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A Look Forward at Direct Marketing

2016 was a good year for direct mail. Standard Mail volume had flattened out for the last couple of years and finally showed some growth in 2016. No doubt some of that was from a very active political year, but even without that there would have been year over year growth. Nobody wants to admit they do direct mail any more, but we’re really seeing a comeback… Old school is the new school. Some trends we’re seeing:

  • Email is becoming a more difficult channel. Email continues to work well as a customer retention and relationship tool, but is less effective than ever as an acquisition channel. More and more email screening tools make it harder and harder to get email through and opened.
  • Mobile is more and more the dominant device for email and web viewing. A significant majority of people at least screen their email and make web searches on a mobile device. If your email and landing pages aren’t using responsive design to render on a variety of devices, your message is losing impact.
  • The web is a crowded space. General web display advertising is more expensive and less effective. A significant percentage of web and mobile display advertising is generated based on consumer behavior and cookies. It’s harder than ever for your ad to catch someone’s attention.
  • Postage has become stable, and we expect it to remain so for at least the next couple of years. The threat of a renewed exigent surcharge appears remote.

All of this adds up to a good case for seeing continued growth in direct mail. It’s just harder and harder to find a single channel to reach prospects – the web is crowded it is very hard to reach people who don’t already know you. Publications are experiencing reduced circulation – it’s hard to get eyeballs on your print ads. Mail is a more exclusive channel than ever – your direct mail will stand out among fewer competitors for attention than other channels, and consumers read their direct mail – millennials are even more responsive.

Some things to try this year:

  • Give multi-channel marketing a try and couple your next direct mail campaign with email and social media.
  • Try a different format. According to a recent DMA study, oversized envelopes have the best response rate at 5.0%, followed by postcards at 4.25%, dimensional 4.0%, catalogs 3.9% and letter-sized envelopes 3.5%.
  • Mail first class. You can now send a presorted First-Class letter of up to 3.5 ounces for the same price as an ounce. This makes the price differential a lot less for heavier letter-size pieces. First-Class Mail generally gets better delivery and better response. It may be worth testing in greater volumes.

By any measure, 2017 stands to be a solid year for direct mail, which remains, in our estimation, the essential direct marketing channel.