Direct Mail

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As of 2018, direct mail advertising has a total revenue of $11B. Industry revenue is expected to decrease at an annualized rate of 1.8% to 2024.
(Source: IBISWorld – Direct Mail Advertising, 2019)

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.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) analyzed Bizo and Epsilon data and found:

  • Direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate
  • E-mail achieves a 0.12% response rate

(Source: IBIS World – Direct Mail Advertising – US Market Research Report May 2018)

According to the United Mail 2018 report:

  • 87% of millennials enjoy receiving direct mail
  • 77% of millennials react to direct mail advertising

(Source: United Mail – Is Direct Mail Relevant in 2018)

  • In 2018, direct mail response rate to house listings was 9%, nearly doubling 2017's response rate of 5.1%.
  • The direct mail median return on investments on house listings was 41%
  • Letter-sized mail performed well for lead generation with a 15.1% response rate

(Source: ANA; DMA Response Rate Report, 2018)

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, 2019)

Industries that use direct mail the most include:

  • 80% - Travel or Hospitality
  • 75% - Nonprofits
  • 71% - Publishing or Media
  • 67% - Financial Services
  • 63% - Healthcare
  • 58% - Other

(Source: ANA; DMA Response Rate Report, 2018)

  • In 2019, 50% of consumers preferred coupons in the mail while 38% preferred to get their coupons on their mobile device
  • 91% of consumers said that they used coupons that were received in the mail

(Source: Valassis, 2K19 Coupon Intelligence Report, 2019)

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, 2017)
Privacy policies – "Do Not Mail" lists
According to a Marketing Sherpa report, one of the reasons that Direct Mail is ignored by consumers is that they don't trust the print mail/catalogs to provide them with the information they need to make purchasing decisions.
(Source: Marketing Sherpa, 2017)
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
Only 53% of households read their advertising mail (2017 USPS Household Diary Study)
Advertising Mail reading Rates by Household Demographics – FY 2017
  • Adults 18-34: 36%
  • Adults 35-44: 43%
  • Adults 45-54: 43%
  • Adults 55-64: 46%
  • Adults 65+: 50%
(Source: Source: 2017 USPS Household Diary Study)

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, 2015-2016)
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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