News & Insights

Is direct mail still effective?

24 July 2015
By Kim Sullivan

The emergence of technologies such as the internet and email revolutionised the marketing industry back in the late 90s, providing new acquisition channels for marketers to reach their target audiences. More recently, social media platforms have been providing fertile ground on which tech-savvy advertisers can promote their products – it seems that ‘electronic word of mouth’ is the name of the game in digital marketing these days. With sites emerging like RangeMe, where suppliers can promote their brands to buyers and top retailers, and buyers can access products easily, it’s no surprise email marketing is coming to an end.

New Demographics Represent New Markets

Given the rise and rise of digital, one could be forgiven for assuming that traditional marketing techniques such as direct mail are no longer relevant. However, this is just not the case. It’s estimated that only 45% of older people have access to the internet – that’s a rather large demographic to be missing out on if you discount traditional mail-outs entirely. Businesses will have to analyze their own product and demographics using data capture tools, then decide for themselves what marketing strategies will be the best for their business and product uniquely, no two businesses can keep to the same model and expect success.

This is exacerbated by the fact that older people often of higher levels of disposable income than their younger counterparts, making them a more lucrative demographic. So for those still disconnected from the online maelstrom, direct mail is the only option for marketers. It’s also worth pointing out that a staggering 48% of the population in the UK responded to direct mail, according to figures from Central Mailing Services 2013.

Targeted Campaigns

The main drawback of direct mail in the past has been that it lacked any real targeting – a consumer is only too aware that thousands of other people receive the same letter. However, with modern advances in digital printing and variable data printing (VDP) direct mail can feature graphics and text which vary on a print by print basis. This means that your direct mail campaign can be targeted to an interest, a location and even a name, just like modern email campaigns!

So why not email?

Emails have been central in most marketing strategies, since the birth of the internet, or at least since the mainstream adoption of email. Unfortunately, excessive spamming, email scams and computer viruses have caused many to be cautious of promotional materials that wind up in their inbox. The estimated 300 billion emails which are circulated throughout the world on a daily basis have also caused scepticism amongst users, when it comes to promotions. It therefore seems evident that direct mail still has its place.

Direct Mail is Still Effective

To start with, direct mail is tangible. Delivered directly to a customer’s door, the recipient is able to interact physically with a piece of mail. This means they are far more likely to give serious consideration to its contents. There is also a certain familiarity with regards to promotional material that comes through the letterbox. People have become accustomed to this kind of marketing which encourages a certain trust.
Despite the internet, social media and all the attendant bells and whistles that go with them, direct mail is still a very useful, cost-effective marketing tool. In its heyday the only downside for any serious marketer was the lack of targeting – now this can be addressed and refined there really is no reason for a business to ignore direct mail as an effective customer acquisition channel.

For further advice on the benefits of direct mail or any aspects of Print Project Planning please contact Danny Sullivan by emailing

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