Direct Mail Is the Key to Omnichannel Success

Credit: Getty Images by Sarah Casillas

For years, people have questioned the survival of direct mail marketing. But that’s always been the wrong question, and it was never really borne out by the numbers.

Marketers who invest in direct mail every year have seen steadily increasing performance amid declining competition. What’s more, the direct mail channel has developed in ways that allow better alignment with your other marketing channels than ever before. If anything, the mail channel has opened up even more for savvy omnichannel brands looking to boost ROI and deliver better marketing experiences.

The Open Mailbox

Digital marketing is in a new place, especially after COVID-19. People have been forced to rely on digital channels for 90% of their communication — personal and commercial. Amidst that disruption, marketers are still just beginning to understand how to integrate those channels and make them personal.

By contrast, marketing mail volume has declined steadily over the past decade. That space is an opportunity for brands that want to improve performance over cheap digital campaigns. With online channels becoming ever more crowded and the ability to identify prospects across channels constantly improving, brands that make the mailbox part of their omnichannel strategy are reporting gains in response and ROI.

We’ve seen a 30% fall in direct mail competition as volume fell from 212 billion pieces in 2006 to less than 150 billion in 2019, according to USPS mail volume reports.

For marketers who use the direct mail channel, that’s not bad news at all. In fact, in light of lower competition and improving marketing mail techniques, direct mail performance is better than ever. Response rates are up to 9% for house lists (a 173% increase since 2006) and 5% for prospect lists (up 194% from 2006) according to the ANA/DMA Response Rate Report.

Those numbers tower over digital response rates, which are 1% or less for email, social media, and display ads.

That makes direct mail a high-impact channel that gets results, but at a price. After all, the reasons digital took off in the first place were its dirt-cheap prices and artificially high ROI. But even these selling points are down.

The ROI on paid search is only 23%, 16% for online display ads, and 30% for social media marketing. The only digital channel that maintains a high ROI is email at 123%. That ROI comes with elbowing your way through an inbox that likely gets more than 600 emails a week. How do you stand out there? Email has a place, but it’s not your breakthrough touchpoint.

This is exactly why brands are rediscovering the lost art of direct mail. The average postal mailbox gets fewer than 17 pieces of mail a week, and the channel is doing fine with a 29% ROI. Yes, you invest more to send direct mail, but with an ROI above most digital advertising channels, that just means you get more revenue in return.

Direct Mail Spurs a 63% Boost in Omnichannel Performance

The mailbox is wide open and a great way to make the kind of impression digital just doesn’t allow. And now brands are finding that adding personalized direct mail to their omnichannel marketing campaigns improves the results across all channels.

A recent survey of about 600 respondents doing omnichannel marketing found that only about half of them (51%) had “good” or “very good ROI” on omnichannel campaigns without a direct mail component. With direct mail as part of the omnichannel mix, that rate jumps up to 83%. That’s a 63% increase in omnichannel campaign performance, and it’s just the start.

In the same survey, 52% of respondents who added plain, non-optimized direct mail to their omnichannel marketing saw a “moderate” to “major” improvement in performance. When they added personalization to the direct mail component, 89% reported moderate to major performance improvement.

So, you have a channel that, when done correctly with data and personalization, offers nearly a 90% chance to get good to great results from your omnichannel marketing campaign. Why wouldn’t you add that to your campaign mix?

Direct Mail Is Personal, Real, and Compelling

We started by talking about the wrong question everyone was asking. This is the question you should be asking: How can you craft a marketing experience that has the maximum impact on your target audience?

No one channel is more important than the success of your whole campaign; it’s the balance that drives engagement and, ultimately, ROI.

With today’s data and targeting capabilities, your brand can pinpoint its ideal target audience more accurately than ever before. The digital tools at your disposal allow you to surround them with the right kind of content at every touchpoint.

But every other brand can do those things, too. That’s why it’s so important to break through the wall of digital advertising everyone is seeing to make a personal connection.

In a balanced omnichannel campaign, direct mail with personalization is a breakthrough touchpoint. It’s the piece that brings your brand home to each recipient and raises the performance of your entire campaign across every channel.

That’s how you build campaigns to have maximum impact on your target audience and your bottom line.

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