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Direct Mail Magic: How to maximize returns on your marketing investment

Direct mail Magic

Today’s email inboxes are swamped with messages, and online advertisements often get lost--or ignored--in the noise. At the same time, printed direct mail is increasingly a highly effective marketing tool, offering a unique blend of tactile experience, digital print personalization, and brand engagement.

When coupled with digital marketing strategies, printed direct mail campaigns can yield significant returns on investment (ROI), driving customer retention, enhancing message perception, and fostering meaningful interactions with target audiences.

Printed direct mail possesses a tangible quality that digital channels lack, providing recipients with a multisensory experience that leaves a lasting impression. According to research conducted by Two Sides North America in 2023, consumers’ preference for paper has increased since 2021 across every category of media included in the survey, from books and magazines to newspapers and product catalogs. An earlier survey found that participants preferred and trusted print materials over digital communications across many demographics. But trust is only the beginning.

Retention and Perception

The physical nature of printed mail enhances brand identity. A seminal study by the Canada Post Corporation revealed the neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail. Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media, leading to higher brand recall and a stronger emotional response. Its motivation response is 20% higher – even more so if it appeals to more senses beyond touch, making direct mail far more persuasive than digital media. When asked to cite the brand of an advertisement they had just seen, participants' recall was 70% higher if they were exposed to a direct mail piece (75%) rather than a digital ad (44%).

While older generations respond the most to direct mail and printed materials, digital fatigue drives Millennials and younger people to the mailbox. Research by the USPS found that 47% of Millennials actively check their physical mailbox each day, indicating a high level of engagement with printed materials. In addition, “while Millennials receive hundreds of emails every week, mail comes less frequently. As a result, this age group doesn’t feel the need to tune out the messaging. In one survey of Millennials, 62% of respondents said they had visited a store in the past month based on information received in the mail—more often than Gen Xers or boomers had.”

Sense, Scent, and Sensibility

The Canada Post research showed that physical and sensory experiences were nearly always more motivating to consumers than electronic communications. The most engaging formats were scented envelopes, dimensional mailers, simple envelopes, and dimensional mailers with sound. All of these formats command a high degree of sensory engagement, tactile or otherwise, suggesting that the more a media stimulates the senses, the more effective it is. While colors, scents, and tactile elements can cost more, research says they are far more likely to drive behaviors such as inquiries, sales, conversions, and referrals.

Digital Integration and Personalization

By harnessing digital variable printing, businesses can personalize printed mail at scale, delivering tailored messages to individual recipients, which generate higher response rates than generic mail. Leveraging customer data and variable printing techniques, companies can create compelling offers and targeted communications that resonate with recipients, such as older demographics who likely have more substantial buying power and aren't as interested in or susceptible to digital coupons, offers, rewards, and apps.

Combining printed mail with digital channels, such as email and social media, amplifies campaign reach and encourages cross-platform engagement. By all accounts, omnichannel marketing results in the strongest customer retention, purchase frequency, and purchase rates. By driving recipients online to redeem exclusive offers or participate in interactive campaigns, businesses can track and measure campaign effectiveness, ultimately driving conversions and sales.

Powerful Targeting Tools

The USPS has powerful yet cost-effective programs designed to hone in on your perfect prospects. According to U.S. Census data, companies with Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) can direct advertising to local residents and businesses who are most likely to buy your goods and services. Using a personalized design with a targeted message or offer combined with a specialized list created in EDDM, we can help you reach your ideal locations, zip codes, ages, household size, household income, residences, and businesses.

Direct mail is a valuable tool in the modern marketer's arsenal when strategically integrated with digital marketing efforts. Businesses can maximize ROI, enhance brand equity, and drive meaningful customer engagement by leveraging the tactile experience of physical mail, harnessing digital print personalization, and reinforcing brand messaging across multiple channels. As consumer preferences continue to evolve, embracing an omnichannel marketing approach that combines the best of both print and digital mediums will be essential for staying competitive.


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