Paper Matters Blog
Digital + Direct Mail: The Antidote to Email Saturation

In 1997, there were 10 email users worldwide. Today, there are 4 billion daily users and that number is expected to climb to 4.6 billion by 2025. As a marketer, it’s hard to hear statistics like that and not immediately think of the audience you could reach, but there can be too much of a good thing—especially when it comes to emails. How about this stat: in 2017, roughly 269 billion emails were sent and a New York Times study found that the average inbox had 199 unread emails. Last year, we sent 320 billion emails and are projected to reach 333 billion by the end of 2022. How many emails do you think are sitting in the average inbox now?

As nice as it would be, you’re also not the only marketer who’s aware of the impact that email can have and made the jump to digital marketing. So, let’s take a moment, not to think of what that email can do for your audience, but rather what email is doing to your audience and consider direct mail.

How relying solely on promotional email can go wrong

The recent emphasis of email in marketing campaigns has created an overwhelming sense of email fatigue among customers and, chances are, that massive audience of email users never saw your messaging. In fact, according to a recent study from Forrester, a leading global market research company, more than half of consumers in the US and Canada say they receive too many promotional emails. Forrester shares that “behavioral responses to email promotions improved even though attitudes toward the medium became more negative. Now, the pandemic has underscored both the resilience of email marketing and the need to use it with caution and empathy.”

It’s easy to operate under the assumption that if people don’t want your email, they’ll just delete it. But that’s not how many email providers deal with promotional email. The danger of email saturation is the risk that nothing gets through. Customers might have supplied a false address in an attempt to cut back on too many advertisements, which can cause your brand to be dinged for bounce backs. Email services also track how often a customer opens your messages and might stop sending to those that don’t click. If too many recipients ignore your emails, they might all start getting relegated to junk folders. Some services, like Gmail also make it even harder for your messages to reach recipients by proactively moving most advertising emails to a “promotions” folder where customers won’t even see them unless they specifically choose to click on that tab. Ultimately, if your marketing strategy relies heavily on email marketing, then you need to find solutions to these potential hurdles or you may want an alternate solution.

Direct mail to the rescue

So, if reaching your target audience through promotional email messages can be hit and miss, then what’s the solution? The answer is in your mailbox. No, the other one.

During the pandemic, marketers realized that direct mail could provide them with an advantage over email, simply because they could guarantee that their messages reached their audience. Consumers browsed postcards and catalogs became an anticipated treat. Whether it was a restaurant sending information on their delivery service or a local hardware store offering an introductory discount, direct mail was a way to inform, educate and even entertain customers. The Shamrock Companies, Inc, a full-service integrated marketing company, found in a recent survey that more than 70% of Gen X consumers feel mail is more personal than online digital communications and are more likely to read promotional mail than emails. Another report states that 73% of American consumers prefer being contacted by brands via direct mail because they can read mail at their own convenience. While people might previously have felt inundated with too much promotional “snail mail,” they are currently more apt to pay attention, likely given the relatively low volume of mail most consumers receive these days as everything (everything!) has often moved online, from bills to birthday cards. Mail a postcard or flyer and you can be assured it will land in your recipient’s mailbox.

The dream team of digital and direct

Of course, no savvy marketer would recommend doing away with digital as consumers spend more time than ever online. The key is in integration; direct mail campaigns can be even more effective when paired with other forms of communication. In fact, the average response rate for direct mail is between 2.7% and 4.4%, compared to email’s 0.6% response rate. USPS also reports that “nearly 90% of Millennials love receiving mail” and that “57% of Millennial respondents acted on direct mail offers.” The data is showing that the return on invest that we’re looking for is currently residing in a return to direct mail.

Just as consumers now effortlessly switch from eCommerce to in-store buying, so, too, should marketers consider the combined impact of a holistic campaign with direct mail that’s optimized for personalized offers to drive traffic to online landing pages and forms.

As marketers aim to reach customers, they are bound to find that successful marketing strategies will combine physical and digital worlds into a cohesive omnichannel experience.

People can be cyclical creatures. We’re watching the return of “vintage” clothing items like flared jeans and letterman jackets, vinyl records and polaroid cameras—you don’t be behind the trend and miss the direct mail renaissance.

Visit the Paper Matters Blog for more information on marketing trends and the power of paper.

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Vanecia Carr
Sr. Director Marketing Product & Management
Meredith Collins
Customer Marketing Manager
Paige Goff
Vice President of Sustainability
John Parke
Customer Marketing Manager
Nicholas Pearson
Marketing Specialist