Introducing The State of Direct Mail

Insights from 200 marketing leaders demystify a high-value marketing channel

Direct mail is frequently thought of as “old-fashioned” marketing. Yes, we get generic coupons in the mail, and retail catalogs over the holidays, but when marketers are looking to do more than acquisition, they use  other channels—especially when focusing on maximizing customer LTV. This is partly because digital marketers are unfamiliar with direct mail. Why invest in a channel where response rates are unpredictable, and attribution is less than precise? How do we justify the incremental cost of print and mail over digital outreach?

There are a lot of misconceptions and questions about direct mail that we hear regularly at Lob. Several of them are illustrated in the previous paragraph. As digital channels become increasingly saturated, and the cost of engaging customers grows, many marketers are becoming direct-mail curious: Interested in the channel, but unsure how to adopt it, and if it can provide meaningful lift.

A New Kind of Direct Mail Study

Naturally, we’re strong direct mail advocates, but data-hungry marketing teams require actionable information. There is a lot of household data available on direct mail (how much consumers receive, their attitudes towards it, how it impacts purchase decisions, etc.), but there is very little data about direct mail senders themselves.

To address this data gap, we partnered with Mintel Comperemedia to design a survey focused on marketing leaders from mid to large-sized companies across multiple industries. We asked respondents whether they send direct mail, what their attitudes towards the channel are, how it performs for them, and their expectations for the future of direct mail.

The results show that the reality of direct mail is a very different from its common misconceptions. Marketers who use direct mail as a part of their marketing mix see impressive results, regardless of company size, mail volume, or industry vertical.

Direct Mail Outperforms Other Marketing Channels

Survey respondents consistently reported that direct mail was a high-performing channel for them. Surprisingly the majority indicated that it was their best performing channel—both from a response rate and ROI perspective. 60% said that direct mail is a better engagement channel than email.

Survey results - 60% of respondents agree that direct mail has the highest ROI of all the marketing channels they use

Direct Mail Isn’t Just for Acquisition

Direct mail budgets are spread fairly evenly across acquisition, retention, win-back, and referral campaigns. Nearly 40% of respondents see response rates higher than 10% for their retention campaigns. Given how well these campaigns perform it’s no surprise that companies expect customer retention to be an increasingly important part of their direct mail strategies.

Survey results - 68% of respondents expect direct mail aimed at customer engagement or retention to take on a more significant role over the next 5 years

Direct Mail is Growing

We’ve become so used to the idea that physical mail volume is decreasing that it’s rarely questioned. And while this may be the overall trend for all mail, marketers are generally expecting an increase in direct mail volumes over the next 5 years. 60% of respondents expect that the volume of direct mail they send will increase, and 68% expect that direct mail as a channel will be adopted by a broader set of companies.

Survey results - 68% of respondents expect the diversity of companies sending direct mail will increase in the next 5 years

The State of Direct Mail is Vibrant

These are just a few of the findings that we cover in the full report. In addition to performance and expectations, the study explores emerging trends like direct mail personalization, and the growing role of technology in direct mail campaigns. It looks at common challenges that marketers face when using direct mail, and highlights best practices to overcome them. Additionally, it provides insight into how effectively marketers attribute direct mail responses.

Direct mail isn’t mysterious, nor is it old-fashioned. It’s a highly effective and measurable marketing channel that modern marketing teams are using to engage customers in an increasingly cluttered digital landscape. Download the study to learn more.

Download the State of Direct Mail Report