The Future of Direct Mail: Current and Emerging Trends
Staying abreast of the effectiveness of marketing channels, as well as evolving consumer trends and preferences is crucial for today’s direct mail providers. It can be challenging even under ideal circumstances to get a handle on how direct mail is perceived and performing in an omnichannel marketing environment. Now toss in a global pandemic that upends the marketing apple cart, and that task becomes herculean.
The marketing team at SG360° wanted to shed light on what marketers are doing to reach today’s consumers, which marketing tactics resonate with consumers, and how direct mail fits into it all.
In the Spring of 2021, we worked with outside research and marketing firms to survey:
- 400 B2C marketers that use direct mail, learning what channels are working for them, how they use them, and what their immediate and near-term plans contain
- 1,000 consumers, querying on the effectiveness of the marketing communications directed at them
The key discoveries that arose from the resulting data form the basis of our report, The Future of Direct Mail: An Opportunity for Unified Marketing Strategy. Here are a few highlights from the report.
Digital fatigue is real
Digital marketing tactics like video ads and social media resonate with consumers. But in reaction to the onset of the global pandemic, with tens of millions of consumers sitting around and engaging with their electronic devices at unprecedented rates, the volume of digital marketing content exploded. That oversaturation has come at a price.
Further, the data shows marketers are seeing this fatigue reflected in their results. The good news for marketers — according to our consumer audience — is direct mail’s proven ability to drive consumer engagement could be the antidote for this growing challenge.
Emerging technologies will launch a new age for direct mail
Marketers are already supporting their direct mail campaigns with a variety of digital marketing tools. They feel good about this approach, with 81% rating their use of multichannel tools to optimize direct mail campaigns:
41% of marketers surveyed are already using streaming audio and video ads to support their direct mail campaigns. Data on eight omnichannel tools marketers are pairing with direct mail, plus SG360°’s solutions for these, are in the full report.
For all the attention on new and existing digital marketing tools, direct mail remains at the top (second place — just barely out of first) of marketers’ preferred marketing channels for the next three years.
Relevancy is everything
Overall, consumers feel positive about direct mail.
But that doesn’t mean they engage with every piece of marketing mail they receive.
Of the 72% who feel positive about direct mail, their number one reason is that marketing mail usually includes a good deal on a product or service… i.e. it’s relevant to their needs.
The number one reason for dislike of marketing mail among the remaining 28%? “I don’t find marketing mail useful.”
We also asked consumers “What factors would make marketing mail more attractive to you?” They were presented a list of direct mail enhancements and told they could select as many options as they liked. Two answers — representing two sides of the same coin, really — tied for the most popular response.
The days of mailing the exact same generic offer to as large a group as possible are over.
To stand out in the mailbox marketers need to:
- Make offers tailored to the individual’s interests or needs
- Use imagery representative of expressed interests
- Send at the right time
It also helps to make your mailer visually interesting, and interactive.
Generational attitudes towards direct mail
One of the most intriguing revelations to come out of the report highlights the differences in direct mail engagement between younger generations and their counterparts aged 56+. Our survey also revealed that digital fatigue has taken a larger toll on post-Boomers. As a result, generations born in the digital age value touching and holding paper, leading to positive feelings about direct mail.
Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X also rank higher than Baby Boomers in actions taken as a result of receiving direct mail, including:
- Making a purchase
- Visiting a brand website
- Following a brand on social media
- Becoming more aware of a brand
- Inquiring about a product or service from a brand
As with every demographic surveyed, the younger generation’s attachment to direct mail is driven by relevancy.
The road ahead
Direct mail is more powerful than ever, with a very bright future. But marketers must listen to consumers and use direct mail as the unifying hub around which tomorrow’s omnichannel marketing campaigns are structured. We were personally happy see the data confirm that delivering hyper-targeted personalized direct marketing pieces that stand out in the mailbox packs more power than ever.
The insights we gleaned from this exercise have proven vital to our ongoing mission to help clients improve their marketing programs and grow conversions. As a result, we will repeat this survey, adjusting as needed for future industry developments, on a regular basis and look forward to sharing with you each new insight.
To read the full report and see the data behind SG360°’s discoveries in The Future of Direct Mail: An Opportunity for Unified Marketing Strategy, follow this link to download your free copy.
Michael McCormick is a graphic design/brand/marketing professional with decades of experience as a print designer/buyer. Currently he is a Marketing Specialist at SG360°.