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Tried, True & Proven: The Value of Direct Mail in the Digital Age

valassis logoWe live in a time where there is an abundance of avenues for brands to engage with modern consumers. It is clear, however, that favoring one specific channel is no longer sufficient, as consumers are proving they interact with a variety of media when it’s most convenient for them – often using multiple platforms at the same time (i.e. mobile & TV).

As newer technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), AR/VR and robotic assistants increasingly enter the fold, today’s hyperconnected marketing landscape begs an important question: does this proliferation add value on its own, or complicate the process for marketers to reach their target audiences?

While these technologies equip marketers with unique ways to reach their target audiences, the “shiny new object” can’t stand alone.  Rather than solely focusing on the “cool” new way to draw in customers, marketers should put the consumer first, determine how to best reach their target audiences, understand which channels consumers engage with most and which are most influential in their purchase decisions and then deploy their marketing strategies accordingly. What won’t be surprising is that a blend of new and proven tactics will reign supreme. But what I believe will be surprising is that marketers should continue investing in tried and true methods of engaging consumers, in particular the targeted, engaging experience delivered through direct mail.

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As marketers continue to incorporate new technologies into their marketing mix during this digital-first age, it’s important to include direct mail in their integrated campaigns. This will ensure they take a holistic approach, rooted in success metrics. Below are three reasons for keeping print top-of-mind:

 Driving ROI & performance

When imagining the interactive and visual elements of experiential retail, it’s easy to get excited by the new channels that can be used to draw in consumers. However, when challenged with the implementation, marketers can’t forget about what drives ROI. For example, in an ongoing study fielded in conjunction with The NPD Group, Inc., when asked how often they read or looked at advertisements that come in the mail, 69 percent of respondents said, “always or most of the time.” Additionally, in a recent response rate report, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that direct mail achieves a 4.4 percent response rate (as opposed to 0.12 percent for email).

The value of direct mail is undeniable. Although many may think it’s a tool of the past, marketers must consider this: consumers are reading, and more importantly reacting, to mail sent to them oftentimes more than email. This same study with The NPD Group found that 30 percent of consumers read email and 16 percent took action, compared to 47 percent of consumers who read their direct mail package and 27 percent who made a purchase based on the deals and offers within that package in the same week. With this, marketers must focus on how they can balance this asset with their digital efforts.

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Reaching consumers where they live 

Providing materials right from the source to a consumer’s mailbox provides marketers with perhaps the most direct path to communicate their brand message. Although digital channels provide marketers with the unique ability to reach consumers at any time throughout the day, print remains a critical means to reach their target audiences at home. Targeting consumers at this junction allows for marketers to hyper-localize their offers based on factors such as location, nearby stories, past purchase behavior and more. Of note, Valassis found that 44 percent of millennials said that their mailbox is the most preferred channel for receiving offers (ranking slightly higher than mobile at 40 percent). This may be surprising to some, but knowing this allows marketers to adjust their marketing mix by audience segment. Reaching consumers of all ages on-the-go and at home allows marketers to engage with target audiences strategically and effectively impact consumers’ online and in-store purchase decisions.

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Balancing, scaling & targeting

Although print marketing has proven to be a successful and direct method, it’s essential that marketers take volume and accuracy into consideration when deciding how to reach millions of consumers and households each week. With direct mail, marketing teams can optimize operations and strive to reach as many homes as possible in a short period of time, and affordably.

In addition, by targeting neighborhoods, or even more precisely households based on information gathered about the consumer (for example, if they are pet owners or have kids), brands and retailers can also choose to send relevant, localized offers direct to consumers. By looking at the right demographics, dynamics and information about the consumer, marketers can fine tune their direct mail strategies and efficiently scale operations to reach the maximum number of relevant consumers.

Although innovative technologies are rapidly making their way into the marketing mix, it’s important that marketers don’t oversteer too quickly. Reallocating valuable budget dollars away from successful, proven methods like direct mail can diminish the success experienced with this tried and true channel. While new technologies can enhance marketers’ abilities to interact with consumers, this can’t be the sole focus. Effective marketing isn’t just about leveraging and investing in what’s shiny and new, it’s about what works; and what works clearly involves a blend of new and proven tactics.

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