The first email marketing campaign was launched in 1978 by a man named Gary Thuerk, who worked for early computer manufacturer Digital Equipment Corp. The email was sent to 400 recipients and resulted in $13 million in sales – needless to say his bosses were happy with the ROI. It would have been reasonable to predict in 1978 (or when email marketing really took off in the 2000s) that digital owned the future of direct customer communications, and that direct mail would slowly but surely become obsolete. Email campaigns were far cheaper to run, faster to set up, more targeted, more easily personalised, straightforward to track, and easier to adjust mid-flight. Yet the past 10 years have seen an only moderate decline in global direct mail spending (in fact direct mail spend increased slightly 2022), and it’s now clear that the channel isn’t going away.
Why direct mail is still valuable
For all the benefits of EDM advertising, direct mail retains a few key advantages that have ensured its ongoing relevance:
The average office worker receives 121 emails per day. That’s 15 emails an hour over the course of an 8-hour workday. Retaining any semblance of productivity while being bombarded with this deluge of digitised information requires rapid filtering – snap judgements on whether what’s landed in your inbox is important or valuable.
When that same office worker gets home at the end of the day, she’ll find maybe 1 or 2 items of mail in her letterbox, she’ll almost certainly open all of them, and (statistically speaking) pay far more attention to each of them than she would a promotional email.
According to a survey in the US, 59% of consumers actually enjoy receiving promotional mail and 73% cite direct mail as their preferred communication channel. Direct mail is also viewed as trustworthy, and therefore a means by which a brand can both generate revenue and enhance its reputation.
The superior cut-through and perceived credibility of direct mail campaigns consequently increases the likelihood of a user responding to the promotion, with the average response rate (5.3%) for direct mail campaigns far exceeding that of the typical email campaign (0.6%).
How to use email and direct mail together
Direct mail owes its enduring value not so much to its ability to deliver a better ROI than email, but to the effectiveness of the two channels when used together. The popularity of QR codes, improvements in campaign tracking technology, and the widespread use of CRMs like Salesforce have made it easy for brands to run integrated, omnichannel campaigns. Here are a few ways to supplement your email campaigns with direct mail:
If you’ve identified a user as a likely purchaser but can’t quite close the deal with email, you could make direct mail part of your journey to increase the likelihood of getting their attention.
Some users on your email list might be interested in what you have to say but are simply filtering out all promotional emails that land in their inbox. Targeting a ‘non-responders’ segment with direct mail is a great way of reaching this unaddressed audience.
Email is always going to be an effective way of driving event registrations via links to sign-up pages, but you can also boost your attendance with direct mail invitations that recipients can pin to their fridge or keep around the house as a reminder.
Best practices for running integrated email and direct mail campaigns
It’s critical that recipients of direct mailers can easily associate what them with what they’ve previously seen or read in their inbox. This can be achieved through consistent branding and messaging.
Tracking and optimisation
It’s critical to find the right sequence and cadence of your emails and direct mail promotions. Sending a direct mailer too soon after an email might result in the recipient ignoring you, while sending it too late might mean they’ve totally forgotten about the last email you sent them. To optimise your journeys effectively, you need to be comprehensively tracking performance against KPIs for all communications and user journeys.
A well-configured MarTech stack is essential for delivering integrated, omnichannel campaigns. IVE’s eDM-to-DM solution allows our clients to build effective platform integrations with their CRMs, automatically optimise their user journeys, generate pre-populated, personalised direct mailers and comprehensively track end-to-end campaign performance.