6½ direct mail stats every marketer should know (and what to do about them)

Is direct mail making a comeback? We think so.

In 2015, we shared 18 direct mail stats every marketer should know, to help educate marketers in every field about the lasting relevance of mail. Since then, we’ve seen direct mail continue to make a comeback.

And we’re not the only ones seeing it, either. Earlier this year, Kissmetrics (a digitally-focused SaaS company) published a blog post making the case for direct mail in a world dominated by digital. And just last month, MarketingProfs shared an infographic from a UK-based marketing firm that compares direct mail and email – and ultimately suggests that marketers can get the most bang for their buck by using a mix of both.

The point is, direct mail isn’t going anywhere any time soon. And the proof is in the pudding: the six (and a half) statistics below demonstrate that mail has held its marketing value even in the digital age.

Okay, there are actually seven, but we thought 6½ just had a nice ring to it.


The stats
Without further ado, here are 6 (and a half) direct mail stats every marketer should know:

  1. Direct mail response rates jumped significantly in 2016: the response rate for house lists (existing customers) was 5.3% in 2016 (up from from 3.7% in 2015), while the 2016 response rate for prospect lists was 3.1% (up from 1.0% in 2015). That’s an increase of 43% and 270% respectively. (Source)
  2. Direct mail volumes have been decreasing 1.9% year-over-year since 2005. (Source)
  3. In 2015, the average household received 12.1 pieces of mail per week. (Source)
  4. Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital content and, as a result, elicits a much higher recall. (Source)
  5. Though they recieve less mail, Millennials (people born between 1908 and 2000) spend, on average, 9.2 minutes sorting their mail per day, which is 22% longer than Gen X (7.5 min) and 7% longer than Baby Boomers (8.6 min).
    • 71% of millennial respondents said they sort their mail by scanning it, as opposed to discarding without reading. (Source)
  6. More than 84% of Millennials prefer to respond to direct mail by visiting the company’s website. 53% of Millennials go online on a personal computer, while 31% use a mobile device. (Source)

Turning stats into action
Numbers are great and all, but how can you apply these statistics? We have a few ideas:

  • If you haven’t already, consider using direct mail.
    With declining mail volumes and increasing response rates, now is a great time to dip your foot into the sea of direct mail. If budget is a concern, start small. You don’t have to blast everyone who might possibly want to buy your product or service to see results – in fact, we typically recommend against that. Instead, focus in on one small section of your audience and create a campaign tailored around them. Build a message around the benefits that will most appeal to that very specific segment. This won’t just help keep costs low, but also has the potential to get you a much better ROI. What better way to make the boss happy, right?
  • Maintain your customer data.
    The average response rate for a house list is 210% higher than that of prospect lists. Add to that the fact that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, and you have a strong case for building a direct mail customer retention program.To start, remember that the success (or failure) of a customer retention program depends heavily on the data you keep on your customers. To make the most of such a program, it’s best to keep accurate contact information, be aware of a customer’s past purchases or products of interest, and even know if he/she has referred a friend or colleague to you. Before you launch a direct mail program for existing customers, make sure you have the tools and processes in place to keep your data clean and up-to-date.
  • Let the data guide you.
    In other words, resist the temptation to rely solely on intuition, especially when it comes to marketing to the younger generations. It’s a common assumption that because Millennials grew up as “digital natives,” they prefer digital communication, and only digital communication. But the data gathered by organizations like the Data & Marketing Association and USPS tells us otherwise.It very well could be their status as digital natives that makes direct mail desirable to Millennials and other young consumers. From the time their alarm goes off in the morning to before they go to sleep for the night, young people are inundated with digital marketing messages on the blogs and news outlets they read, on social media, in email, and increasingly in text messages. So why not break through the clutter and send them a nice, refreshing, and tangible postcard or letter? They are looking at it; and, more importantly, it has the potential to be more memorable than a digital ad.
    Forgive us if it seems like we’re yelling, but we feel strongly about this one. Beyond the fact that a majority of millennial direct mail recipients like to follow-up by going online, we have our own proof that integrating direct mail and digital works. A key principle in direct mail is giving a call-to-action that is clear, urgent, and easy to respond to. Plus, integrating with digital helps simplify the task of measuring response.


We’d love to hear from you! What stats do you use to make a case for (or against) direct mail? Let us know in the comments below. Or send us a message on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

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