Is it just me, or has 2017 been kind of a gloomy year for marketing statistics?
Questions about transparency and brand safety continued to gnaw at the digital ad trade. More and more media consumption took place within ad-blocking browsers and ad-free subscription services. Some even said the end of advertising was near.
And yet one particular marketing tactic remained remarkably healthy: direct mail.
If you’re planning your marketing mix for 2018 right now, should direct mail get a slice of the pie? Here are a few of the most interesting recent direct mail statistics we’ve seen to help you decide.
1. Officially, the average direct mail response rate is 3% to 5%—but that’s probably on the low side.
The Data and Marketing Association found that in 2016, direct mail averaged a 2.9% response rate for prospect lists and a 5.3% response rate for lists companies had built in-house.
Those stats surpass success rates for most other marketing channels—and they get even more impressive when you consider a couple of factors:
i. The DMA study covered only response rates. If your default frame of reference is email marketing, it might seem natural to compare that 5.3% response rate against average email open rates (anywhere from 10% to 25% depending on industry). But the equivalent of responding to a direct mail piece isn’t opening an email. (You can’t open a postcard, after all.) A better equivalent would be the percentage of people who clicked through to the offer and converted. And when you consider that, 5.3% is pretty impressive.
ii. Direct mail analytics can be tricky. Calculating a response rate assumes you have a way to track customers who received your mail. Which you can, sort of. Unique offer codes, URLs, and landing pages can all help.
Still, these methods aren’t perfect—and they probably never will be.
Some people who receive your postcard will go directly to your homepage without typing in their personalized URL.
Some will forget to type in the offer code you provided.
Some might call you on the phone or visit a physical location without ever mentioning your mailer.
So when you’re assessing your direct mail response rates, think about hard-to-track customers like these, too. These “invisible” responders can make a very visible impact on your bottom line.
2. By volume, direct mail (like all mail) is declining. That’s an opportunity for you.
In 2008, the United States Postal Service handled over 200 billion pieces of mail, about half of which was marketing mail. In 2016, that had dropped to just over 150 billion pieces.
Does that mean fewer people check their mailboxes daily? Maybe. And yet all those customers still have mailboxes—which are less crowded than they were 10 years ago.
That gives you a chance to stand out in the mailbox and stand out from all the other companies that never think to engage their customers with mail.
3. When you combine direct mail with digital, things get really interesting.
Data’s still coming in. But it looks good. Last year, Canada Post released a major study on the effects of integrated direct mail/digital campaigns.
First, the study dug beyond response rates to discover how consumers actually engaged with direct mail. Not only was mail “21% easier to understand and 20% more motivating than digital advertisements (email and display),” but “it held participant attention for 118% longer and stimulated 29% higher brand recall.
When you add such a highly engaging medium to existing campaigns, you’d expect even better results. And indeed, Canada Post found integrated campaigns got 39% more attention, produced 5% more emotional impact, and produced 10% higher brand recall than single-medium digital campaigns.
Anecdotal evidence supports the wisdom of this integrated approach, too. Last month, direct-mail agency founder Daniel Dunn shared some client results he’d achieved with The Drum:
“We worked with one of the largest ecommerce retailers looking to complement their programmatic strategy who had never previously utilised direct mail. We followed up customers falling out of the online customer journey with highly personalised content mailed out the next day. We doubled the typical response rates the brand sees from email and online retargeting.”
Personally, I can’t wait to see 2018 produce even more success stories like this one. Could one of them be you?
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