Is direct mail marketing an industry with one foot in the grave? You would think with all of the emphasis nowadays put on digital advertising that direct mail would have taken its final bow and let digital have its day. But it simply won't give up.
More Than Meets the Eye
The truth is direct mail has a place in American consumer culture that's not so easy to replace. Whether it's a catalog, postcard or letter, companies keep allocating a portion of their marketing budget to this medium and there is data that supports this move. In the business and consumer markets, the compound annual growth rate for sales driven by direct mail catalogs is predicted to increase by 3.1 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to the Direct Marketing Association's "2013 Statistical Fact Book." For all other kinds of direct mail, the CARG is estimated at 2.7 percent during the same time frame.
While marketers have the greatest response rate over the telephone, direct mail yielded a 3.4 percent rate in 2012 -- more than email and paid search. What's more, 65 percent of U.S. online consumers made a purchase because of marketing messages they received through letters, catalogs and postcards in 2012 (Tweet This Stat!). That's just 1 percent lower than email, which is the leading channel for driving online sales, according to the Fact Book.
Understand How Your Customers Behave
I know what you're thinking: "How can direct mail drive online sales?" Well, the truth is marketing and sales reps have gotten smarter about conflating digital and direct mail channels. You've likely seen, if not used, quick response, or QR, codes. In effect, they give recipients the capability of scanning the image with their smartphones or tablets, which then automatically links to a particular landing page or the brand's homepage. While these had a massive appeal when they were first developed, they've since become fairly mainstream and have lost some of their curiosity. Still, they tend to catch your eye because of their odd shapes and designs, but retailers and technology firms are looking to the future of mobile and Web-driven commerce.
Permanently Shopping: The Future of Retail?
MasterCard recently published a press release that illuminates the ShopThis! Project, which banks on the popularity of print publications, like Wired and Vogue, to give consumers one more resource for shopping. With this campaign, readers use their iOS tablets to tap the ad that best draws their attention and it automatically adds the product to their digital shopping cart on their personal mobile device. The brand behind this move is the publisher Conde Nast, and they're hoping the streamlined checkout process will provide consumers with convenience and incentive to shop while reading their favorite magazines.
The technology piggy-backs off the mobile app developed by the Midwest and Northeast online grocer Peapod, The New York Times reported. The company, which provides home delivery of supermarket items, created a service that allows customers to use their mobile devices to scan the bar-codes of items they might run out of. In this way, consumers won't have to remember the items they'll need, and, again, makes use of a digital shopping cart to process orders.
So, to answer the question posed at the beginning of the article: No, direct mail marketing isn't dying. It's evolving. Much like any industry, people can't expect to do the same thing over and over without getting passed up by transformations in technology. As your business considers their future direct mail marketing campaigns, you should keep in mind the role digital technology has brought to bear on the way consumers interact with postcards, catalogs and any other kind of mail piece. It's important to reach out to consumers with a tangible channel like direct mail, but you must also bridge the gap with digital technology by giving shoppers a chance to use their mobile devices to make purchases.