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Is Your Direct Mail Strategy Ready for 2021?

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Consumer behaviors and expectations changed significantly in 2020. During the e-commerce shift of COVID-19, six out of ten marketers still prefer direct mail over other offline channels and continue to include it in their direct marketing strategy. Many marketers trust direct mail as an evergreen investment due to its ability to connect and scale with audiences outside of the digital maze. After reflecting on what we have learned from our top performing campaigns in 2020 and reviewing future projections, here are four trends you should consider for direct mail success in 2021.

Leverage digital enhancements to drive direct mail engagement

Research shows the coronavirus prompted shift to digital consumerism is expected to prevail long after the pandemic has passed. Therefore, refining your online customer experience – and the offline campaigns that push them there – is especially pertinent for brand health in 2021. This year, marketers should prioritize how they can leverage digital technology within their direct mail strategy to enhance the print experience and drive meaningful engagement.

Statista reports an estimated 11 million U.S. households have scanned a QR code in 2020. The use of QR codes on mailers is not a new practice, but it has grown significantly in recent months. By simply scanning a code, your audience can research, review, and even convert right from their phone. QR codes can be used to lead mail recipients to videos, personalized landing pages and promotions, live chats, and more.

In 2020, consumer engagement with augmented reality (AR) went up 20%, and brands who have adopted this technology into their marketing strategy are experiencing a conversion rate increase of up to 90%. Since COVID-era consumers yearn for human interactions and physical experiences, it is not a surprise they are drawn to a solution that allows them to interact with your brand, product or service in real-time. You can add AR elements to a direct mail packages to create a 3D environment for product sampling, provide a 360-view of a product line, or even offer a vehicle test drive. This virtual, yet physical experience heightens consumer brand trust and purchase confidence, increasing your conversion rate and campaign success.

Lean into sensory experiences

Direct mail is unique to digital media because it stimulates a cascade of neurological responses that subconsciously appeal to human emotions and directly influence purchase behavior. Trigger all five senses with unanticipated design and engagement elements. Consider how you can encourage longer physical interactions with post-it notes, die-cuts, peel and reveals, zip strips, and magnets. Incorporate soft touch, metallic inks, or textures into your piece. As a best practice, test new creative packages against your traditional packages to identify what elements resonate most with your audience.

Connect online and offline personas

Consumers may be ready to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles, but the reality is that health guidelines will keep consumers at home well into 2021. Sure, your CRM is full of home addresses for leads and customers who have already converted in the past, but how will you mail to your anonymous web visitors, or scale your customer acquisition beyond your digital capabilities?

Partnering with a direct mail agency will allow you to connect online and offline personas in a variety of unexpected ways. Here are a few examples of what can be accomplished by activating your CRM and digital data to build a complete customer identity graph:

  • Turn anonymous web traffic into postal address leads with IP retargeting or pixel to postal
  • Turn anonymous foot traffic into postal address leads with geo-fencing
  • Turn phone numbers and email addresses into postal address leads with reverse-appends
  • Build hyper-targeted prospect models by pairing key attributes of your best customers with third-party data
  • Tap into you CRM for segmented winback, cross sell, upsell, and client appreciation mailings

Return to the basics

In the early months of 2020, many brands paused or repurposed their mid-year direct mail campaigns to respond to the immediate needs of their business and communities. Now that the initial­ — and even subsequent — shockwaves have settled into today’s ‘normal,’ the new year presents a great opportunity to restore consistency in your direct marketing campaign cadence, strategy, and performance. Although mailers tended to default to their control packages during 2020, continued success into 2021 will require brands to reestablish consistent testing of the four fundamentals of a polished direct mail program – list, offer, creative and digital integration.

Your audience may look different than it did at this time last year. Tap into these new buyer insights to enhance your prospect and customer models and test them against additional lists for maximum response. Use what you’ve learned about consumer purchasing behaviors and preferences during COVID-19 to create a creative package and offer that will not only resonate, but will also convert. Revisit your digital integration strategy to ensure you are hitting your audience on their most used channels (social, email, or even CTV) and delivering ads at the optimal cadence during your in-home window.

By leveraging digital enhancements, leaning into sensory experiences, connecting online and offline personas, and returning to the basics, you can position your brand’s direct mail program for success in 2021. Partner with a reputable direct mail agency to learn how you can elevate your existing program or test the channel today.