Direct Mail Response Rates ‘Dipping’ says DMA Report

New York, NY, June 14, 2012—The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) today released the “2012 Response Rate Report,” which provides key cost and performance benchmarks to help marketers gauge the relative efficiency of their own campaigns.

Initially created in 2003 to detail the typical response rate for direct marketing campaigns in specific professions and channels, this edition marks the eighth in the series. This year, for the first time, DMA has augmented its survey data with transactional data from Epsilon and Bizo, adding aggregated data on more than 29 billion emails, and more than two billion online display ads, respectively.

“With transactional data, we have sample sizes in the millions, even billions of impressions and emails,” said Yory Wurmser, DMA’s director of marketing and media insights. “Transactional data has an edge on survey data for two reasons: First, sample sizes are big enough that it’s possible to break the data down into more industries, with more significant findings. Second, transactional data tends to be more accurate, since it takes the human element out of the assessment and shows exactly what happened.”

In another first for this edition, DMA compares direct mail response rates over time. The time series reveals that direct mail response rates have dropped nearly 25 percent over the past nine years. Even so, mail campaigns draw a better overall response than digital channels. For instance, response rates for direct mail to an existing customer average 3.40 percent, compared with 0.12 percent for email, which is roughly a 30-fold difference. Costs are also higher, which translates to roughly equivalent costs-per-sale/lead for direct mail, email, and paid search.

“Even though direct mail is less effective in driving response than it was a decade ago, it still is among the best media for generating overall response,” says Wurmser. “This points to its likely continued role as an important medium in the marketing mix, even as the cost effectiveness of digital channels suggests that they will continue to gain budget share.”

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  • Brian Schultz

    What are the response rates so far for this year compared to the response rates this this last year is the real question. Was there a big drop? Was it around the same response numbers. Having gone through a horrible economic landscape the past 8 years it would make sense that response rates were low simply because there was no money to be spent.

    I would be curious to see if there was a big dip in the past 12 months.