Here's an interesting possible evolution in the use of direct mail. A test by the United States Postal Service demonstrates an improvement in response rates when the recipient gets an email showing an image of the envelope they will receive in the post that day. Response rates in a limited trial were almost 6% compared to 0.5% with a non-email supported sample.
Whether the email acts as a point of interest to the customer, or provides a mental nudge when the post arrives, the test could actually help to evolve the direct mail market. The trial continues with a wider test taking place in New York, but there's nothing to stop direct marketers creating their own version - possibly with an electronic copy of the envelope or part of the mail to save the business having to scan it.
There's also plenty of room to improve on the test, with a hint as to what's in the direct mail, some enticement or bonus to get customers to open it and respond. With most customers providing their email address, or it being part of direct marketing lists, it makes sense to leverage all available information and channels. Eventually, that could migrate further to other media, such as a text message with the image or further information included.
That would be of greater value to existing customers, loyal or high-spending clients to increase their sense of inclusion and interest. While the USPS plans to make their service free, UK and European Direct Mail service providers could add these extras as value-additive features in their offering and the concept paves the way for a host of innovative ideas when it comes to expanding the scope of direct marketing and driving new ways to improve response rates.
For example, teaser images in emails or texts could increase interest in the promotion or offer that is the focus of the mail out, a link to social media campaigns can increase buzz, all of which will lead to a greater likelihood of the direct mail being opened, thus increasing the response rate and helping boost business.