In a very recent study titled Finding the Right Channel Combination: What Drives Channel Choice, ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting, surveyed over 2500 U.S. and 2200 Canadian households, specifically targeting consumers in the 18-34 year-old demographic. The study found that these consumers overwhelmingly prefered—by two to three times—to learn about marketing offers via postal mail and newspapers, rather than online sources such as social media sites.
Examples among merchandisers include 62 percent of this age group prefering personal care product offers coming in the mail while only 22 percent prefer online. Food products? 66 percent want the offline approach versus 23 percent for online offers. Over-the-counter medicine? 53 percent versus 21 percent.
Insurance and financial services sectors followed the same trend, with this age group preferring offline by 43 percent to 21 percent for the former and 44 percent to 19 percent for the latter.
The one exception was travel, where 18-34 year-old Americans actually preferred offline offers by a 42 percent to 34 percent margin.
"A key takeaway from this research is that marketers targeting coveted 18-34 year olds who are tempted to invest solely in social media could be missing a significant portion of their audience," said Warren Storey, vice president of ICOM.
"For example, a consumer goods company that relies heavily on a female audience, especially moms, could fall short of expectations if it uses only the social media channel," Storey said. "Companies need to employ a multichannel approach to gain maximum engagement with their customers."
Indeed, a widespread belief is that virtually everyone has a Facebook account, but it's not even close. A full 45 percent of U.S. men and 35 percent of Canadian men do not have any social media accounts, while 36 percent of U.S. women and 31 percent of Canadian women do not.
Even the edge online had over offline began to erode in 2010: trust. Thirty-six percent of U.S. respondents, across all ages, trust the mail more than email—up from 29 percent in 2008. And while only 19 percent said online information can't be trusted in 2008, that percentage increased to 25 percent in 2010.
Lastly, most folks believe they're getting hit more from the e-mail sector than direct mail. "The finding that only 25 percent of respondents perceive they're getting more postal mail compared to a year ago, while nearly three times that amount say they're getting more e-mail, is telling," Storey concluded, "and signals to marketers there is an opportunity to gain key consumers' attention and interest by using the direct mail channel."