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Lobcast Podcast: State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights & Island Cosmos

As marketers, we love knowing what our peers are doing in their marketing strategies, but we also love knowing how our target audiences feel about our strategies and tactics. Hear some of the key findings from our 2023 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report to uncover consumers’ perspectives on direct mail.

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On this episode of the Lobcast Podcast, we’re revealing some of the major findings from our 2023 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights. This edition of the report shares insights into how consumers feel about direct mail marketing. 

Key highlights include:

  • 64% of consumers say that direct mail has inspired them to take action including exploring websites and reviews or making a purchase
  • 65% say an offer or promotion caught their attention. Offers are key to get recipients to open and read direct mail
  • Personalization continues to be a key element for marketing success in direct mail. 68% of consumers are more likely to engage with a message/communication from brands that are personalized to them
  • 54% of consumers agree they are more likely to purchase from a brand that prioritizes sustainability

Meet the Speakers

Stephanie Donelson

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Kim Courvoisier

Senior Director of Content

STEPHANIE: Hello, and welcome to the Lobcast Podcast: Mixers and Marketing. I'm Stephanie Donelson, your hostess with the marketing mostess, and I'm the Senior Content Marketing Manager here at Lob. I'm thrilled to be joined by Kim Courvoisier, Senior Director of Content. Kim, do you mind introducing yourself to any new listeners we might have out there?

KIM: Sure. So as you said, I'm Kim Courvoisier, and I'm the Senior Director of Content Marketing here at Lob. And thank you so much for having me on yet another episode.

STEPHANIE: Well, thank you for joining us, and listeners, if you wanna make the complimentary cocktail that goes with this episode, which is an Island Cosmo, you're gonna need two ounces of coconut rum, a half ounce of citrus vodka, a half ounce of lime juice, and one ounce of pomegranate juice and a lemon wedge for garnish if you wish. You're going to fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the rum, vodka, and juices, shake and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with the lemon wedge, and enjoy, so cheers and welcome back to the show, Kim. Cheers!

KIM: I had to take my lemon wedge off because I couldn't actually drink with it in there. It kept flopping. But it is delicious.

STEPHANIE: You got a cute tiki glass. It makes up for it.

KIM: Exactly. I'm on theme.

STEPHANIE: Alright. So today, we're gonna be diving deep into data. Data about consumers, and how they feel about direct mail marketing. Kim, do you mind giving us some background on our 2023 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report?

KIM: Absolutely. So the State of Direct Mail and the State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights are two thought leadership reports we release every year. They're like sisters to each other. One is the marketer's point of view, and one is the consumer's point of view. So as you can tell from the title, this one is from the consumer standpoint. And we partner with Compere Media, and we interview over two thousand consumers aged eighteen plus. And these respondents were representative of age, gender, income, ethnicity, and region. And the report was produced based on the answers that were provided in a fifteen-minute survey that consisted of fifty questions. And these questions focused on preferences and satisfaction with direct mail.

STEPHANIE: Awesome, all right, so let's dive into the good stuff, the key findings. So kicking us off is this statistic that shows that sixty four percent of consumers say that direct mail has inspired them to take action. Including exploring websites and reviews, or making a purchase. To me, that kind of begs the question of where does direct mail fit in the marketing funnel? Is this more of a TOFU or top of funnel tactic to get people learning about your brand? Or is it more of a bottom funnel tactic to get people to convert? Kim, what's your opinion on where a direct mail fits in the customer journey?

KIM: Well, I, of course, think that direct mail fits into every part of your customer journey. It fits into every part of the funnel. It's not, you know, just like you said, specifically TOFU or BOFU. You know, it can be used everywhere from new customer acquisition all the way to retention and reactivation. And it's really that perfect wingman to your other, like, digital marketing efforts. And what we found in our stated direct mail report is that seventy two percent of marketers tell us that They're using direct mail in conjunction with email, and about another half are using it with paid social and SMS. And only seven percent use it as a standalone tactic. And our data also tells us that retention campaigns are getting the highest response rates and are the most popular. But that's very closely followed by customer acquisition campaigns. So you can see it really is applicable to every part of that customer journey.

STEPHANIE: Definitely. And I think the point is, you know, just driving that action in the first place. And to me, good CTA is kind of that key in inspiring people to take that action. So Kim, I know you've worked in email marketing for many years before, but do you think there are any applicable best practices from email marketing that also work for direct mail marketing when it comes to writing CTAs?

KIM: Absolutely. I love a good call to action, and your call to action is basically like, tell your end user what do you want them to do? You know, that's why it's called a call to action. What action do you want them to take and make it really simple. And, you know, after spending a decade in email marketing and, you know, now jumping ship and coming over to direct mail for last year, what's really interesting to me is in my career with email marketing and you know this as well, right, is we try to keep people very singularly focused on a single call to action. Don't distract them. Get them. Lead them down a path. Click that button whether it's, you know, buy now or sign up or whenever that is, you know, one very clear path. And the difference that I see is that in direct mail pieces, we save multiple calls to action. Right? So there could be many different ways you go down a path to take action, and it's about like giving them options. So that's a little bit different. And the way in which people take action is also very different. In email, it's much more straightforward. There's a call to action, and it's usually, is it a button or is it a text link, you know, and you click on that. Right? That's how you take action. But with direct mail pieces, you know, we have a lot of to give folks whether that's a QR code kind of like, which way am I pointing, like we have here on our slide that you could scan. There could be a URL or what we call a pURL, a personalized URL, there could be a phone number that you pick up and call And what's nice about those multiple ways that we're giving folks take action is that as the marketers or the direct mail practitioners, that also gives us a way to track it. And know and attribute, you know, what our campaign actually did. And, you know, I don't know, like me, I have a plethora of samples of direct mail pieces you know, on my desk at any given time, it's hard to choose the background, but there's QR codes on every one of these, and and we'll talk more about that as we go along.

STEPHANIE: So You know, another interesting stat that we found that I think is really interesting shows that offers are key to get recipients to open and read direct mail. In fact, sixty five percent say an offer or promotion caught their attention. So getting their attention can take some finagling with the messaging. Kim, what kind of A/B tests would you run on offers to improve conversions? Knowing that they're already working in keeping consumers engaged with a direct mail campaign?

KIM: Yeah. I love all the stats in this report because they make everything real. We're always kind of guessing what works, but offers clearly work and you and I've talked a lot about offers and a lot of our other podcasts that we've done. And also, just to tag it into this stat, there's a shareability that's often not talked about in direct mail and what we found in the report was over fifty percent of people actually share direct mail pieces that contain offers. So there's a really nice virality that comes along with it too. So thinking about in your offers, even testing things like one for you, one for a friend, right? There's a specific offer code for you, Stephanie, and then you give it to me and there's one that I can take and use. So that would really extend the reach and also the redemption or response rate of your pieces too. So you know, there's a concept in retail like friends and family discounts and things like that that could be extended. But as far as testing offers, know, one of the a really easy thing you can test is your offer copy. And, you know, you and I as content marketers, you have spent a lot of time crafting the words and the copy that goes into things. But if maybe you're not so strong on the writing side of the house, you know, you do have in house copywriters perhaps. Can also leverage AI. It's been a bunch of variations on copy or on headlines or on even CTA copy, and then do a multivariate test or do an A/B test and see what's working. I love that I use ABT all the time, always be testing. There's always something we can be learning from and then iterating as we go. Another point I would add is that images are really important, and there's some great stats in the report around the effectiveness of images of what images folks are responding to, And what we found is consumers really like an image of something they've already purchased -- Mhmm. -- on the direct mail piece kind of as a reminder, like, oh, Hey, Stephanie, we see you bought those white platform Chuck Taylor's. You might want to know that we now got them in hot pink because the Barbie movie is coming out. You know, something like that. I don't even know if that applies to you, but there's no and also images of, like, local events. Local is really big. And what things we're also seeing is that people are putting in maps from the consumer's home because you have their physical address. Right? Because you're sending them a mail piece, and then mapping them to the store that's closest in proximity to where they live. So I think that's great. And then I'll just wrap this section up by saying another thing you can test is, obviously, the redemption method, like we were talking about just prior to this when we were talking about CTAs. Testing having multiple ways to redeem, like the QR code or the phone number or the pURL, or just a singular way. To to redeem that. So those are all I mean, again, we could sit here and talk about testing all day, but that that'll get everybody started.

STEPHANIE: Well, I think we do the Best Direct Mail Campaigns collection where we feature different campaigns that we think are really fantastic examples of brands doing direct mail marketing right, And I feel like on most of them, it feels very rare to come across a campaign that only has one way for someone to redeem something, like it's always scan the QR code, visit the website, call us here. Come visit us here. Talk to a person here. Oh, we're gonna show up at your house tomorrow. Like, there's just so few ways that brands are--

KIM: I hope not, but maybe.

STEPHANIE: But brands are using for people to choose the path that is best for them, because I think we've even talked about it on podcast before like I'm much more likely to scan a QR code or visit the website, I'm not picking up the phone, I'm not gonna call someone, but I will go to your website, but my mom would be the exact opposite. She would rather pick up the phone and call and talk to someone, then call me and be like, How do I scan a QR code again?

KIM: No, I'm glad you brought that up there because there are a lot of stats in the report as well around those age demographics and the actions that they take after they get a mail piece. And like if they're more or less likely to scan a QR code and you're spot on. Right? So overall, about thirty percent of consumers will scan a QR code to take action. And the interesting thing is like over forty percent of marketers are using them on direct mail pieces, but that number actually jumps up from the thirty nine. It jumps up about ten percentage points, I believe, for those in the eighteen to thirty four old age bucket. So it's like the younger demographic is much more used to them. And to be honest, like four years ago, were any of us scanning QR codes? Probably not, but they came back, sent back from the dead during the pandemic because if you went to a restaurant or something like that, they all had them. And so they've become much more prevalent again. So yeah.

STEPHANIE: And I think that's, you know, technology catching up too because I remember when QR codes first came out, you had to have an app specifically to read them. So now that it's built directly into your camera, it's so much easier, and so leveraging the technology as it grows with you.

KIM: I totally forgot about having to have the app. That's very funny.

STEPHANIE: I mean that was probably like 2012 or something. I'm dating myself, but! Alright. So I'm gonna drop a word that I know you absolutely love. Phygital. We are in the phygital age. The 2023 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report shows that nearly six in ten people visit a brand website after receiving direct mail. Kim, do you have any best practices or tips marketers can implement to make sure that they track those website visits appropriately and attribute the results to that direct mail campaign?

KIM: I mean, absolutely. And thank you for dropping phygital. Would it be a podcast episode if we didn't say it? I think we should drink every time we say vigil. That would be fun. And obviously like data, attribution, all near and dear to all of our hearts as marketers, because we want to get credit for all the hard work we put into these campaigns, right? And so my marketing operations person is back here in my head right now saying, UTM parameters, UTM parameters Right? And that's a rigor that we absolutely employ here at lava and hybrid camping we create. So I think UTM parameters are probably the easiest, low friction, simplest way, right, to ensure that you're tagging everything and making sure that you can attribute it. And then again, like, I kind of sound like a broken record, but like QR codes and custom URLs or pearls and offer codes. Right? All of these things make it super easy to be able to track and tribute and and see what kind of campaign ROI you're getting, what kind of response rate, all of that. So Yep. It's easier than it was ever before.

STEPHANIE: Well, and especially with, again, technology growing with us it's so much easier now for like our CRMs to generate like coupon codes that are specific to each customer, because I know even when I enter my email to unlock an extra fifteen percent savings and they're gonna send me a coupon code. I know that is very specific to me, but it's so easy to just copy and paste it, it's not that much more difficult to get that on a piece of direct mail either and type in my six j h y, like whatever the code ends up being. And that way, the marketer on the back end, oh, okay, this direct mail worked for this person. Maybe we lessen her emails and we continue to send direct mail because we know that has inspired her to take action before.

KIM: Yeah. A hundred percent. And we actually offer the ability to generate a QR code and drop it right in when you're creating your mail piece within Lob, so that makes and again really easy. You don't have to go out and kinda figure out how to do a QR code. So yeah.

STEPHANIE: Alright. So let's move on and talk about personalization for a few minutes. Personalization continues to be a key element for marketing success, especially in direct mail. Sixty eight percent of consumers are more likely to engage with a message or communication from brands that are personalized to them. Kim, what kind of personalization variables come to mind for you when working on marketing campaigns.

KIM: I love this question again. I mean, every time I go to my mailbox and I get a mail piece and it just says resident, and I kind of just, like, You know, like, why? It's 2023, why is this happening? And and we've also come a long way since the, like, dear first name, nail merge. Right? Like, that's --


KIM: That's table stakes these days especially when consumers are, like, waving their hands in the air being, like, I that things be personalized, and also, by the way, I'm gonna have a much better chance of responding if it is personalized. And not just because you say, "Dear Kim." I expect that. But we can use so much of the information that we have from other sources to personalize our campaign. Whether that be an integration with your marketing automation platform or your CDP you know, you can bring that data in and be able to say, okay, they're past purchase history. Right? Like I know they're due for a refill on that leader sized shampoo they bought. Or, you know, you can look at their browsing history. When was the last time they logged in? I haven't seen you log in in the last six months time to come back. All those types of things, logins, geographic location, can be used to personalize things. And like I said, we're seeing a lot of those things happening based on physical proximity to location. So putting a map in making it really easy like you might be like, oh my gosh, I had no idea there was that new like easy breezy, frozen yogurt location, now only a mile from my house, like, I'm gonna go tomorrow night. And as we said, like those images are so important. So again, images of things based on that you've purchased before or, you know, related to local events, those can all be very easy things to personalize your campaigns using.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, I actually think I so wanna say it was Tuffley when he was on a podcast talking about just some best practices, I think he brought up like a politician having taken multiple photos of like him with a cat, him with a dog, and then they used data about the recipient to be like, oh, they're a dog person, then they put that photo on, and oh, they're a cat person, so they put that photo on. And it's like!

KIM: Yes. I love it. And, you know, the internet is very divided on the dog versus cat, so.

STEPHANIE: I wouldn't care which one I got.

KIM: Right?

STEPHANIE: But Kim, what are some best practices that marketers should follow to collect that personalization data? You know, I always think of progressive profiling, when looking at leads, But are there any other methods marketers should consider to get that data that is required for that personalization?

KIM: Yeah, like I was alluding to the last question. All your integrations, and as much as you can get your tech stack working together to give you the fuel for those personalized personalized variables and things. Because, again, how did they have the intel to know if somebody was a dog person or a cat person? So bringing all those systems together to work symbiotically can really be beneficial. And then so that's great if you have the data, even if it's siloed. And then, you know, you have to do a little work to get it together. So what happens if you have part of the data and are missing a really crucial element? As an example, I was in email marketing, as I said, for ten years, and so you can probably venture to guess I had a very robust email list of customers to send to. However, if I wanted to add direct mail to the mix would be really smart, right? It's a very effective touchpoint, but I don't have these peoples' physical address. Yeah. I can use audience targeting, and I can append that data. Right? I can buy a list, I can append the data that I do have about someone, and bring that information in. So now I have a lot more information to kind of round out and be able to send them a better campaign First of all, I could send them a direct mail campaign at all, but then having more information about them actually rounds it out. So you're not stuck. If you only have part of the equation, right? You can fill in the blanks.

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. Alright. So finally, let's talk about something that we know really well around here at Lob, sustainability. We know the impact of working in a paper-based industry. And we've taken the steps to reduce our environmental impact by sending one hundred percent carbon neutral mail. And it seems we're not the only ones that are prioritizing sustainability. Our report shows that fifty four percent of consumers agree they are more likely to purchase from a brand that prioritizes sustainability. Kim, does this stat surprise you in any way?

KIM: Not one bit. And there's some really information good information around the age demographics around this as well. But, you know, consumers wanna know that they're spending their hard earned dollars with brands that have right, when it comes to how they treat their employees, to how they treat the planet. And to be fair, like we've seen a lot of brands get canceled, for not doing well in either of these arenas. So it makes sense that we wanna make sure that when we are, like, doing good by both our, you know, our teams and by the planet and those things. We wanna share that and we want consumers to feel good about doing business with these our brands. And you can look for things on your direct mail pieces that would indicate sustainable practices are being used. I can try to hold this up. It might not show with my background but I'll hold it in front of myself.

STEPHANIE: Hold it in front of you.

KIM: There's a little indicia right there. And it's a little marker. Right? And this tells us that lab is using sustainability, and all of our mail pieces, as you said, are carbon neutral. All the way through from being the way it's produced all the way to the fact that when it ultimately gets disposed, and it's minimizing that environmental impact because it's responsibly sourced and using recycled paper. And, you know, all the paper stock is post-consumer waste, pulp fiber and, you know, allows us to reduce that carbon footprint, save water, power, and reduce the waste, as I said. And the great thing is our customers can see their sustainable impacts right within their Lob dashboard. And it shows them things like the number of trees that were planted because we plant the tree for every, you know, mailpiece sent. Right? The CO2 offset and the carbon footprint per male piece. So that's a really great way to also communicate that out. If you wanted to share that with your end customers, you know, you could put a sustainability slice on your website,


KIM: Etcetera to really make that front and forward. So I love that because I think anyone who's in this industry knows that we are using and natural resource, and we have a great responsibility that comes along with that.

STEPHANIE: No, definitely. Very Spider-Man of you.

KIM: Oh, my gosh.

STEPHANIE: All right, so I think my next question kind of ties together sustainability and personalization. But tapping into consumers preferences, because that's kind of what we're talking about, but doing it via a preference center. How can marketers use those insights to be more sustainable with their marketing campaigns while knowing that we all still have really big ROI goals to achieve.

KIM: Yeah. Again, we have talked about this on other podcasts. So people wanna hear all about our love of preference centers, please go back and look at some of our listen to our old episodes. But preference centers help subscribers to have that best experience. And a really interesting use case for direct mail that people might not have thought of before is around using it as part of the subscribe, like workflow or the unsubscribe process. So when you do have an email subscriber and they aren't enough too much, Because again, we know people are being just inundated with digital. Right? And that's why we hear so much about direct mail being such an effective piece because it's tangible. It's physical it doesn't arrive at you all day every day. It's less common. You know you go down there's this physical act of walking to your mailbox getting that that mail piece. Right? And, you know, carrying it back inside and taking credit for it and and taking, you know, reading it, taking action on it. So going back to the unsubscribe process, a really interesting use case is as part of that workflow when they go to your preference center offering the option to unsubscribe from the digital touch point of email, but subscribing and opting and or receiving direct mail. Right? Because you can actually say this will arrive less often, but you'll still receive all the things you love from us whether that's offers or updates, etcetera. And it again then allows you not to lose that ability to communicate with that subscriber. It just gives you the ability to subscribe with them in a way that feels less overwhelming perhaps for them. We have an amazing case study around a company called thredUP. And they use direct mail as part of their unsubscribe process and what's really thing to me is that when they did a test around this and sent out postcard to subscribers and unsubscribers, and you read all about the details of it in the case study, but the unsubscriber group had the highest response rate. And that's a pretty unexpected thing. So there's a lot of very interesting use cases or direct mail that that folks can explore.

Recommended readingIncreased ROI is always in fashion: How thredUP increased ROI 128%

STEPHANIE: Yeah, no, and I love your point kind of about, you know, we're inundated with digital messages. I mean, this isn't Harry Potter where letters are flying at us all the time, trying to get our attention. You're right, you do have to make that conscious effort to go to your mailbox, get your mail. You flip through it because you're like, oh, better not have a letter from the government or something in here. And then you see, oh, that coupon code for I can get my free coffee tomorrow, or oh, twenty percent off if I go check out that bar down the street. You have that opportunity to catch their attention in a different way, whereas instead of just going through my inbox and clearing it out.

KIM: For sure. For sure. I like the Harry Potter analogy that you imagine all your direct mail pieces flying through the air. I mean, I hear we're gonna fly in cars soon. In San Francisco, we have cars that are driverless that are driving around. It's really freaky, but--

STEPHANIE: As someone who used to work in self drive or, yeah, driverless cars in that kind of technology, we're not there yet. Trust me. They've still got many years to go.

KIM: Next time you go to San Francisco, we'll go for a ride one. You'll you'll tell me what you think.


KIM: It's terrifying.

STEPHANIE: Alright, but back on the topic of sustainability, Kim, is there anything else that marketers should consider in terms of sustainability when creating their marketing campaigns?

KIM: Yeah. Absolutely. And one we haven't touched on, right, is this ability for marketers to send less male. So not having a reliance on mass, you know, generic mailings, but being much more targeted. Because when you send fewer mail pieces that are more targeted, you can get a higher response rate and reduce wastage. And as a secondary aspect, not only are you segmenting and sending this specific cohort, but then you can also proactively use address verification before you ever mail anything out. That address verification is like an additional checkpoint right before you send to make sure that those addresses are deliverable and mailable. And that way, again, you're not gonna waste time, energy, effort, and budget to send something out that ultimately can't get delivered. So that's a really effective way to just make sure all your i's are dot and your t's are crossed before a mail piece ever gets sent.

STEPHANIE: No, I love that. Alright, Kim, do you have any final thoughts you want to share or is there anything we didn't get to today in terms of the 2023 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report?

KIM: Now I love these conversations. We always get to unpack fun things and I appreciate you having me on. I would just encourage everyone to go get the report, really look through it because it has some incredible insights over general topics around how consumers act on direct mail, how they share it like we've talked about. But then there's also a breakout of five different industries. So if you're in a specific industry, you can get insights there, as well as these age demographics. So there's three different age demographic buckets So if you're really targeting seniors perhaps there's a breakout for fifty five and older, and there's definitely nuance to the format of mail that they prefer, you know, how they take action on it, you know, if they wanna scan a QR code or not. So it's really interesting and it's been a great joy and just fun to work on it because I love data. So thanks for letting me geek out with you on it.

STEPHANIE: Alright. Well, to our listeners, thank you so much for joining us for mixers and marketing. If you do wanna dive deeper into the top of consumers preferences when it comes to direct mail marketing, please feel free to download your copy of the 2023 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report at lobdemo.co/consumers. That's lobdemo.co/consumers. As always, you can browse our library of episodes over at lodemo.co/lobcast. Otherwise, thanks for listening, and that's all folks.