Stat of the Month: Merchandise
Our Who's Mailing What! Archive, the world's greatest library of direct mail, lists 31 merchandise categories. A careful examination of this sector reveals some real trends in 2008, many of which were caused by economic downturn and postage increases. For the purpose of this article, I compared the first six months of this year to the entire calendar year for 2007, 2006 and 2005.
First, with so many categories, you'd rightly guess that this sector continues to dominate the mailstream despite economic woes. This is true, to an extent. In the first six months of 2008, merchandise mail made up a solid 4.5 percent of the mailstream; however, that's considerably down from 2006, when it was at 5.4 percent.
Perhaps in an effort to downsize mailings as well as recraft them for a more cash-conscious audience, repeat mail was down and self-mailer usage was up among merchandise mail. After repeat mail (controls) sat at 35.2 percent and 32.4 percent, respectively, in 2005 and 2006, it almost dropped in half, to 18.1 percent in 2007 and 18.4 percent so far this year. Self-mailers, often an indication of downsizing an effort, went above 60 percent of all merchandise efforts for the first time in our Archive's history, as this format usually is in the mid-50 percentile.
To further reduce cost, premium usage continues to get cut down. After a high in 2005 of 28.1 percent of merchandise mail, it slipped to 26.1 percent in 2006, 23.7 percent in 2007 and only 20.4 percent this year. Also, related to the cost issue is personalization, and after cresting at 30.4 percent in 2007 (after hovering around 24 percent for both 2005 and 2006), the usage of this technique sunk to 28.2 percent.
Until the economy starts to recover, expect to see these trends only continue in the near term.