Paper may not be a thing of the past after all. Direct mail still garners more response than email in the digital area, according to an email survey and transactional data analysis by the Direct Marketing Association preformed in April 2012.
Over 29 billion emails were analyzed – along with 2 billion online display impressions – tracking consumer habits after exposure to an online advertisement, including weeks after the actual click or impression. The result was a clear win for traditional direct mail, with direct mail garnering between 10 and 30 times the response rate of email. The average difference was a 4.4% response to direct mail versus a comparatively minuscule 0.12% response to email.
A study by Epsilon Targeting showed that most American consumers prefer direct mail for their product offers over email, and a multitude of reasons direct mail has kept up in popularity with customers have been found.
Ironically, the decline of paper mail has given direct mail an advantage in the area. The average household will usually receive anywhere from 3-12 pieces of mail a day. With a single consumer often receiving hundreds of email messages every day, direct mail has much less competition to fight with for the eyes of the receiver.
While direct paper mail’s major disadvantage to the seller is the cost involved in printing and distributing the literature, this exact quality of traditional direct mail can be seen as advantageous and more personal to the consumer receiving it. Paper mail shows that time and effort were put into creating the advertisement more clearly than email advertising does. Consumers tend to me more patient while reading paper mail, giving you more space to work with as well.
Direct mail advertising also allows for more creative freedom than the flat screen email is always read on. Samples of product, colorful booklets of information, included software, unique stationary, and unique packaging can all contribute to making direct mail stand out in a way email can’t.
One of the biggest barriers created by email advertising’s popularity and simplicity is the consumer’s increased ability to avoid it. Personal spam filters and filters provided by the email service carrier immediately filter out the majority of advertising in email before the consumer can even see who is sending them information. The same principle is applied for phishing filters and other blacklists. Since scans are usually run by searches for keywords along with checking for known offenders, a company does not need to do anything illegal or disruptive to wind up on any of these lists.
Consumers are also more wary of the advertising they see online than ever before. Internet fraud and identity theft are hot button issues this year, much more in the public eye than postal fraud. Email addresses can be owned by any person and can easily be forged, changed, deleted, or misidentified for malicious use. Customers wants to know that whoever they are submitting information to is safe, reliable, and professional, and receiving information from a physical address rather than a digital one carries a great deal of weight.
With advertising more accessible than ever, companies not only need a good product, but need to seem trustworthy and stand out from their competition. The Direct Marketing Association’s survey and study shows businesses that the best way to achieve all of these goals at once may be to return to the basics. While the postal system is becoming less effective for personal use, direct mail and traditional business communication can continue to take advantage of this service, potentially with more success than before the digital age began.