Studies Show Direct Mail Healthier than Expected
It's that time of year when us lucky editors get a press copy of the mammoth DMA Statistical Fact Book. The 2010 version ($470 listed price; $260 for DMA members) contains 196 pages of data painstakingly put together by Anna Chernis, project manager for DMA. Numerous studies are compiled about direct marketing in general and the many channels now employed by marketers, including a substantial chapter devoted to direct mail.
Frankly, after the last big study about direct mail that I carefully perused (Winterberry's "A Channel in Transformation: Vertical Market Trends in Direct Mail 2009"), I didn't expect to be cheered at all by direct mail stats. Instead, the reverse occurred: I was encouraged. I also had these thoughts as I read through the findings, many of which came from Unisfair, 2009 and USPS Household Diary Study from 2009.
Who were the other 4?
"Six in 10 marketers said acquiring new customers would be critical in 2010." Seems to be that all marketers should always be trying to acquire new customers, no? Clearly, "critical" is the key term here, as some marketers apparently view customer acquisition as less critical compared to other priorities such as customer retention and engagement (48 percent said this was the critical priority).
It's a coming.
75 percent of marketers plan to increase use of social media in their marketing activities. Fewer and fewer marketers are ignoring this cheap but important type of marketing work.
The average consumer receives 24.7 pieces of mail per week. That's the fourth straight year that shows a drop in volume, a 5.7 percent drop compared to the heydays of 2005 and 2006 (which registered 26.2 pieces of mail per week). Of course, this also means there's less of a crowd to stand out in.
Sign of the times.
People have less time; people don't read like they used to; people like color. Thus, among all mail formats, postcards are most likely to be read. In fact, 47.9 percent of household prospects "read" postcards in 2008, up from 41.5 percent in 2007.
An even better sign of the times?
As measured by the same study above, ALL formats are getting read more, strangely, perhaps in part because mailboxes are less crowded and people prefer the less frantic pace of mail-reading over the technological assault through email, mobile and social media. Letter-size envelopes went up a few points, with 33.4 percent of household prospects reading them; oversize envelopes snagged 39.2 percent, a 10 percent rise.
We're still a majority.
Direct mail represents 52 percent of total mail volume in U.S., the third straight year of being over half of all efforts in the mail. Before 2007, when people used to send letters to each other (I know, dinosaur days), direct mail never accounted for more than 50 percent of total mail volume.
More people actually respond when a courtesy-reply envelope rather than a business-reply envelope is provided. Split into credit card, department store, mail order and publisher merchants, courtesy-reply envelopes got far better "intended response rates." In 2008, department stores got a 15.3 percent response rate for BREs but a stunning 35.3 percent for CREs! In the same year, publishers registered 22.4 percent response rate for CREs compared to a 11.8 percent for BREs.
Email marketers, jealous much? (Kidding.)
Get ready to have jaw hit floor: 79 percent of households either read or scan advertising mail sent to their household. Within that 79 percent, 49 percent are the readers and 30 percent the scanners. Not too shabby.
What mail gets the most respect from the American households?
The federal government, of course. The same study as above revealed that 62.6 percent of household prospects "read immediately" mail from the federal government. The loser? Financial services, of which only 32.7 percent of household prospects read immediately. Merchants? Over half, at 51.1 percent. Social, charitable or political clock in at 42.8 percent. Services garnered 37.6 percent.
More importantly, who gets the response??
Here non-federal government garners the best percentage, as 19 percent of household prospects "will respond" to such mail. Merchants rank second at a healthy 15.6 percent. Social, charitable or political is about half that, at 8.8 percent. Services got 5.6 percent. Financial services was again at the bottom, at 3.7 percent.