Direct Mail in a Digital World: Revive the Experience

Digital media has vastly transformed the landscape of advertising. Investment continues to soar in ad buying and attribution technologies, with a shift in focus to areas like digital video and display, mobile, social and native advertising. Our rationalization for this change, as well as the increasing interests from marketers in digital and technological innovation, often falls on today’s modern consumer. The reality is that he or she not only desires, but demands continuously heightened levels of brand interactions that require today’s marketer to adopt much more sophisticated (and expensive) strategies. Personalized, tailored, authentic, and often times in the moment experiences are what the consumer craves. So the question is, where do traditional offline marketing methods stand in this digital era we find ourselves in?

“Direct mail is a dying species.” It’s likely something you’ve heard or read as of late. Has direct mail volume seen a decrease over the last ten years? Yes, there is less mail being circulated today. But the reality is this: direct mail is still around, it has not been replaced by digital, and it continues to be a key performance driver for many successful brands. What those of us in offline marketing have discerned, however, is that just as digital innovates daily, we too must push ourselves for constant innovation – that means creating more meaningful relationships with consumers, complementing the other marketing channels, embracing technology and being more data-driven than ever before.

The Direct Mail Experience

If we go back to the customer experience for a moment, it’s actually not quite so difficult to make a case for direct mail.

Consider the number of emails you receive a day – which, according to a study by the Radicati Group – falls at around 87. The emails we choose to open (aside from those related to our professional and personal lives) are often those that elicit some type of emotional response – somehow, the email appeals to you, and it’s calling out something that interests you in that moment. But 87 is a large number, and with the particular ease of clicking or swiping for an instant ‘delete’, it’s pretty challenging to make an impact.

Now, consider the interaction you have with the mail – the act of physically sifting through, touching, reading and examining content. It ultimately makes for a more tangible interaction between brand and consumer, and one that actually happens more “immediately” than in other channels. According to a study done by Epsilon, 77% of people surveyed reported sorting through their mail immediately when they got it from their mailbox. While someone can simply delete or ignore a bad email, an effective piece of direct mail can make an instant impact, and hold great potential to guide a customer’s journey towards future engagement. What else draws people to direct mail marketing? Compelling visuals. Modern and well-designed direct mail pieces have the ability to demand attention from viewers and stand out in their otherwise chaotic and marketing-overloaded worlds. With the creative and design capabilities we have today, there’s ample opportunity to break through the noise.

All this being said, our customers have shown us that a meaningful, potentially revenue-generating experience only comes with a deep level of personalization. That emotional response I mentioned earlier? It’s the result of data mining, custom modeling and an intricate knowledge of a person’s psychographic and behavioral attributes. For a true one-to-one interaction to be possible, data is a key piece of the puzzle.

In the next part of this mini-series, I’ll explore how the impact of customized, highly customer-centric direct mail strategy can become the key to driving performance.

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