In this era of frenetic digital marketing that we're all so mad about, is direct mail still an attractive marketing proposition or have it become irrelevant? When marketers can instantly reach out to people on social media and other online platforms, and position themselves with search engine optimisation and pay-per-click ads, is this now the end of direct mail? Not exactly.
All kinds of companies, from the very large to the smallest of firms, continue to use direct mail to engage with their audiences and increase sales and profits. The continuing attraction of this promotional medium is the generally high return on investment that it has. That's because it's relatively low-cost - compared to taking out ads on television or in a national newspaper - and can be highly targeted. So in a way, direct mail can be complementary to a company's online marketing campaigns, providing a real-world product-browsing experience for potential customers.
Let's look at some facts to see how firms' use of direct mail stand. There's a general impression that people don't like direct mail - when it is dropped through their letter box, for instance, and they deem it as 'junk' mail. But that is not entirely true. One survey carried out in the United States found that an overwhelming 73% of people questioned said that they preferred to get direct mail as a way of marketing because they could then examine what's on offer at their leisure.
The same survey, from 2012, found that in Canada, 65% of respondents said they actually 'enjoyed' receiving direct mail from companies because they were then informed about new products or services that they might be interested in. More recently, the Royal Mail’s research, The Private Life of Mail, came up with similarly interesting results for the UK. Over half of those who took part in the research kept mail they found to be useful and said that mail helped to keep a brand in mind. The research also showed that on average advertising mail is kept in a house for 17 days, door drops were kept for 38 days and bills and statements were kept for a mere 5 days.
Just to underline how big the return on investment is; it's estimated that companies in the US spend $167 on direct mail per individual and achieve $2,095 in sales, representing a return of an astounding 1,300%. While The Private Life of Mail found that the ROI for their case studies was 12% higher for those who included direct mail within their marketing mix.
With figures like these, it's clear that for direct mail, the future remains very bright indeed.