The longer we are in business, the more retailers we talk to for the first time about direct mail. Many of these retailers, both large and small, have written off direct mail as a thing of the past and haven't used the tool in recent budget years. But today we can show results. We have proven our ability to generate ROI returns upwards of 1000% with our best and most consistent customers. We've proven that we're able to deliver up to 40% of customer traffic during a sale period. It's not surprising that after seeing the data, many customers come back year after year to execute direct mail campaigns.
Retailers want to believe that more affordable email marketing and social media are the only marketing tools they need, but both of those channels can become "noise" to consumers. That's why so many national retailers use direct mail when they need to drive store traffic.
Why Is Direct Mail Still Successful in the Digital Age?
1. Mail Is Tangible
Direct mail, says Jeffrey Rohrs of ExactTarget, “provides a tangible experience that digital media does not replicate. And in a world of hyper-fragmentation of communication channels, where you can get a phone call, text, e-mail, post on Facebook, message on Twitter, message on apps, there’s something about mail and how it cuts through the digital clutter that remains attractive to consumers.”
Jamie Matusek, Marketing Director of Austin, Texas–based QuantumDigital, echoes that view: “From a consumer perspective, yes, the majority of us have mobile device in hand 24/7 — but there is something to be said about a targeted mail piece and offer from a company I do business with. It’s a great way to help in making bigger decisions like home improvement projects, or even just getting an invitation to try a new restaurant in my local neighborhood. Mail tends to break through the digital noise for a bit and offers a moment for a targeted message to resonate. Plus, it offers a great way for businesses to focus on local neighborhood marketing, hitting potential customers who are close to home.”
2. Mail Integrates Well
Jeffrey Rohrs of ExactTarget explains: “The real story is that we have multichannel consumers due to the explosion of devices, so you’d better have cross-channel communication strategies. You need to be integrating your channels so that you can influence your consumers in different ways. This is where direct mail can work hand-in-glove with e-mail and social media. There will always be a place for channels that break the mold and pleasantly surprise consumers.”
3. People Like Opening Mail
Part of the power of mail, adds ExactTarget’s Jeffrey Rohrs, lies in the mundane consumer ceremony of padding to the mailbox each day: “There’s a moment every day where folks go to the mailbox, and they take that brief respite and they look at what they’ve received. It is a ritual. It goes beyond habit. It is part of what people do. And those marketers who can get there cost-effectively and creatively will continue to have an opportunity to differentiate themselves and their brand in interesting ways that will produce a return on investment.”
4. There’s Less Competition in Direct Mail
Jon Yokogawa, Vice President of Consumer Engagement for interTrend, a full-service communications agency in Long Beach, Calif., contends that the technology age has actually boosted the impact of direct mail. “Your e-mail inbox is the new mailbox, filled with bills, letters from friends, family and work,” he says. “So the amount of paper in your mailbox is less. Therefore, you would be more inclined to look more carefully at any type of mail that you do receive from the Postal Service.™”
Content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Cleveland, and the largest content marketing event, Content Marketing World, warns marketers against becoming too “infatuated” with other channels, as mail continues to get the job done. “For certain goals like getting immediate attention, direct mail is perfect,” says Pulizzi. “There’s so much less competition in the print channel these days, the opportunity to get noticed is probably as great as it’s been in decades.”
5. Mail Builds Loyalty
Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute underscores the value that mail has in cultivating loyalty and brand evangelism among consumers. “We know from our research at the Content Marketing Institute that only about 30 percent of our customers create and distribute a custom magazine, but we think there’s great opportunity in that channel to build loyalty,” he says. “Social media is selective. It’s hard to get on that must-read list. If you just go through any airport and walk around, you’ll see all the electronic devices and, at the same time, you’ll still see younger Millennials who are holding magazines, especially females, because it’s still such a visual, tactile media.”
6. Mail Is More Sophisticated Now
Jon Yokogawa of interTrend points out that the evolution of mail messaging — from the refinement of offers to new personalization tools — has also buoyed the channel and confirmed its ongoing relevance: “The sophistication of mail messaging has greatly improved over the years. Top companies use the platform, and that builds credibility. Nowadays, direct mail is not just for the remnant budgets of smaller clients. Many industries see this form of marketing as a proven medium, having better and actual measurements (ROI) than traditional TV, print, outdoor advertising or radio.”
Louis Maldonado, managing director of New York-based d expósito & partners, an agency specializing in integrated communications, including direct mail, points out how the digital age has added to mail’s power, introducing elements such as QR Codes, augmented reality and SnapTags to mail marketing: “Direct marketing has experienced a resurgence of excitement given the new technologies and tools available now. The increased targetability of e-mail and mobile channels, as well as the enhanced engagement and dialogue opportunities afforded through social media, serve to complement and fuel response rates to the tried-and-true channels, like direct mail and DRTV.”
7. Mail Helps You Target
Denver-based Heinrich Marketing likes to think of itself as the CSI of the marketing world, asking the tough questions before getting the creative department involved. Heinrich managing director Laura Sonderup says the research has shown that mail continues to be one of the most cost-effective methods for targeting that any marketer can deploy: “In many instances, mail allows us to localize lead generation far more efficiently than other marketing channels — down to the census tract and neighborhood level when necessary. Our largest clients insist that direct mail be included in their marketing plans as a means of maximizing budgets and increasing return on investment.”
8. Mail Delivers Results
Whatever its evolution, direct mail ultimately continues to resonate with marketers for one primary reason: It gets results. Robert Salta, owner of Maryland-based DirectMail.com and a 30-year direct marketing veteran, has strong views about mail’s staying power: “It’s all about results. Direct mail works,” he says. “The majority of people will open and read direct mail, but often will choose to ignore e-mail solicitations. The fundamentals of direct mail haven’t changed, partly because their efficacy has been proven time after time. What has changed is the advent of data and digital print technology, and both have benefited direct mail immeasurably.”