The advent of digital has no doubt disrupted physical media. Print advertising spend declined by 6% in Australia in 2021, a year in which total ad expenditure was rebounding after covid. Email has largely replaced physical mail as the primary communication channel between brands and customers, and digital subscriptions are steadily replacing physical subscriptions for traditional magazines and news outlets.
Despite the proliferation of channels brands can now use to reach their customers, direct mail remains a critical component of most big companies’ marketing mix, and global direct mail ad spend grew by 1.5% in 2022. While digital allows you to reach highly specific audiences with highly personalised content, direct mail retains a few key advantages over its online counterparts.
The objective of any app developer, social media platform, digital publisher, or online advertiser is to win and keep our attention. In our digital lives we’re relentlessly bombarded with content designed to distract us from what we’re primarily trying to do, and navigating this world requires constant filtering of ad messaging, whether that be sub-consciously or consciously through ad-blocking software.
Our offline lives are a sanctuary from this chaotic media environment. We can make more deliberate decisions about how to allocate our attention and take time to sit down and focus on whatever the object of our attention might be. This is the frame of mind people are in when they pick up a direct mailer. Consumers spend an average of two minutes reading direct mail personally addressed to them and 40 seconds if the mail is unaddressed, far exceeding the average time spend on YouTube ads (5.2s), Facebook sponsored posts (1.6s) or mobile display ads (1.2s).
While direct mail is significantly more expensive to produce and deliver than digital ads, the value of an impression is also far higher. Not only do users spend more time reading direct mail than online ads, the average response rate (5.3%) is far higher than email (0.6%), its nearest digital equivalent. While the relative efficacy of your ad channels is dependent on the nature of your campaign, there’s some data that suggest the average ROI for direct mail tends to be higher than most digital channels.
Positive customer perceptions
People are much happier to receive a direct mail ad in their letterbox than a spam email in their inbox, or a pre-roll video ad on YouTube. A survey in the US found that 59% of consumers actually enjoy getting mail from brands and 73% site direct mail as their preferred communication channel. Direct mail is also seen as trustworthy by consumers, which means the channel can both drive revenue and build brand trust.
Advances is MarTech have clearly created new opportunities in digital, but they’ve also enabled more sophisticated, better targeted direct mail campaigns. Publicly available postcode data allows you to target areas that align with your target demographic, using parameters such as age, gender, income, household size etc. QR codes and vanity URLs can be used on direct mail calls to action, encouraging recipients to immediately take some action on your website. This allows for comprehensive tracking of campaign performance and far more accurate ROI estimates than were possible in a pre-digital era.
Integration with digital
Many brands are now approaching the direct mail channel as one component in an integrated online and offline marketing strategy. For example, data collected on users’ website interactions can be used to inform your direct mail campaigns, while QR codes on direct mailers can drive users directly to a digital campaign landing page. Effective marketing in an era of media fragmentation is about reaching your customer wherever they are, and neglecting the direct mail channel means missing an opportunity to establish an additional touchpoint.
Building the technical infrastructure
As with all other marketing channels in 2023, getting the most out of direct mail requires an extensive supporting technical infrastructure. Your platforms need to capture data on how your customers are engaging with your campaigns, support automation of repetitive tasks, and enable an integrated approach to online and offline marketing. IVE has a wealth of experience working with clients to build direct mail programs from scratch, or take their strategy to the next level by delivering more effective, personalised campaigns.