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December 16, 2009


A recent Household Diary Study showed that 18% of people who receive direct mail don't read it. That's the equivalent of clicking the delete button for e-mail. That means 82% of direct mail recipients do read or scan their direct mail...which is the equivalent of clicking on and opening an e-mail.

The average click and open rate for e-mail is about 5%. I believe that direct mail still provides a level of branding, involvement and shelf life that e-mail can't match.


I agree Jeff. To be honest, I personally never used to pay much attention to direct mail offers, but with the proliferation of email marketing my attitude has changed and I've responded to a few postal offers this year (mostly ordering from catalogs). It's not likely that my purchase behavior was attributed to the direct mail channel since I ordered online without referencing the mailed catalog -- how many others do the same thing? The multi-channel analytics have some catching up to do (I think).

I don't know about anyone else - but I LIVE on my computer 8-10 hours/day - nearly all of it either in research or in email correspondence. Although only one lady's experience and therefore hardly a trend...I must say I now look forward to mail delivery (again) and opening traditional envelopes and reading traditional postcards. Beyond the visual impact - it's tactile and it's (now) DIFFERENT! I own a business that needs to make decisions on which medium to use, and based on this personal experience, I continue to use at least color postcard mailings in my mix. This is backed up by a duplicate digital mailing to both the same as well as wider audience. - Jane

Many people get loads of unsolicited email messages. Many are of a marketing nature. In my own experience, I usually delete 95% of them without reading and would imagine that the same is true of most people. Direct mail is much less threatening and can lay on the kitchen counter for days, but eventually it gets opened.

The internet boom of the 90's proved that digital marketing alone does not work as evidenced by the huge number of dot.com failures.

The brick and mortar businesses have begun to realize that while digital is much cheaper, they also need direct mail to drive people to their websites. In the current economic climate, it is easy to choose digital because of it's lower cost, but what is the long term effect?

I agree with Jane's comment to a degree. Receiving a "tactile" offer by postal mail may actually be differentiating now. I find that the creative of these mailings unfortunately hails back to direct mail's heyday. Which is to say they are dated when compared to the (literal) flash of the electronic marketing environment. We have a generation that has been acculturated to direct response methods via the imagery and immediacy of broadcast and online narrowcast. Response triggers they've become accustomed to are not native to traditional direct mail structures. The fun will be in designing "integrated marketing strategies" that are truly media-agnostic, delivering tight creative briefs, and seeing how today's savvy direct marketing creatives execute against them.

Re Jane's comment: "Direct mail is much less threatening and can lay on the kitchen counter for days, but eventually it gets opened."

True in some cases. Also true that an email not immediately opened or clicked through can sit in an in-box where it's accessible when it's convenient for the subscriber. I have good intentions about those envelopes & postcards but they're more likely to get filed in the "when I have time" pile and eventually get tossed. Unopened and unread. Email sends are measurable - I can see who got my message, the links they responded to, how many times they opened it and how long it remained in their in-box. Not everyone who receives an offer is ready to buy and an email is easy to drag to a folder for future reference. Conversion isn't always immediate - keep the prospect engaged and intrigued with a relevant message that has a measurable result. And that message doesn't require a 2:00 a.m. press check or a gajillion dollars for postage!

I could say that direct mail is still in today. It's true that Direct mail is much less threatening.


Great Post and I would like to add that we at ExpressMarketing are finding that in what we call "Direct Marketing 2.0" the integration of traditional mail ie: Over sized Postcards with a coordinated eMail campaign increases click though rate approximately fifteen percent.

The unique feature about physical mail in your mailbox is that you must make a disposition decision at the moment you entertain your pile of mail...even if that means creating a "when I have time pile", you still have to look and touch each mail piece. How many email messages do you have unread? How many "sacrificial" email accounts do you have that are chock full of advertising messages that will go unread and deleted by simply assessing the sender and perhaps the subject line? Digital is great and it can indeed be more measurable than direct mail, but the digital space is inundated with messages - and your email box is inundated with dozens of messages - but neither truly captivates your attention in the moment like fetching and going through your physical mail.

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