Marketers Are Returning to Direct Mail

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by Price
March 1, 2018

By Allan Greer

With the shift to less expensive, metric-rich digital channels, many marketers have abandoned direct mail as a way to reach customers and track engagement. But marketers are always looking for the most effective ways to break through to media-overloaded consumers.

And that is leading a growing number to revisit direct mail—particularly as part of a multichannel marketing strategy.

Here are a few reasons why direct mail might make sense for a bank marketing program and how it can be integrated and tracked along with popular digital channels.

  1. Quality time with your customer.

A recent study indicates the average lifespan of an email is now just two seconds. By contrast, consumers spend time interacting with direct mail. According to data from the U.S. Postal Service, nearly all consumers (98%) bring in their mail the day it’s delivered. Of these, 72% bring it in as soon as possible, and 77% sort through their mail immediately.

Consumers spend an average of 30 minutes reading their mail on any given occasion. They spend 45 minutes with magazines, 30 minutes with catalogs and 25 minutes with direct mail. Two seconds versus 25 minutes—enough said.

Consumers also have positive opinions about mail. More than half of consumers (56%) say receiving mail is a “real pleasure,” 55% “look forward” to discovering the mail they receive, and 67% feel mail is more personal than the internet.

  1. Less mail, more visibility.

One of the greatest advantages of direct mail today is there’s less mail. Over the past 10 years, digital marketing, electronic billing, and other market forces have contributed to a 27% drop in total mail volume—from 212.2 billion pieces in 2007, to 154.3 billion pieces in 2016, according to USPS data. In that same timeframe, marketing mail volume has dropped by 22%, from 103.5 billion to 80.9 billion pieces.

This translates to a greater opportunity to connect directly with consumers—you’re putting your message right into their hands, with fewer distractions and obstacles standing in your way. Contrast this with your chances of a consumer even seeing your email message in their flooded, message-blocking inbox.

  1. Response rates and ROI.

While the promise of consumers spending quality time with your direct mail is appealing, what convinces most marketers to return to direct mail is the results it yields. It works especially well as part of an integrated marketing strategy.

According to the 2016 DMA Response Rate Report, direct mail response rates are on the rise. House list response rates are now 5.3%, up 43% over the previous year. Prospect list response rates more than doubled to 2.9%.

Compare direct mail’s results with response rates for popular digital formats:

  • 6% email house lists
  • 3% email prospect lists
  • 9% online display
  • 6% social media
  • 5% paid search

On top of that, direct mail has the third highest ROI of all formats measured in the DMA’s report. Email led with 122%, followed by social media at 28%, direct mail at 27%, paid search at 25%, and online display at 18%.

Direct mail and email are like the peanut butter cup of marketing: two great tastes that taste great—or even better—together. When used in combination, direct mail and email can yield response rates of up to 35% compared with standalone campaigns using either channel.

What’s more, one study found customers spend 25% more when businesses use a combination of direct mail and email marketing.

Pulling it all together and tracking it.

A multichannel approach allows you to take advantage of each channel’s strengths. For example:

  • Email performs better when using house lists than when using prospect lists, making it a better tool for customer engagement and retention. Use email to follow up on a mailing to reinforce the call to action. Or use it in advance of your mail drop to tease an offer that will be landing in mailboxes soon.
  • Direct mail drives response and ROI, making it a great tool for customer acquisition. Use direct mail to drive consumers to online and mobile channels with digital calls-to-action, like promotion codes, personalized URLs (PURLs) or simple trackable URL’s, augmented reality, and even video mailers.

Manage it all by using your marketing resource management (MRM) system to pre-load direct mail designs and track and report campaign results. Templated mailers with variable fields can be used within such systems to easily associate local stores with lists targeting specific geographies.

An MRM system can also accommodate preloading of house lists and in-system purchasing of targeted prospect lists. Some systems even support the ordering of mail delivery options, like Every Door Direct Mail, (EDDM), a lower-postage cost option used for more generic targeting.

Controlling costs.

Direct mail is a considered choice for today’s marketers who are used to the lower costs associated with digital channels. Design, printing and postage costs can add up. But direct mail doesn’t have to be expensive. Careful planning with a knowledgeable direct mail partner can help identify mail options that keep costs in line while also delivering targeted campaigns designed to enhance the success of your overall marketing strategy.

Allan Greer is the director of national accounts for Vya, a provider of simplified marketing systems that solve local marketing challenges for marketers in banking and finance, insurance, franchising and manufacturing. Email:

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