You open your mailbox, and there it is—a standout direct mail piece from your favorite store. You immediately open the envelope, excited to see if there’s a special offer inside. That’s the power of mail. “Physical mail remains a powerful communications channel in today’s digital age,” exclaims Gary Reblin, Vice President of Product Innovation for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). “It’s an extremely strong and intelligent way to reach people.” In fact, a USPS Household Diary Study determined that direct mail response rates for ages 18 to 21 doubled in 2016, dispelling the misconception that print only works for older markets. As direct mail continues to evolve as the centerpiece of an omni-channel marketing strategy, it’s becoming more powerful than ever.
Omni-channel campaigns use multiple touch points along the consumer journey to communicate pertinent messages. With its targeted focus, tactile nature and immediate impact, direct mail is a go-to for reinforcing digital messaging. It can help make the push for a consumer to act on an offer or coupon, adding significant value to a campaign.
According to a 2017 Direct Marketing Association study, direct mail response rates surged in the last five years to 5.1 percent from 3.4 percent in 2012. “We’re seeing innovations in mail, in particular direct mail, that have elevated customer engagement and response rates,” says Reblin. From advancements in audience targeting and tracking, to innovations in mail itself, marketers are discovering ways that direct mail can more deeply engage people and make the mail moment even more crucial within an omni- channel strategy.
#1 Direct Mail Can Target Audiences More Effectively
Today, direct mail can target consumers in increasingly innovative ways. Variable data is used to create highly customized direct mail based on individual buying patterns, such as a postcard informing someone they left a sweater in an online shopping cart. These ultra-personal mail pieces outperform standard direct mail. “Personalization leads to better response and conversion rates,” Reblin says. “Consumers recognize that you’re talking directly to them, not to the masses, and they open the mail piece.” In fact, over 84% of consumers are more likely to open mail if it’s personalized and a customized offer can be the deciding factor that ultimately drives a person to purchase.3
The USPS Informed Delivery® program also targets consumers in a groundbreaking way, by offering them digital previews of their paper mail. It increases the time that people interact with mail, and it increases the number of eyes on mail, because multiple household members use the service. Not only does more mail reach intended audiences, Reblin explains, but marketers can use Informed Delivery to make mail work harder, because they can incorporate branding, coupon codes or links into their digital preview, so customers can instantly interact with their brand. Informed Delivery has been criticized for lessening the mail moment, but Reblin affirms, “It’s incredibly popular, with over 12 million users and a 72.5% open rate, as compared to email’s open rate of just over 20%.”
#2 Direct Mail is More High-Impact Than Ever
Innovations in mail itself offer marketers even more means to amplify mail’s impact. Attention-getting techniques have always been effective, and they’re becoming more refined. Advances in foil stamping, for example, have made it possible to create increasingly intricate designs and patterns. With technology such as augmented reality, consumers can view a digitally enhanced version of direct mail through their smartphones, such as Jaguar’s 2015 direct mail piece allowing people to zoom in and closely examine the car. Another technology, near field communication (NFC) embeds mail with a microchip that activates a digital experience on a smartphone without requiring an app or browser. A real estate prospect could, for example, become a serious lead by waving their phone at a brochure for custom homes.
#3 Direct Mail Can Efficiently Track Results
A variety of innovative tools allow marketers to track the response rate of mail within an omni-channel campaign. With any method, marketers can use varying codes, numbers or URLs to test offers and response rates. Coupon Codes track marketing efforts and determine which mail pieces are generating traffic or leading to conversions. Trackable URLs use campaign-specific URLs, revealing how many people a campaign drives to a website, and personalized URLs (PURLs) take this a step further with customized landing pages that show exactly who is responding and track their activity on your site. Lastly, trackable phone numbers show which direct mail piece led to a phone inquiry, using unique numbers assigned to specific campaigns.
From innovations in the ways audiences are targeted and tracked to direct mail that deeply engages the consumer, it’s the perfect time to explore the power of mail in the omni-channel space. “Mail is more powerful than ever before,” Reblin proclaims. “And this is just the beginning.”
To experience mail-enhancing technologies firsthand, explore the USPS Irresistible Mail promotion.