Direct Mail revival in a digital age?
by Nick Pryke

Direct Mail is experiencing a revival after years of digital dominance, with a more trusted format than what is increasingly viewed as digital spam. It’s been a bumpy ride but the resurgence is a fresh opportunity to gain greater customer engagement a tanglible direct mail marketing campaign.

The digital age.

Since the advent of the UK Penny Post in 1840 mail has been an integral part of everyday life for both personal correspondence and as a means for businesses to communicate with their customers. But in a truly digital age, it became unfashionable.

Digital marketing began to surge in the late 90’s and the knock-on effect meant that many brands reduced the level of direct mail marketing, opting instead to connect with customers via email. By 2007, smartphones had entered the public consciousness, bringing with them a whole new era of digital marketing. It’s easy to see why marketers love connecting with customers digitally – it’s cheap, three out of four smartphone users open emails on their handheld devices, and over 40% of emails are opened via mobile. The statistics don’t lie – digital just made sense, from a cost-effectiveness perspective at least.

Impact of GDPR.

From the mid-90’s until 2018, online marketing was something of a “wild west” free-for-all. With little regulation on the collection and usage of data, it was almost as if digital marketers had too much of a good thing – and the millions of emails which end up in spam folders every day are testament to this.

When the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) was introduced by the EU in 2018 it meant companies had to change the way they collect, use and retain personal data. This legislation had serious impacts on the way organisations keep data which can be used to identify an individual, and also affected the way in which sensitive personal data can be kept.

In an age where we leave a digital breadcrumb trail with every swipe of a smartphone or click of a mouse, it can be unnerving to think about the level of data we provide to huge companies – but what does this mean for direct mail?

Interestingly, mail has much less restrictions than email under GDPR. For relevant and informative marketing DM No opt-in is required, and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has decreed that direct mail can be used for “legitimate” interests, where companies won’t have to gain the explicit consent in order to connect with consumers via post.

Digital marketing fatigue & mistrust.

While some marketers might have considered direct mail as dead in the water as little as three or four years ago, all of the evidence points to the contrary. The tide is turning once again, and businesses are beginning to recognise the benefits of direct marketing – but why?

In a world of unscrupulous vendors, malicious hackers and scam artists, email has something of a bad reputation. With numerous high-profile cases of online scams in the national press, it seems that people’s perception of online marketing is to be wary of almost all unrecognised digital communication. Any two-bit operation can create a promotional email in seconds, whereas direct mail still retains an air of legitimacy.

bitmap187% of people believe in the effectiveness of mail, compared to just 47% for email

The statistics speak for themselves – 87% of people believe in the effectiveness of mail, compared to just 47% for email, according to Royal Mail MarketReach.

In a world of “fake news”, bots and collusion, it appears that the printed word simply has much greater trust and credibility behind it. Ultimately, the perception of the consumer is that direct mail has more thought put into it than a quick-fire email.

Standing out in a crowded marketplace.

Online culture can be considered throwaway – don’t like something on your screen? Simply swipe away without reading it. On the other hand, mail delivers a memorable message, something physical that is more likely to result in an action. Some 49% of people believe mail as a more powerful impact (particularly on long-term memory) than email – and 65% agree that mail gets their full attention.

Even the most obvious, garish junk mail that lands on your doormat has a certain something that emails will never possess: the reality factor. Just like the music industry has seen a resurgence in vinyl in recent years, marketers are witnessing a sea-change in reliance on mail. It’s a fact that people simply like having tangible objects. It’s all part of the human experience – and it’s an area that digital marketing simply can’t reach out and connect with.

Far greater response rates.

While it’s true that the response rates for direct mail have fallen slightly over the past decade, the reach is still strong. Research conducted by the Direct Marketing Association found that direct mail results in a 4.4% response rate. In contrast, email achieved just 0.12%. In layman’s terms, that means direct mail response rates are up to 35 times greater than digital. The reason for this is quite simple - consumers are completely overwhelmed with cluttered inboxes, so it makes sense to reach them on an uncluttered channel instead.

bitmap14.4% response rate for direct mail compared to just 0.12% for email. That means direct mail achieves a 35 times greater response than digital.

Reaching a wide audience.

It’s a common misconception that mail only works with an older audience, or that millennials are only interested in digital communication. This is a fallacy! While it’s true that the younger generation has grown accustomed to smartphones and tablets, the statistics speak for themselves. A recent Gallup poll found that 95% of 18-29 year-olds respond positively to receiving personal letters and cards. Right now, there’s never been a better time to target this demographic with direct mail – it’ a unique way to reach out and set your brand apart from the digital media craze.

Combining mail and digital.

While it’s true that mail primes other forms of media, as a brand you shouldn’t be asking yourself whether you should switch to direct mail marketing – instead, your direct mail campaign should work in symbiosis with your existing digital marketing as part of your marketing strategy and overall marketing mix. By utilising multiple marketing channels, you’re covering all bases and putting your message where it deserves to be seen, maximising your advertising campaigns return on investment.

Resurgence of direct mail.

After a decade of ups and downs, direct mail has been proven to work, even in a digital age. Despite fluctuating fortunes, direct mail marketing remains relevant, and above all, effective.

Incorporated as part of the customer journey, in an integrated campaign – it can help in amplifying your campaign. And with the resurgence in the use of direct mail some marketers now see the medium as their “premium” means of communication, because it generates excitement and cuts clearly through the digital noise.

GDPR, many organisations had never felt forced to look in real detail at how they use data and data protection law. Good data stewardship and data protection officer (DPO) duties was typically the responsibility of security and technology teams, with some input from HR, Marketing and Legal. Now, it needs all these functions to work effectively in union – this means serious cultural change. It will probably be two to three years before most companies are fully up to speed.

By putting customers at the heart your marketing communications and contacting them only in the way they ask to, you can achieve a greater level of engagement, loyalty and quality of data lists.

Nick Pryke
Nick PrykeChief Operating Officer
Nick is responsible for keeping our print and mail operation ‘squeaky green’. Ensuring that our client campaigns are delivered in full and on time every time. With a passion for sustainability he will try to recycle anything that’s not bolted down!

Get in touch with Nick:

Nick Pryke
Nick PrykeChief Operating Officer
Nick is responsible for keeping our print and mail operation ‘squeaky green’. Ensuring that our client campaigns are delivered in full and on time every time. With a passion for sustainability he will try to recycle anything that’s not bolted down!

Get in touch with Nick:

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