BRIEFING DIRECT MAIL
Words Richard Stuart-Turner
Mail sector has learnt plenty of new tricks The pandemic emphasised the strength of direct mail and – despite various current threats – its future looks bright
The world has changed immeasurably since the start of the Covid pandemic and while it has clearly been a devastating crisis in so many ways, there have been some positives, particularly in the ways that society adapted to cope with the situation, and many of those have been retained.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is greater flexibility around work, with many businesses now operating hybrid home and office working for roles where that is suitable. For direct mail this has been a boon.
It was hardly surprising that mail benefited at the start of the pandemic, considering the captive audience, often with time on their hands, sitting at home.
But data shows that, two years after the first lockdown, mail is still proving incredibly effective. JICMail, the joint industry currency for ad mail, recently released its data for Q4 2021, which found that 9% of mail, across direct mail, door drops, and business mail combined, prompted a website visit.
The proportion of mail driving consumers in store, meanwhile,
JICMail also found that the average door drop was kept in the home for 5.4 days before being filed or thrown away/recycled, with direct mail kept for 7.4 days, and business mail retained for 9.4 days.
Ian Gibbs, director of data leadership and learning at JICMail, suggests this is part of a broader trend: “There continues to be something about mail being this
It is possibly a channel which could be used to reach younger audiences – they don’t receive much mail at the moment but what they do receive they’re engaging with” Ian Gibbs JICMail doubled in comparison to Q4 2020, to 2%. And 5% of mail drove a purchase, the same proportion as in Q4 2020.
sort of trusted, tactile medium in an age of digital saturation and digital scepticism, it clearly does have an effect.
READER REACTION What are the biggest opportunities for direct mail?
Tom Maskill Sales and marketing director, Webmart “Integrating offline communi-
cations seamlessly into digital-first customer journeys is the biggest opportunity for growth for mail over the coming year in my opinion. While these won’t be high-volume mailers, they will be targeted, timely and personalised, helping to drive response rates. We have seen some fantastic success adopting this approach, and as brands learn how to better utilise their first-party data, that will only grow. A secondary growth area may be using mail as a primer, warming up recipients to increase engagement digitally.”
Robin Sumner Managing director, Romax “Direct mail needs to be seen not as a standalone direct marketing campaign, but as an integrated part of the customer lifecycle. To make mail applicable to real-time customer activity, printers need to help brands look at customer journey touchpoints and employ a single customer view that incorporates ‘on-demand direct mail’ alongside SMS and email. Print needs to provide a nimble on-demand service that works in conjunction with the ‘mass mailing campaigns’. Once brands see how easy it is for mail to be integrated into the real-time process, activity will increase.”
Stuart Speechley Managing director, KJS Print to Mail “People are doing a lot more targeted mailings than they used to so we’re probably going back to shorter runs, but they’re more accurate. Everybody has got a bit more savvy on it and started to look at their projects a little bit more closely. Possibly with money now being tighter for a lot of people, I think people are trying to get the value for money, trying to target their customers more efficiently, and looking at their data a bit more – they are doing a lot more data cleansing than they did.”
“While we all know that digital ad impressions are dirt cheap, they only last on screen for less than half a second whereas mail will last in the home for a week, it’s a different ballpark in terms of longevity.”
Also encouraging, Gibbs notes, is that while older audiences still show the highest engagement with mail overall, younger audiences are displaying the biggest growth in engagement.
“I think some younger audiences are almost too young to remember the days of carpet bombing; they’re not necessarily used to having their letterbox absolutely inundated with junk.
“So I think there is a sense that it is possibly a channel which could be used to reach younger audiences – they don’t receive much mail at the moment but what they do receive they’re engaging with.”
This increased engagement has come at a time of general heightened opportunity in the mail industry, as numerous advances in technology converge with various new industry initiatives.
51% of respondents to a recent Printweek poll that asked ‘What do you think is the biggest opportunity for direct mail?’ said increased personalisation and targeting, with 31% selecting technological advances (e.g. linking print with online channels).
Printweek April & May 2022