Direct Mail Isn’t Dead: Why Mailing Is Still Worth Your Time

Posted on 06/18/2014.


Ecommerce, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, and the rise of social media have had some marketers proclaiming the end of direct mail as a viable marketing tool in recent years. But are they right?

Is direct mail dead…or are the predictions all smoke and no flame?

Numbers Show Life

Two key groups — marketing organization CMO Council and Epsilon — have published statistics showing that direct mail isn’t mostly dead. In fact, it still provides a better ROI than many online channels.

According to Epsilon’s 2012 Channel Preference Study, 73% of U.S. consumers reported their preference for direct mail over digital brand communications. The same study also showed that 51% of Americans said they pay more attention to postal mail than email.

Meanwhile, statistics gathered by the CMO Council showed further hope for direct mailers. According to their numbers, direct marketing produced $2.05 trillion in sales in 2012. They also found that 79% of consumers act on direct mail immediately, compared to only 45% who act on email right away.

Finally, according to Direct Mail News, the average response rate for direct mail in 2012 was 4.4% (including both B2B and B2C mailings). The average response rate for email in the same period? A dismal 0.12%.

Ecommerce is a great addition to your marketing toolset, but direct mail still delivers plenty of value. Here are a few reasons why:

Better Lists

Email lists, while a bit better than they were years ago, still aren’t as valuable as direct mail lists. A list from an experienced vendor (like is more tightly targeted and provides more information about your potential customers than most email lists.

One reason for this contrast is that many people won’t opt-in to third-party offers via email. They also may not provide the personal information a direct mail list can deliver.

Consumer Preference

Referring back to Epsilon, 50% of consumers preferred direct mail to email. Also, 67% said direct mail is more personal than online channels, and 70% preferred direct mail for getting unsolicited materials from companies they’re unfamiliar with.

More Reliable Delivery

Direct mail has a 95% delivery rate, thanks to the accuracy of good direct mail lists and the reliability of the postal service.

Email can’t claim such a number. Whether due to inaccurate list information, spam filtering, or overprotective ISPs blocking more and more emails, many messages never reach their intended targets.

Increases Online Sales

While it may seem counterintuitive, direct mail can actually boost your online sales more than email campaigns. According to a USPS survey, 60% of direct mail recipients visited the website promoted by the mail piece. Even more compelling, direct mail recipients bought 28% more items and spent 28% more money than those who hadn’t received direct mail.

So don’t cast direct mail out of your marketing mix just yet. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s still a viable channel — and, in some cases, may be even more effective than online channels.