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September 2, 2021

5 Direct Mail Statistics That Prove Direct Mail Is Worth the Investment

Note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and was updated in September 2021.

Many marketers will tell you that email is the most powerful channel out there. But the fact is, email is becoming a competitive battleground for your audience’s attention. According to Campaign Monitor, email open rates are below 20% and rapidly declining; in 2018, open rates were at nearly 35%, according to an Epsilon study.

In this environment, it’s time to find another channel that can complement your email efforts—direct mail.

Companies today are seeing response rates that surpass other customer communication channels by 8%. These direct mail statistics can help you understand the impact of direct mail, so you can confidently add a highly efficient and productive channel to your marketing mix.

1. Direct mail has a 13X higher response rate than email

This stat comes from Lob’s State of Direct Mail study, and that number triples among returning customers. While the number is impressive, it isn’t surprising when you consider that direct mail has a response rate of 9%—a high figure compared to other channels. Email, paid search, and social media only have a response rate of 1%.

But when we say “direct mail response rate,” does this mean people are sending mail back to companies? Not necessarily. A direct mail response refers to when a recipient engages with a campaign in some way, either direct or digital. In fact, they most likely won’t respond via direct mail. That high response rate is thanks, in part, to digital tracking and response methods.

Add tracking methods to your direct mail campaigns—such as QR codes, unique URLs, phone numbers, and discount codes—to monitor their response rates.

2. Physical mail is more memorable

Recent research suggests that physical mail may leave more of an imprint on recipients than digital messaging. A 2021 study from the University of Tokyo revealed that writing and reading on paper show an increase in memory recall and brain activations when compared to using tablets or mobile phones.

“Our present experiments demonstrated that brain activations related to memory...were stronger in participants using a paper notebook than in those using electronic devices,” said Keita Umejima, et al.

Companies should take advantage of this research by using direct mail for marketing and transactional purposes.

Let’s say you’re a marketer trying to promote a site-wide sale. Digital coupon codes may quickly get buried in an email inbox where customers forget about them. But a recipient of a physical coupon, on the other hand, might be more likely to remember the discount card on their kitchen counter.

The same principle holds for transactional mail. Say you’re struggling to collect payments. A physical bill is more likely to stick with customers than a digital payments reminder.

Consider using A/B or multivariate testing to find campaign elements that will make your direct mail even more memorable. Experiment with messaging and design to see which choices are the most effective in engaging recipients. A high engagement level could be a good sign that a certain design or offer is more memorable than another.

3. 40% of people enjoy checking their mail every day

Direct mail represents a massive opportunity for companies to connect with customers, members, or employees in a way they enjoy.

According to Statista, over 40% of people say they enjoy checking their mailbox every day. And, if people like checking their mailbox, there’s a good chance they like opening mail as well. Meanwhile, over 60% of people actively choose to ignore emails at work.

In addition, people send and receive 88 consumer emails a day, but only 11 advertising emails per week, making direct mail a great channel to break through the digital noise. Take advantage of this direct mail statistic by sending direct mail regularly to keep in touch with customers in a way they enjoy.

Let’s return to the site-wide sale example. Email marketing may be good for the initial promotion announcement, but a direct mail coupon will likely delight customers even more. Take this awesome example from Chewy. The popular pet-focused brand sent a direct mail postcard offering 20% off with a trackable code at checkout.

Example of Chewy's direct mail postcard

4. Over 60% of marketers say direct mail has the highest ROI

Direct mail does have printing and shipping costs, but the ROI is enough to outweigh those expenses. 60% of marketers say direct mail has the highest ROI of their marketing channels.

While direct mail generally offers a healthy return, you can always maximize its ROI further by reducing campaign expenses. Consider updating your direct mail processes to lower your direct mail costs. Using templates, automating your processes, and conducting testing will help you continually optimize your costs for the best ROI.

5. 64% of marketers say direct mail has the highest response rate

This stat comes from Lob’s State of Direct Mail study. While the number is impressive, it isn’t surprising when you consider that direct mail has a response rate of 9%—a high figure compared to other channels. Email, paid search, and social media have a response rate of only 1%.

But when we say “direct mail response rate,” does this mean people are sending mail back to companies? Not necessarily. A direct mail response refers to when a recipient engages with a campaign in some way, either direct or digital. In fact, they most likely won’t respond via direct mail. That high response rate is thanks, in part, to digital tracking and response methods.

Add tracking methods to your direct mail campaigns—such as QR codes, unique URLs, phone numbers, and discount codes—to monitor their response rates.

These direct mail statistics only scratch the surface

To get the most value out of direct mail, weave your direct and digital marketing initiatives together so that one complements the other. Whether you’re sending invoices to millions of customers or launching a lead gen campaign, wrap direct mail into your strategy.

Or, if you’re already using direct mail, consider upping your direct mail budget or investing in a direct mail platform. With a platform like Lob, you can even create triggers that allow direct mail to be automatically sent based on digital behavior. The personalized, engaging touch direct mail offers, in tandem with your digital initiatives, will help you reach your audience in a fresh and memorable way.

This blog provides general information and discussion about direct mail marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.

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