Member Article

Why mail is rising up the marketing mix agenda

Cast your mind back to 2005. Facebook was only a year old, Twitter didn’t yet exist, for most of us email was something you only got on a PC and the fax machine was still a thing.

Direct mail was also universally hated. In what has been coined the Summer of Discontent, nearly every national newspaper carried a front-page exposé screaming about the scourge of junk mail. The DMA was forced on to the BBC Breakfast sofa to defend the industry and Dispatches attempted a total annihilation of any business that had anything to do with the channel – from brands that used it as a marketing tool to Royal Mail who were responsible for its delivery.

Fast forward 15 years and how times have changed. Direct mail is the darling of the pandemic. Whilst we were all shut away in our houses it provided welcome respite from the boredom of being at home 24/7 and was a balm for the digital barrage we experienced on our phones, devices and laptops.

It is now one of the most trusted forms of communication and is rarely referred to as junk. The industry has changed. Gone are the days of the scattergun doormat-bombing practices of yore – replaced instead with considered targeting resulting in relevant communications that genuinely inspire interest and engagement. Was GDPR the catalyst? Maybe. It certainly had an impact, but prior to its introduction best practice including a greater focus on data hygiene had already begun to take hold. The fundamental understanding that sending people stuff they didn’t want wasted money had begun to percolate through causing a sea change in the sector.

It’s not surprising, therefore, to find that new research carried out by Accenture and Marketreach reveals that mail is now the most engaging direct marketing channel. Eighty-eight per cent of people read all or most of their mail, compared to 76 per cent for emails, 58 per cent for texts and 44 per cent for app notifications.

The research found that whilst 42 per cent of respondents were encouraged to go paperless last year and nearly half were offered incentives to do so, only about 24 per cent did, with only half of respondents happy to go paperless.

The study also found that people are twice as likely to say that they understand complex information when it is presented to them in physical mail compared to digital formats and 57 per cent of respondents report that they are less likely to miss something if it comes to them in a physical format.

And the mail is not just a channel for older generations – which is a misconception that still prevails. The research proves that all age groups engage with mail, including Gen Z and Millennials who appreciate the personal touch that mail delivers. They engage with it more than email: 85 per cent of them open it; 65 per cent store it for future reference; 49 per cent put it somewhere to action later; and 40 per cent show it to others in their household.

The research also investigated when mail is particularly effective. The key times were found to be when:

  • the communication needs to be read thoroughly;  
  • the recipient needs to act on the information received;  
  • the information is important or complex;
  • it needs to be kept for reference
  • security or privacy are possible concerns.

Whilst digital has become way more entrenched in our lives – and more so since the onslaught of COVID, the research shows that customer preferences aren’t for a purely digital experience so a great customer experience should take this into account and mail should remain part of the marketing mix. And with many cost-efficient incentives now being offered by Royal Mail, now has never been a better time for brands to test the effectiveness of the channel.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by The Software Bureau .

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