification on direct mail and its place in marketing we asked the world’s leading direct marketing experts ‘What are your thoughts on the future of direct mail?’. With a range of backgrounds and experience they offer us a valuable insight into direct mail in a rapidly evolving marketing mix.
Drayton Bird – ‘direct mail will continue’
Mark Twain’s joke applies – “Rumours of my death are exaggerated”
‘Direct mail will continue to do well, especially as more people get increasingly obsessed with digital this and that. It works for our clients here and around the world. I can see no reason why it won’t continue to do so.’
Tod Norman – ‘programmatic mailings’
‘Personally I believe that direct mail has an exciting future but that it will be radically different than it is seen and practiced today. I see three drivers in the short and medium term.
The problems facing digital marketing – from the backlash against transparency of measurement, the GDPR’s specific requirements of digital communications, and the consumers’ lack of engagement with the flood of messages they receive – means mail is already offering advertisers more impact, engagement, and profitability than could have been predicted even 5 years ago.
And perhaps most importantly, a new generation of young agency and client people are emerging who feel constricted by a ‘digital only’ world, and are looking to the tactile, 3 dimensional, and long lasting opportunity that mail items offer. They are developing skills and gaining decision making roles and will help drive new ideas and activities.
Together, these factors mean mail has a great opportunity for the future.’
The integration between other channels and direct mail is key. But direct mail will increasingly be used as an engagement tool when brands lose permission to communicate via email or SMS. Finally, the future of direct mail will necessitate educating a generation of “marketers” who have been ignoring the channel for the longest time. ‘
Mike Colling – ‘We see a rosy future where direct mail will thrive’
‘Direct mail has been quietly and efficiently reinventing itself, and carving out a new role within the modern media landscape.
Three main reasons underpin this prediction: –
The first core reason for mail’s success is the presence it commands in the home. 74% of adults read mail on a daily basis (only just short of the daily reach that radio delivers)’ and they spend 22 minutes doing so (that’s 50% longer than they spend with magazines). In a world where consumers flit from screen to screen online the ability to capture their undivided attention is very attractive to advertisers.
Finally, mail is investing in collecting hard evidence at the market level of the value it creates for advertisers. Historically we have relied on case studies and individual award winners to tell the story of ROI from mail. We now have a meta-analysis of thirty years of IPA effectiveness award data that has shown that campaigns using mail were 27 per cent more likely to deliver top ranking sales performance and 40 per cent more likely to deliver top-ranking acquisition levels, when compared to campaigns without mail.
We see more clients considering mail within a media mix, and many increasing their investment in mail.
Bob Bly – ‘direct mail stands out’
‘For a long time, direct mail response rates have been on a slow decline. That decline, and the migration away from print to digital media, caused a reduction in direct mail volume. As a result, consumers are now getting far less direct mail than they did a few years ago.
Well, as the old saying goes, “When the feed is scarce, the chickens will scratch at anything.”
Craig Simpson – ‘the direct mail business is growing’
‘There’s a lot of negative news in the media about the United States Postal Service. Yes, they have some big issues and problems to deal with, but they are not going anywhere. They are here to stay!
- Over $45 Billion, yes with a B, was spent on direct mail advertising each year (and it continues to grow)
- Epsilon surveyed nearly 5,000 customers and “60 percent said going to the mailbox and receiving a piece of mail provided an emotional boost.” Yes, people have a great connection with mail. It’s personal, tangible, and if done right, it can be highly targeted to individuals’ specific interests.
- The Epsilon survey also revealed that, “Consumers said they found mail to be more trustworthy than other forms of communication.”
I’d be willing to bet that very few people knew these direct mail stats. The fact is, Direct Mail is growing by 4% to 5% per year in advertising mail. The direct mail business IS growing!
With online media becoming more and more saturated, I believe we’ll see advertisers start using even more direct mail!’
The fundamentals of direct mail have not changed though, be well targeted, with strong offer, encapsulated in an engaging creative manner will still drive the best results. The key benefit of direct mail remains in its ability to fine target and be truly measurable. Fallow cells, match backs as well as engagement rates all allow you to measure true incremental benefit.
New technology is also helping, you can now deliver direct mail in a programmatic and trigger based manner, linking online behaviours to offline channels and then adding digital engagement techniques such as Blippar as a response mechanism to get people back online, so closing the loop. There is also a unique tangible nature of the medium, the ability to deliver a physical item and a brand message on a one to one basis and of course without ad blocking or being answered by a bot! Perhaps direct mail practitioners have been guilty of never measuring the additional brand benefit direct mail can deliver.’
Mark Davies – ‘integrate across the board with both digital and social channels’
‘Whistl in terms of media choice is actively involved in delivering services associated with Direct Mail and Doordrop Media. Both channels in terms of acquisition work effectively on their own but deliver even better results when working together. In the last few years the focus has been on digital media, deemed as cheaper, something different and easy to implement.
3.6 billion items of mail are sent annually – down from almost 5 billion in pre-digital days and of course, some of that is due to budgets being switched to email and social media.
That 15% amounts to more than 500 million additional pieces of mail that are successfully delivering their message. And the biggest increase in opening rates has been in the 16 to 24 y/o age group. A massive 92% of consumers in this group open their mailings.
Mailers are wising up. Today only the dumb ones send mailings to ‘The Occupier’ or ‘The Homeowner’. Only 16% of such mailings are opened, compared to more than 60% of those that are correctly addressed.
And direct mail pays – according to Royal Mail, the average ROI of direct mail is 3.22:1.
Better quality too LTV analysis also shows that new customers gained through mailings are often of better quality than those from other media. This is logical of course, because longer copy tends to answer more questions, so those who respond tend to be more committed to your proposition. Direct mail doesn’t always have to stand alone of course. Some of the most powerful campaigns are those that use an integrated media mix – look at some of the 2016 DMA award winners.
So, does direct mail have a future? Yes and in my view it’s a bright one!’
‘Direct Mail was often referred unglamorously as Junk Mail. In those earlier days receiving an email was an exciting and novel experience; however, today our inboxes are filled with literally hundreds of emails each day, with the majority not even being opened, or at best given a cursory glance.
The pendulum is now firmly swinging back and receiving a piece of printed communication is now seen as a valued experience, with the perception that the sender has taken the considered time and effort to contact you personally, as opposed to you just being one of millions on an email distribution list.
Our clients are definitely heading back to direct mail as the quality one-to-one media of choice, as it gets cut-through in a cluttered communication landscape. They are increasingly investing in production values, making communication more interactive, tactile, personal and relevant.
At the same time we are recognising that there is not one silver bullet. It is not Direct Mail OR email, it is not email or OR Social, and it is not Social OR Mobile. Communication becomes more effective when you integrate channels. Send someone a brochure and then follow up with an email with an offer relating to that catalogue can deliver greater returns that just sending the standalone communication. As the old saying goes, “The sum of the parts is better than the whole”. Brands that recognise the benefits of an integrated cross-channel strategy will reap the rewards.’
However in the long term, it depends on the market and your objectives. In our practice we have seen some clients better served using digital direct mail (aka email) and we have seen some switch back the other way, especially from social media to direct mail. Measure everything, test lots and go with the winners. Often the winner will be Direct.’
Cliff Lay – ‘targeting and segmentation’
Managing director of Proactive, with over fifteen years of marketing experience.
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Talk with Cliff Lay, managing director of Proactive about your direct marketing needs