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All marketing professionals are sure to be familiar with the longstanding institution of direct mail, but it might be surprising to know that direct mail marketing is thriving in 2020. As we head into a new decade, and with all the talk surrounding social media and search engine optimization, it’s interesting to know that direct mail is in fact, on the rise.

Top Response Rate

Today’s direct mail response rate is a whopping 4.9% for prospect lists, and 9% for house lists (Source: ANA/DMA Response Rate Report 2018). To put that in perspective, not only is that double what it was the previous year, but it also outclasses social media, email, and paid search, all of which only reported a 1% or less response rate in the same study. This means that direct mail pulls in a response rate at least 5 times greater than any digital marketing medium. Other metrics (also from DMA) are even less optimistic in terms of digital marketing response rates, with some studies showing that email only generates a .12% response rate, and paid search generates a response from only .22% of people. By these more exact numbers, direct mail can be up to 30 times more effective in comparison to digital marketing.

So, if you want to generate any sort of response from your marketing push, direct mail is going to be the most likely to return one. Responses include survey responses, contact forms, information requests, or any other action that marketers have actively encouraged recipients to engage in. This metric is crucial in understanding the differences in marketing strength between something recipients merely see and something they are willing to actively engage with.

Best of Both Worlds

The advantages of direct mail can’t be overstated, and, what’s more, they can be built upon by utilizing the immense amount of data and the powerful new technologies available in 2020. Digital tools and new industrial technology can allow marketers and companies to reap all of the benefits of both direct mail and digital tools. Digital tools are effective at quickly personalizing marketing copy to be specific to a geographic location, a certain demographic, or even an individual recipient. But these tools are also available to be utilized in conjunction with direct mail.

Gone are the days when recipients are addressed as “homeowner” or “current resident” or “valued customer.” Now recipients can be addressed by name, and even the content of what they receive can be personalized based on their unique customer data, demographics, and geo-location. The numbers are already in, and this strategy works. Current and comprehensive marketing data showcases that customers are a full 70% more likely to open mail with personalized content. Using a process called variable data printing, it is possible to tailor each marketing piece to an individual customer profile, which can further increase live response rates by another 15%.

Converting potential customers into actual customers, and converting past customers into repeat customers, is now easier than ever with variable data printing. Where digital marketing falls behind, feeling impersonal and like spam, direct mail send-outs that utilize this technology will seem less boiler-plate and more personal. Geo-location mapping software makes it possible to tie regional-specific information to recipients in certain locations. For example, images of maps that point potential customers to the nearest local branch of a given store can increase the conversion rate even more. New printing technologies even make it possible, and cost-effective, to personalize specific pages of multi-page send-outs, such as brochures and pamphlets, based on individual meta-data.

People are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of emails, search engine ads, banner ads, and prerolls, personalized or not. They tune it out. On the other hand, people are excited to open mail addressed to them specifically, especially if it features further personalizations. Direct mail makes it possible to multiply the benefits of data and new technologies together with the inherent strengths of direct mail.

Highly Trusted

As mentioned before, consumers are tired of spam. They reach for every tool they can to filter it out, and they’re almost as good at filtering it psychologically — simply not seeing it. When they do, however, these marketing attempts can be met with skepticism and mistrust. With physical mediums, however, the responses are thankfully quite the opposite.

According to the ANA/DMA study, more people trust traditional advertising channels when making a purchase than they trust digital ones. Of those surveyed in the report, an incredible 76% of people selected ads received in the mail as one of their trusted sources when making a purchasing decision. Discounts and deals are trusted when it comes to direct mail, but when it comes to digital advertising much fewer people are willing to act on such information to inform their purchasing decisions, make use of a coupon, or engage in any of the intended responses or actions that coincide with the marketing goals.

On the other hand, 84% of people take action on coupons received via direct mail. Coupon codes and advertised discounts online are much less likely to entice consumers to act. 73% of people actually fully admit that they prefer to receive product announcements and offers in the mail. If you want your products, services, and promotions to not only reach customers, but to also be much more thoroughly considered, much more likely to generate a response, and much more likely to return a desired action, and to do so for consumers who prefer to be advertised to in this way, direct mail is the way to do it. And direct mail isn’t just effective in generating a response where digital mediums fail to, it’s also fast. 79% of direct mail responders surveyed react immediately to the information in direct mail.

The Science Behind the Statistics

Direct mail marketing also taps into the unique psychology of receiving mail. Direct mail elicits a much higher brand recall, with 21% less cognitive effort to process the information (Source: A Bias for Action, Canada Post (PDF)). In other words, direct mail is much easier to understand and returns a more lasting impact in terms of brand recognition. Further, the report shows that 36% of Millenials look forward to checking their mail each morning and, according to a recent study by Millward Brown, direct mail involves more emotional processing and deeper internalization than digital marketing (Source: Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail, Millward Brown (PDF)).

These findings are backed up by comprehensive studies using electroencephalography (EEG) to map the brain’s activity in real-time, as well as visual attention tests and corroborated sampling. And the findings are conclusive. Direct mail is both easier to understand and more memorable than digital media. Direct mail is far more persuasive than digital media, and this effect can be compounded when more senses are activated beyond the sense of touch, such as with exciting colors or images. Direct mail is visually processed quicker than digital media, which is especially interesting considering that it has higher motivation scores than digital media; this suggests that direct mail gets the message across both better and faster, which is important given the general decrease in consumer attention span. Direct mail is more likely to drive behavior than digital media. (Source: A Bias for Action, Canada Post (PDF)). Direct mail simply compares incredibly favorably to digital media in all ways that count.

Key Demographics in the New Decade

You might expect that these numbers are based on dwindling demographics, and that younger demographics, which will play a key role in the new decade while commanding an increasing market power, aren’t really interested in direct mail. But the opposite is actually true. As mentioned before, more than a third of Millenials are excited to check their mail in the morning which compares very favorably to their enthusiasm to be advertised to via other mediums.

Emerging generations of consumers are also better at filtering out the blur of digital advertising. Having grown up with banner ads and prerolls, these younger generations see digital advertising attempts as little more than background noise — that is, they don’t really see them at all. On the other hand, direct mail represents a change of pace. Not only is this a rare tactile experience, it’s also a rarer experience in general. Online advertising is nearly constant for these generations, as they work, study, and play online. Physical mail, on the other hand, is a lower volume experience. Even these fast-paced generations have the time to read through and consider the mail that they receive.

Further, according to a study on different marketing trends 74% of millennials find direct mail to be safer and more secure. 78% say that print on paper is easier to keep confidential. 82% state that direct mail is more trusted. A full 88% report that print seems more official than digital media. Direct mail is, therefore, actually more effective for younger generations.

Widely Utilized

Direct mail is tied with social media (57%) in terms of utilization. Further still, 81% of marketers who responded to the ANA/DMA study report that they plan to maintain or increase direct mail marketing within the next 12 months. This means that direct mail is poised not only to be the most effective marketing vehicle in the new decade, but also one of the most widely utilized.

And it’s no wonder that direct mail is set to lead the industry as one of the most popular marketing mediums when, by several measures, it is the most effective. Savvy marketers and businesses are taking advantage of the unique strengths of direct mail to reach recipients and convert them into respondents and customers.

Given the response rate, the potential to utilize digital technologies in a more effective medium, the high level of trust, the robust science, and the effectiveness in important and emerging demographics, it’s no wonder why so many are taking advantage of the benefits of direct mail. To many of the top businesses, marketers, and advertisers, direct mail isn’t just a longstanding and successful institution, it’s the future.

With such a high response rate, wide reach, and deeper impact, it’s easy to see why direct mail is on the rise today. Direct mail is quickly becoming one of the most heavily utilized and effective tools for driving business in the new decade. Give United Mail a call today to talk about the most effective vehicle for delivering your message. We’re here to help and look forward to hearing from you. request a call today.

By Kenton Jetton