Don’t Forget the Power of Direct Mail

With the prominence of the Internet and social media in our daily lives, many companies think direct mail’s importance has dwindled over the years. However, an increasing number of marketers are actually adding mail back into their marketing toolbox once again. According to the Data & Marketing Association, customer response rates have increased year-over-year by 43 percent, and prospect response rates have more than doubled, reporting a 190 percent increase. Even more surprising is where the growing interest comes from: Millennials (i.e., the “digital generation”). The United States Postal Service (USPS) found that 47 percent of Millennials actually check their physical mailbox each day, and spend nearly twice as much time sorting and reading their mail compared to any other age group. When it comes to the effectiveness of direct mail, USPS found Millennials to be the most receptive among all age groups.

Direct mail remains a relevant and powerful marketing channel for both B2B and B2C companies. However, the way it’s used has evolved over the years. Where there was once a clear offline/online divide between print and digital media, there’s now a seamless marriage. Often, these channels work better in tandem to help deliver an immersive one-two marketing punch. Using direct mail in combination with tactics like QR codes, scannable coupons and even augmented reality (AR) has given marketers a well-rounded approach to leveraging Millennials’ multichannel interests and, ultimately, has driven better response.

Consider incorporating direct mail with the following tactics to begin engaging your customers in new and powerful ways.

QR Codes

Quick Response (QR) codes are scannable barcodes often used in direct mail and print ads. Most modern smartphone cameras have the ability to scan QR codes built in, and are able to immediately read the codes without any extra steps. Take advantage of the convenience factor by incorporating QR codes into your mailers, postcards and newsletters to immediately deliver supplemental information to your customers and increase conversion rates.

An early example of a multichannel QR campaign was when Verizon Wireless was looking to promote the wide variety of apps available for Android devices. The company placed QR codes throughout an integrated campaign which included print ads, in-store displays, website ads and direct mail. Once the code was scanned, Android users were linked directly to a specific application on the Android Market (now Google Play) for download, while non-Android users were directed to a site that explained all the benefits of the DROID. The campaign was wildly successful, creating more than 150,000 unique scans. Verizon has successfully used QR codes as part of larger multichannel campaigns several times since.

Another example of a brand using QR codes to drive sales is Peapod’s “Stop & Shop” campaign. The online grocery retailer used a combination of print ads and billboards to create a virtual store where customers could scan QR codes and instantly order food items. Peapod reported that 90 percent of customers who scanned an item in their virtual store returned to shop and order again from the company.

Augmented Reality

AR is the blending of interactive digital elements into real-world environments. The most prominent use of AR technology was in the 2016 mobile game Pokémon GO. With the unprecedented success of the game, marketers worldwide began looking for ways to take their own campaigns into the digital dimension. Once again, AR helps create a seamless amalgamation of digital and print marketing. In terms of direct mail, it facilitates an interactive experience overlaying digital elements onto a mailer’s physical surface. This help bring further context, movement and connection to the marketing material.

Ikea, for example, recently launched its own AR app to work in tandem with its annual direct mail catalog. The AR app is designed to help consumers actually see how furniture will look in their home. Users can scan a QR code on selected pages in the printed Ikea catalog to see the pieces that caught their eye and superimpose accurate, true-to-scale renderings right there in their home.

Moving the Past Forward

Ubiquitous marketing is proven to be effective. Combine your direct mail marketing efforts with modern technology to create memorable multichannel campaigns that drive return on investment. In our current age of ever-evolving technology, it’s critical to refresh proven tactics instead of just casting them aside. You might be surprised by how relevant they can still be.

Meg Goodman is the managing director of relationship marketing agency Jacobs & Clevenger.

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