Innovations in Direct Mail
In today’s rapidly transforming media landscape, brands and consumers are communicating in more diverse ways than ever before. From social media forums to e-commerce channels, brands and consumers have a wide variety of platforms through which they can communicate and share experiences. As a result, new ways to create and enhance consumer relationships continue to evolve, as does our ability to collect and analyze data based on consumer behaviors.
While communication platforms have changed, people have not. We are still physical creatures that thrive on human contact and stimulation. Giving, receiving and handling tangible objects remain part of the human experience. In the never-ending stream of communications, sending a direct sensory experience — a piece of mail — can mark a pivotal moment in the customer journey.
Best Kept Secret?
You’ve probably heard people claim that direct mail is “dead,” but that’s not entirely true. Yes, overall mail volume has declined over the last 10 years — approximately 2% according to the USPS — but direct mail as a percentage of all mail has increased.
Additionally, the CMO Council reports that 79% of consumers act on direct mail immediately, while only 45% of all consumers act on email immediately. Close to half (48%) of all consumers hold onto direct mail marketing materials for future reference. Additionally, 39% of customers try a new business because of direct mail and 44% of customers visit a brand’s website after receiving direct mail.
And don’t buy into the misconception that print only works for an older market. According to the research, all age groups are interested in receiving and responding to mail. In a recent MarketingSherpa Consumer Purchase Preference Survey, direct mail remains the preferred channel for receiving brand promotions and updates by Baby Boomers and Millennials. For ages 18-21, response rates doubled in 2016 according to the USPS Household Diary Study.
These increases in response rates are most likely due to better targeting.
Reports from Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends have found that respondents who exclusively received personalized print materials experienced a response rate of around 6% and a conversion rate of over 16%. More generic materials generate an average 2% response rate.
There are so many options now to enhance data or take advantage of existing data customers already have. By profiling and segmenting the data — coupled with the power of digital print technology — PSPs can create variable data mailers with targeted images, copy and design.
Additionally, USPS programs such as Every Door Direct Mail have helped business mailers make sure their marketing messages are reaching the right customers in a select neighborhood, city or ZIP Code. This online service uses demographic data to better target prospective customers. Since 2011, there have been more than 3.4 million transactions and 6 billion mailpieces included in this service.
The Human Element
But targeting is only one piece of the puzzle. We have to take into account the human element, as well. In a study conducted by UK Royal Mail, “The Private Life of Mail,” the increased use of direct mail and its effectiveness is because, “giving, receiving and handling tangible objects remain deep and intuitive parts of the human experience.”
Multisensory stimulation seems to alter the way the brain processes messages — often making processing quicker, which is key for driving emotional response to messages or brands. Physical contact results in the Endowment effect – a sense of ownership over an item, which translates into an individual valuing it more highly. In psychological experiments, people value something they can see and touch 24% more highly than something they can only see. If marketers send an offer by mail, recipients will perceive it as worth more than the same offer on screen.
Additionally, in the same UK Royal Mail study, 38% of respondents said that the physical properties of mail influence how they feel about the sender. The production values of a mail piece can reinforce brand values in a deep and intuitive way.
This leads to what researches call “embodied cognition.” The more senses we can appeal to the stronger the message is encoded in the individual which for marketers equals increased response rates. Innovative marketers are testing sensory devices by integrating smell, touch, taste, sound and even video into their mailers.
In 2015, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) worked with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to conduct a neuromarketing study (Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response) focusing on the differing response to physical and digital media in the consumer buying process, including intent to purchase. The results of the study showed that participants processed digital ad content quicker. However, participants spent more time with physical ads. When viewing physical ads, participants had a stronger emotional response and remembered them better. Physical ads, though slower to get one’s attention at first exposure, leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision. Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.
These findings have practical implications for marketers. If short on time, the digital format captures attention quicker. However, for longer lasting impact and easy recollection, a physical mailpiece is the superior option that could lead to a purchase. This suggests a complementary effect between the two formats that could provide a powerful way for marketers to optimize their media mix, especially as companies look to reach digitally connected customers.
Mail has always delivered a great return on investment (ROI) — and it still does. It is effective across a wide range of metrics — return on investment, efficient growth of market share and real cost of acquisition for new customers. It is especially important as part of omni-channel campaigns. By linking mail with other media — such as television or online ads —campaign ROI can be increased, leading to higher engagement — and purchases — by consumers.
For the direct mail market, high-speed production inkjet technology allows marketing services providers to offer their customers full color personalization at an affordable price. Toner presses with similar quality can’t meet the cost or time-to-market constraints of major mailers. Web presses offer volume and quality but can’t meet personalization or time to market demands. Inkjet technologies fill the gap and provides a “best of both worlds” scenario.
To view more resources developed for production inkjet printing including case studies and white papers, visit Canon Solutions America's Inkjet Resource Center.