Did you know the United States Postal Service sent more than 77-billion pieces of marketing mail in 2018? In today’s digital world, an urban legend is that direct mail is an antiquated marketing method that is fading fast. That assumption could not be more wrong. Direct mail still works. There are too many statistics to back up its validity.
Even in a digital age where mobile ad spending expects to reach $247 billion by 2020, direct mail industry response rates have been consistently on the rise over the past 10 years.
Let’s look at the proof behind the case for direct mail marketing with these 10 surprising statistics.
Let’s be honest. Much of the time when we’re looking for information online, we’re bombarded with advertisements that get in the way. Pop-up ads, unexpected videos that you can’t seem to turn off, embedded ads that break up a story’s flow and/or run up and down the page as we’re trying to read, and all sorts of other “tricks” all get in the way of you seeing what you want.
It’s also one of the reasons people label the direct mail they receive as less annoying than the Internet.
As a result, in the past decade, print has enjoyed a resurgence of increased conversion rates and marketing ROI. According to PrintIsBig.com, print is 43% less annoying than the Internet. In fact, the USPS confirms that people generally enjoy receiving a postcard, an attractive catalog, or a personal thank-you note in the mail.
There’s a good chance you retrieve your mail a walking distance from your front door. According to the USPS, 77% of people sort through their mail immediately upon pulling it from their mailbox. The pile of letters and postcards offers a high level of interest. If there’s a large envelope or package, you can be sure you’re intrigued enough to see who it’s from. Plus, you have the person’s undivided attention for that few moments when they are sorting through the stack. No other media channel provides this kind of opportunity to get your message noticed right away.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports that 56% of Americans consider it a real joy to receive mail. Even though there is some mail that we would rather not get, like bills, sorting through the stack and opening the pieces that seem interesting is mostly a feel-good experience. Even though a lot of the mail is considered “junk mail”, people look at it, open it, read it and often respond.
A trip to the mailbox has been and likely always will be a popular and beloved journey. It’s a tactile experience—like opening a gift—and it’s perceived as more personal than email. Plus the tangible aspect makes it more memorable. All these things help to create a joyful direct mail experience.
Direct mail isn’t just for old-fashioned people. There’s a new generation who also loves getting mail. Those fast-paced millennials. Generation Y is best known for their love of tweets and texts, but they’re not as glued to their smartphones as many would like to think. According to a Gallup poll, a surprising 95% say they love getting physical mail. About 92% of them think it’s easier to read print marketing than digital content. Furthermore, millennials respond to direct mail faster than any other age group—and over 60% of those respondents went on to make a purchase within three months.
We know a high percentage of people like to get direct mail, and they’re sorting through and opening it quickly, but are they responding? The DMA Response Rate Report says that 5.1% of U.S. households respond. Businesses are responding to direct mail, too. In a recent response rate report, the DMA found that 4.4% of B2B recipients respond. (This based on transactional data from Epsilon and B2B marketing platform Bizo.)
By comparison, the most popular online channels fall short. Email receives a 0.1% response rate. Paid search has a 0.6% response rate. Social media is at 0.4%. Online display advertising is 0.2%.
Most people think that direct mail is too expensive to deliver a good ROI. After all, the goal is to turn those interested parties into paying customers in a way that is profitable even after the cost of the mail. What kind of ROI can you expect? According to the DMA, the direct mail median household return on investment is 29%. At GCG we send millions of pieces of mail each year for the Real Estate Investing Industry, and we see ROI rates between 100% to 500%. (Yes that sounds crazy high, but real. IN the REI world, it is not unusual for a client to spend $3,000 on a mail campaign and receive $10,000 to $30,000 back in profit.)
An online ad might be cheaper, but typically response rates are much less. The net ROI is often worse with online advertising than direct mail. As a smart marketing professional, you want to create a strategy that incorporates a combination of both online and offline channels—aka a multichannel or omnichannel approach. We often point out to our clients that if you are not using direct mail as part of your overall marketing strategy, you are leaving money on the table. This is true because no matter how well you execute online advertising, not all people respond to that type of marketing. You potentially leave out an entire group of possible clients by not using physical mail.
The Direct Marketing Association reports that the direct mail industry is valued at $44.2-billion. It’s the second largest channel for ad spend in the U.S. (teleservices is first at $45 billion) and it’s growing by billions of dollars each year.
For every $167 that was spent on direct mail in the U.S., products or services sold for an average of $2,095. That’s a 1,300% return on investment.
Naturally, your results will vary depending on how much you spend on your mailer and how much profit you make when you get a sale. The bottom line, however, is that direct mail works and there’s no end in sight to its effectiveness.
The digital world changes at lighting speed. New digital marketing methods are always being developed. The problem is, they go away about as fast as they come online. This includes various telemarketing or phone advertising techniques. New strategies are born, work well and then die quickly in the digital space. Direct mail just keeps chugging along. Plus, once you have found a direct mail piece that delivers a good ROI, chances are you can keep using that same mailer for years, maybe decades.
For nonprofits to succeed in raising money, potential donors need to believe in the cause. But they also need to trust them. That’s where the direct mail industry delivers. About 56% of customers trust print marketing more than any other type. Nonprofits that use targeted direct mail increase their donations by an impressive 40%. That increase easily justifies the cost of the mail and makes this marketing channel seem like a no-brainer for any charitable venture.
You’d think an email would be the best way to get consumers to visit your brand’s website. And it is a good way. After all, they only need to click on a link. But what you may find surprising is that a piece of direct mail also creates an outstanding incentive to visit your site. Direct mail, especially catalogs, can help you drive traffic. Over 60% of direct mail recipients visited a website, especially first-time shoppers.
A printed catalog increases the likelihood that a person will go online to buy. Receiving a catalog in the mail is like window shopping. According to a USPS study, catalog recipients bought 28% more than those that didn’t receive the same catalog. Plus, websites that supplemented their sales strategy with catalogs saw a 163% revenue spike. Again and again, adding direct mail to a digital marketing strategy easily pays for itself with impressive ROIs and increased profits for those who use it effectively. If you are not already doing it, consider adding direct mail to your marketing strategy in 2020.