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Direct Mail

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As of 2020, direct mail advertising has a total revenue of $9.5B. Industry revenue has declined by 8.2% in 2020 alone.
(Source: IBISWorld – Direct Mail Advertising, 2020)

Direct mail marketing touches most of us every day, at home and at work.  The volume of direct mail consumers receive is so high that many refer to it as "junk mail."  Direct mail hasn't disappeared, but has certainly declined in volume over the past 10 years. However, more marketers are adding mail to their array of integrated marketing tactics, because the engagement is growing as the clutter declines.

By definition, direct mail advertising is the process of sending offers or promotions by mail to current customers or others who may be prospects. Direct mail pieces may include a sales letter, brochure, order form and a prepaid envelope. Some companies advertise in a magazine-format piece or collection of inserts, combining with other companies for a more cost-effective effort.

82% of consumers are aware of direct mail packages and have read them in the past week.

  • 59% made a purchase as a result of reading direct mail.

(Source:  Valassis Awareness-to-Activation Study, 2020)

  • 75% of consumers have checked printed circulars to compare prices on various items. 
  • 82% of Millennials have used paper coupons they received in the mail.
    • 71% of Gen X 
    • 64% of Gen X
    • 54% of Baby Boomers

(Source: 2020 Valassis Consumer Intel Report)

Direct mail and COVID

The pandemic has allowed people to slow down and appreciate the things they didn't have time to before, including direct mail. According to a Valassis study, consumers have been looking forward to what they'll find in their mailbox.

  • 46% of consumers have become more interested in the deals, coupons or promotions since before the pandemic.
  • 37% of consumers are more excited to receive their mail each day, compared to how they felt prior to the pandemic.
  • 30% of consumers are reading the marketing/promotional pieces that arrive in their mailbox more since before the pandemic. 

(Source: Valassis, A Look at Consumer Behaviors in a COVID-19 World, 2020)

Direct Mail Advertising relies heavily on commercial markets with nearly 80% of all revenue coming from such market. The breakdown is:

  • 30% - Retail stores and catalogs
  • 24% - Finance, banking and insurance providers
  • 20% - Nonprofit organizations
  • 12% - Telecommunications and cable service providers
  • 8% - Other
  • 6% - Travel 

(Source: IBISWorld – Direct Mail Advertising, 2020)

Direct Mail Volume

  • As of 2020, the United States Postal Service delivered 129.2 billion units of traditional mail, marketing materials, periodicals and packgages throughout the country. 
    • 64.14 billion advertising mail pieces such as newsletters, catalogs, small marketing packages and other printed materials were delivered by the USPS. 

(Source: United States Postal Service 2020 Annual Report)

Direct Mail Revenue

  • In the fiscal year of 2020, USPS gained the majority of their revenue (28.5 billion) with shipping and packages services. Other segments include: 
    • First-class mail - 23.8 billion 
    • Marketing mail - 13.9 billion
    • International - 2.4 billion
    • Periodicals - 1 billion
    • Other - 3.5 billion

(Source: United States Postal Service 2020 Annual Report)

For Additional Information on Direct Mail Marketing:
Direct Marketing Association (DMA): http://thedma.org/
United States Postal Service (USPS): https://www.usps.com/business/promotions/direct-mail-brochure.pdf


A well-designed direct mail piece makes it easy for prospects to respond by including a response card of a postage-paid envelope for privacy
Response rates are easily measured – pieces can be coded so the business can determine where customers are coming from
Businesses can build databases based on responses to mailings, and maintain current database
Mailings can be targeted within specific geographic areas or by interests of recipients
Even though costs are high, scale and ROI remain strong when direct mail is delivered to a well targeted audience
Flexible – can be as simple as a card of flyer or may contain an actual free product sample
While overall response continues to increase, there was a slight (2%) decrease in overall mail delivered according to the USPS. This is most likely due to better targeting and larger budgets directed to online efforts.
(Source: 2016 USPS Household Diary Study)
Messaging can be personalized with the intended recipient's name – well-designed pieces can make the recipient feel that the piece was created expressly for them, engendering a feeling of trust
Can be cost effective, depending on design and production methods
There's no limit to the length of the message – can be a few lines on a postcard or a sophisticated package
Direct Mail is less disruptive in comparison to online ads

Cost of designing and producing an effective direct mail advertisement can be high
Timing of distribution is often critical to direct mail campaigns, but design, production and mailing times can be difficult to predict
The mailbox is typically a cluttered environment – the direct mail piece is delivered with many other pieces
Targeted mailings are only as good as the mailing list used – addresses can be out of date. Some consumers will ignore direct mail pieces because they feel that the print mail/catalogs seem like they serve other people's needs, not people like me
Targeted mailings are only as good as the mailing list used – addresses can be out of date. Some consumers will ignore direct mail pieces because they feel that the print mail/catalogs seem like they serve other people's needs, not people like me
(Source: Marketing Sherpa)
Privacy policies – "Do Not Mail" lists
A single mailing seldom produces results, so multiple mailings over time are required, accumulating costs
The great amount of direct mail that is tossed has environmental implications, and that fact alone may lead some consumers to object to this form of advertising

Radio is a perfect complementary medium. It can help direct mail. Radio as a standalone medium can generate a 29% lift in search
Radio is a perfect complementary medium. It can help direct mail. Radio as a standalone medium can generate a 29% lift in search.
(Source: RAB: Radio Drives Search, Sequent Partners, Media Monitors, In4mation Insights, 2017)
Consumers hear only one radio ad at a time, in contrast to the clutter of many pieces of mail delivered at once
Radio generates new customers by branding an advertiser. Consumers who are familiar with a brand may be more receptive to direct mail pieces they find in their mail. Radio ads run concurrently with a direct mail campaign can educate consumers about the business and direct them to check their mailboxes for more detail, ordering, etc. Radio can amplify a campaign's impact. In fact, radio can drive awareness lift of a direct mail campaign by 78%.
(Source: Nielsen study of 4 advertisers in B2B, Auto Aftermarket and Motorcycles)
Radio Ad Lab and other studies since then have established that listeners feel a personal connection to the radio stations they tune to, so hearing an ad on radio and finding a direct mail piece in the mailbox for the same business may alleviate the perception that they're receiving junk mail


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