Lob's website experience is not optimized for Internet Explorer.
Please choose another browser.

Arrow Up to go to top of page
How Do You Choose Between Direct Mail and Email
May 5, 2022

How Do You Choose Between Direct Mail and Email

Author Avatar
Guest Author

Email marketing has exploded in recent years, offering a range of unique benefits. However, direct mail can yield a higher ROI when it comes to response rates, so how do you find that balance between direct mail vs. email?

When crafting the ultimate marketing strategy, you don't need to choose one over the other. Combining these two marketing strategies is most effective, especially when you leverage the advantages of each. But first, you need to understand how they differ. Here is what you need to know when creating a true omnichannel customer experience.

Direct mail vs. email — how do these strategies differ?

Marketing is a complex process with many moving parts.

If your goal is to optimize your current strategy, you may be wondering whether it's best to focus on direct mail or email marketing. If you're already utilizing both channels, how can you increase ROI, reduce churn, acquire new customers, etc.?

Before diving into the benefits of an omnichannel approach, let's compare direct mail vs. email.

Direct mail

There's a reason why direct mail open rates can reach up to 90% — it is highly personal. So, if you're trying to add a more personal touch to your brand's marketing tactics while remaining relevant, customized direct mail is the way to do it. Direct mail provides endless choices on how to connect with your consumers in a tangible way, and that is powerful. There is so much digital noise these days that consumers appreciate the experience that direct mail provides.

When used on its own and implemented correctly, direct mail is highly effective, yielding a 13x higher base response rate than email. However, this strategy works even better when used with other channels, integrating with the platforms your company is already using. For example, based on the power of automation, direct mail is now being sent at scale, easily integrating within Salesforce CRM. This integration is a game-changer concerning execution time, resulting in timely personalization to support higher ROI and consumer retention rates.

Some key differentiators that make direct mail more effective than email marketing includes:

  • Direct mail doesn't need a lead or prospect's opt-in
  • Direct mail has a longer shelf-life than email
  • Direct mail can't get caught in a spam filter
  • Direct mail doesn't bounce; it either gets forwarded to the right address unlike email or it's been delivered to a new person or potential customer (think "current resident" as a fail-safe on the mailing address)
  • Direct mail reaches those who don't use email or spend a lot of time online

Recommended reading: 5 Personalized Direct Mail Examples to Inspire Your Marketing Campaigns


Again, email marketing remains an effective marketing strategy when implemented correctly — it's also not going anywhere. Data shows that the global email marketing market was valued at $7.5 billion in 2020 but is projected to increase to $17.9 billion by 2027.

Across all industries, the average email open rate is 29.55%, which is lower than direct mail. However, this marketing channel remains a great way to reach consumers on mobile devices in real-time. Considering 91% of consumers check their email at least once daily on their smartphones, this can be a great way to send targeted messaging. For example, if you have breaking news or need to react quickly to market conditions, email marketing can be instantaneous, and that is its primary strength.

How do you choose between direct mail and email?

Both marketing channels have a place in your strategy and work well when they're able to work together. But if you're limited in budget or the ability to change your marketing workflow quickly, here are some questions to ask to help determine if your piece should be physical mail or an email.

  • Is your communication time-sensitive?
  • How much space do you need for your content?
  • Is your customer data accurate?
  • Which mailing list is more targeted? Or, which mailing list has the widest reach?
  • Do your customers prefer to interact with your brand online or offline?
  • Are there budgetary constraints?
  • Are there regulatory compliance requirements for this communication?

Thinking through these questions can help you choose the right method for the delivery of your message, as well as identify areas in your workflow that are a natural fit for adding direct mail.

Why you should implement both into your marketing strategy

Creating a winning omnichannel marketing strategy begins with your ability to optimize the advantages of each channel. Marketers are moving past the thinking that these channels are redundant as consumers engage with each channel differently. This understanding will allow you to shape your messaging based on the consumers using each channel and when.

The key is to have the right data and then use each channel to make the other one even more effective.

For example:

  • Do you have a list of email non-responders or unsubscribed users but have postal address data? Direct mail may bring them back. See how Lob helped ThirdLove reach users that unsubscribed from email communication.
  • Do you plan on mailing out a special offer or a quality personalized mailer? If so, you can send a sneak preview via email to build anticipation.
  • Are you trying to build your subscription list and have physical addresses? Send direct mail offering something of value to opt in. You can then grow your email list, benefiting your overall omnichannel strategy. This example is also a great way to drive consumers to your site.
  • Both options work in response to cart abandonment — launch a follow-up reminder.

The key is not to create the same message across each channel. You need to develop a unique strategy for direct mail and email. That is how you will achieve the highest ROI.

Ready to optimize your direct mail strategy? Lob can help

If your goal is to automate direct mail and address verification at scale, Lob will help you launch digitally integrated direct mail campaigns with ease. Whether you want to track production, access detailed deliverability data, or increase the speed and quality of your direct mail campaigns, Lob is the solution.

Schedule a demo to see how to track direct mail using Lob's Print & Mail and Address Verification APIs.

Continue Reading