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The Power of Direct Mail in a Digital World

Written By Amber Breeden

March 2, 2023

We are two months into 2023, and I have received 32 marketing emails from LOFT. And that’s nothing compared to J.Crew, who sent me 67 emails in the same timeframe. I may have opened one of these emails at some point, but that doesn’t change the fact that they all ended up in the same place—my Trash folder. 

A couple of weeks ago, I also received a direct mailer from LOFT promoting their new spring arrivals with a coupon for $15 off my next purchase. It likely features the same offer and images as their emails, but there’s one major difference: that mailer is sitting on my desk, staring me in the face five days a week. When I hit that 3pm slump and need a quick break, it says “of course you need a new yellow cardigan, oh, and here’s $15 off!” 

And right there, my friends, is the power of direct mail.

I could have thrown it away, but I didn’t. I set it aside to come back to later. You probably have a similar stack somewhere in your home or office. In addition to getting much higher response rates than email, direct mail has staying power. The average lifespan of a piece of direct mail is 17 days. That gives people more time to take action and keeps your brand top-of-mind when they do.

But these aren’t the only things that give direct mail the edge when it comes to capturing our attention. 

Less Competition

My actual mailbox is far less crowded than my email inbox, and I’m not alone. Americans receive an average of 121 emails per day compared to just two pieces of snail mail. It’s no surprise then that a recent study by Optimove found that 79% of consumers unsubscribed from at least one retail brand (and 61% unsubscribed from three or more retail brands) in the past 90 days because they were being bombarded by email marketing messages.

With so many emails coming in each day, we don’t have time to read and react to each one. Most of us skim and delete or eventually get fed up and unsubscribe. We can devote more time and attention to direct mail simply because there’s less to wade through.

Higher Perceived Value

There’s a strategy in marketing called the scarcity principle that leverages the law of supply and demand. The less there is of something, the higher the perceived value. Last Crumb—the luxury cookie company that sells their handmade, limited run cookies for $140 to $160 per dozen (or per “collection,” as they say)—has absolutely nailed the scarcity principle. It may seem crazy that anyone would pay that much for cookies, but their weekly cookie drops sell out within minutes. 

We’ve been conditioned to believe that when there’s less of something, it must be more valuable. And we can use this to our advantage when it comes to direct mail. For the simple fact there’s less of it, direct mail feels more trustworthy and valuable than other marketing channels. In fact, over half of consumers over the age of 35 say direct mail feels more important than email communication. You convey a higher perception of value when you take the time to mail something. It’s why Thank You cards are still a thing. 

Better Deliverability

If you’re sending marketing email, you should be very familiar with GDPR. But it’s not only EU consumers you have to worry about. Five U.S. states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia—also have data privacy laws on the books. These regulations, along with anti-spam filters and public skepticism around viruses and malware, make it more difficult to send email marketing. With direct mail, however, you are not required to obtain explicit permission to send, which broadens your outreach pool.

The one caveat when it comes to direct mail deliverability is data quality. If your data isn’t clean and accurate, your direct mail won’t be delivered (at least not to your intended target). We verify all direct mail data through a process called CASS™, and most of the data also goes through a secondary process called NCOA. Together, these address verification tools ensure your marketing makes it into the right hands.

If you’re struggling with email deliverability or open rates, it may be time to try a different angle. Whether you are B2B or B2C, direct mail can help you capture your prospect’s attention in a way email never will.