Direct Mail

Something to hold on to: the enduring power of direct mail

16th February 2018

As our business and personal lives become increasingly reliant on the instant and global capabilities of digital communication, it’s all too easy to draw the conclusion that hard-copy direct mail is an outmoded or old-fashioned form of business communication. This assumption - we’re very pleased to report - is far from true. Mail still has a vital role to play, particularly when it comes to valuable and emotive communications that customers will want to hold on to.

Consumer research conducted by Royal Mail’s Market Reach tells us that the core strengths of mail have endured: mail is still opened, still valued, still kept and still drives response. The reason? Because people like it*.

Customers suffer from digital overload

With businesses spending billions each year on email and online marketing, it’s little wonder that many customers report feeling overwhelmed by the amount of digital communication they receive, with 70% saying that they feel they receive too many emails. Open rates for email campaigns can often fail to get above 21% and even when emails get opened, more than half of recipients delete an email within 2 seconds of opening. While quality and relevance of content will of course affect the success of communications on any platform, the figures from Market Reach seem to suggest that as the volume of emails people receive each day increases, effective email communication becomes ever more difficult for businesses to achieve. However, the figures for mail tell a very different story: as the volume of commercial emails sent out increases, customers are becoming more likely to engage with the hard-copy alternative: (carefully crafted) direct mail.

Information you can trust comes on paper

According to the Market Reach report, and unlike it’s disposable digital counterpart, direct mail is perceived as being reliable, believable and personal; making it the perfect choice for your high value, high impact customer communications.  What’s more, 69% of customers will open a piece of direct mail, compared to less than a third of email recipients. Of those opened pieces, 43% will lead to further interaction and - for those looking to make a more lasting impression – the report tells us that a piece of advertising mail will be kept for an average of 17 days. So, while we may have expected the rise of digital communication to spell the end of mail, it has in fact ensured that mail lives on as the most enduring form of communication.
The Royal Mail figures are also backed up by some interesting neuroscience. A study by Millward Brown has shown that printed material is capable of leaving a deeper ‘footprint’ on the brain and will produce more responses connected with a reader’s internal feelings, giving them greater resonance; brand recognition is enhanced by the receipt of a physical mail item. This is further enhanced by what scientists term ‘the endowment effect’ – put simply: it’s our human tendency to place greater value on things that we own.

Our own direct mail experience

Here at International Paper UK, we certainly saw the power of paper in action when we launched our recent Jetstar campaign. Our objective was the promotion of Jetstar and Jetstar Royal high-speed inkjet reels to a very specific UK target market. We wanted to take personalisation to the next level, so we decided to create a hand-collated piece of direct mail tailored with client-specific information. The team at International Paper UK has a real passion for paper products and a genuine commitment to getting it right for our customers – and we wanted to make sure that came across in our communication.

As with every marketing campaign, the devil is in the detail - so we took the time to get to know what each recipient would want from us, how best we could meet their needs and how we could make the information contained in our mailing pertinent to those needs. The direct mail was complemented by a ‘Star Product’ feature in the highly-respected Print Week magazine, along with online wallpapers on the Print Week website, covering specific dates over two weeks. The result? A response rate to make us proud -  which also saw more than half of all recipients getting in touch to arrange a meeting. The Jetstar campaign provided us with real proof of what we understand to be true: people value words on paper, especially when they can tell that a real person has taken the time to write them.

So, as businesses look for new ways to cut through the noise, the advice we would like to pass on is this: digital communications are quick and inexpensive but beware inundating your customers or prospects with emails they may never open. Why not take a moment to consider how you could differentiate yourself with direct mail instead?

Facts and figures taken from It’s all about mail and email. Working together to create greater 1 to 1 relationships with your customers - Market Reach Royal Mail research

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