Customer Communication

UK: Will Direct Mail Make a Comeback?

UK Direct Mail comebackAs digital ad spending continues to rise, marketers may be forgiven for thinking that good old-fashioned direct mail is swiftly going the way of the dinosaurs. And indeed, recent figures from the United Kingdom bear out this trend: while the Advertising Association’s Expenditure Report from 2016 reveals that UK ad spend grew to £5.8bn, a 3.9 percent increase over 2015, spending on direct mail advertisements declined 10.4 percent to £1.7 billion. Will direct mail continue to decline in favor of mobile and web ad spend? Perhaps not: contrary to conventional wisdom, a new study reveals that UK consumers are more likely to engage with direct mail than marketers may think. Is UK direct mail making a comeback?

By Rick Ferguson

The longitudinal study by Royal Mail MarketReach and TNS tracks consumer behavior and attitudes about traditional mail over a ten-year period. Money quote on the findings, from the research report:

“The findings strongly indicate that mail can work alongside traditional broadcast channels and digital media to deliver stronger business outcomes. As we examined the data, we found that mail scores very highly in the key components of trust – better yet, the medium itself can impact positively on the perceived trustworthiness of the communication itself. In fact, positive scores for mail are increasing.”

Key stats from the report:

  • 70 percent of respondents said that mail makes them feel more valued (up from 57% in 2013).
  • 70 percent said that mail gives those who receive it a better impression of the organization (up from 55% in 2013).
  • 87 percent of people consider mail “believable,” versus 48 percent who consider email believable. Mail is also seen as more likely to grab the attention of the recipient and be perceived as more secure and important.
  • The proportion of respondents claiming to have bought something as a result of receiving mail in the past 12 months has risen from 26.7 percent to 36.1 percent.

As the report is funded by the Royal Mail’s research arm, we may not be surprised that it finds marketing value in the good old-fashioned post. That said, the findings aren’t necessarily surprising; given the sheer volume of digital advertising noise, with our various devices constantly squawking with brand messages, we tend to tune out all but the lucky few, and dismiss the rest as spam. The increasing trustworthiness of direct mail, in contrast, may be analogous to the current renaissance of vinyl record albums: as opposed to their digital counterparts, direct mail pieces are tangible pieces of brand connection with which consumers can spend as much time as they wish.

The key to success: get those direct mails pieces into the hands of those customers who value them and respond to them, and personalize those pieces with information and offers that resonate with their lives. By leveraging direct mail to build individual relationships with your best customers, you can ensure that your direct mail spend works as hard as your digital spend.

Rick Ferguson is Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).

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