Direct Mail in the 21st Century: Traditional Marketing Meets Digital

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Did you know that 90% of direct mail is opened, and 60% of catalog recipients visit the company’s website that mailed it? Increasingly, targeted direct mail initiatives are influencing consumer actions. 

Millennials, who collectively spend $600 billion per year, are often stereotyped as tied to mobile apps and the internet. However, recent data shows they’re more influenced by direct mail than online ads. Sixty-eight percent of millennials read printed media from retailers, and 64% prefer getting them through the mail. Still, it’s even more effective when the ads are part of a multichannel campaign. 

Direct mail marketing has evolved significantly with advancements in technology, enabling marketers to better segment and target consumers while continuously optimizing campaigns through data-driven insights. Postcard mailings can transcend the “print media” label and hold the same targeting and attribution standards as “digital media.”  

Innovation and digital marketing tools such as data, software, automation, and artificial intelligence bring an entirely new dimension to this tried-and-true channel for small and large businesses alike. 

How software and technology are changing direct mail

Software makes targeting and mailing a campaign easier  

Direct mail software is helping marketers to be more strategic and targeted with direct mail campaigns. 

Software empowers brands to streamline processes, execute highly personalized campaigns, optimize targeting, and capture tracking data in real time. Previously, direct mailers or agencies required four to six weeks to set up, track, and send a campaign. Now, marketers can execute a campaign in a day or less with software that sends targeted direct mail as readily as an email marketing campaign. 

Leveraging artificial intelligence enables marketers to target the right audience for less

AI plays a pivotal role in the modern distribution of direct mail. Today, we can leverage AI to intelligently route postcards based on printing and postage efficiencies. This enables marketers to find the best, most cost-effective way to deliver a postcard.

This type of technology ensures that direct mail campaigns reach a brand’s ideal customer profiles in the most efficient manner possible. This intelligence can lead to cost savings and enable companies to send direct mail for less than traditional mail delivery methods.

APIs empower software engineers and digital-savvy marketers to trigger postcards programmatically

Using an API, programmers and marketers can print and mail a fully variable postcard in 24 hours or less and track the results in real-time. 

These APIs connect directly to a company’s pre-existing digital database like a CRM (Salesforce, Infusionsoft, etc.) or marketing automation platform (Marketo, Hubspot, etc.) to take it a step further and send direct mail based on specific actions, events, or triggers, further boosting engagement. 

Consider this – you’re marketing a food delivery service. A diner scrolls through Facebook and sees an ad to download your online delivery app. The consumer downloads it and proceeds to order a couple of dishes for delivery but doesn’t order again. A week or two later, this consumer receives a personalized postcard in the mail with a photo of one of the dishes ordered that night, directing to a trackable landing page to sign up for your email newsletter in exchange for a coupon or checkout code to shave 10% off their next order. Now, you can re-target this prospective diner even more effectively next time.

This allows marketers to adjust segmentation and messaging to resonate with the specific audience they are targeting – whether that is an entire market or a particular household — without leaving their pre-existing marketing stack.

For example, ecommerce businesses can retarget lapsed customer segments based on seasonal products, estimated lifetime value (LTV), estimated return rates, and attribution windows with personalized postcards and incentives to keep customers coming back. 

Similarly, in the auto industry, segment automation to target can be based on triggers to retain customers such as lease renewal, service reminders, and new product offers. Personalized postcards may include preferred vehicles and incentives.

The role of trust and authenticity

Beyond technology making direct mail marketing smarter than ever, there is another, undeniable force at play: trust. Data privacy issues and an excess of emails have caused consumers to see offline channels as inherently less intrusive and more authentic. In a recent study, 58% of millennials said they worry less about direct mail privacy than digital communications’ privacy.

How do brands build trust? By putting relevant, timely offers in front of consumers. Even if the consumer doesn’t act on the offer immediately, the brand-built recognition in the mind of a likely future customer will resonate. Trust and technology go hand in hand: the more personalized and targeted the mail, the more trust the brand will build with the individual receiving it. 

What was old is new again 

The modern approach to direct mail marketing reflects a paradigm shift between brand marketing and demand generation. It flips the script on the widely held belief that online strategies are the most efficient and cost-effective way to reach and convert consumers. The truth is that the best approach is a smart mix of offline and online tactics backed by thoroughly testing each channel of engagement. Direct mail marketing combines the targeting and scalability of digital with the authenticity and trust of traditional methods. 

Additionally, API integrations enable marketers to manage direct mail campaigns on a digital platform to track deliverability, conversions, and ROI as easily as digital advertising or email marketing. By leveraging AI and intelligent routing, APIs and predictive analytics, brands can bring a digital marketing mindset into the print world to drive greater levels of engagement and commerce. 

Liam Oliver is the General Manager of GrowMail & Direct Mail Manager.