Through the COVID-19 pandemic that upended so much of our lives in 2020, one service that we once took for granted stepped up in a big way to keep us connected and informed: mail. In fact, The Harris Poll Essential 100 identifies the USPS as the most essential organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the federal mail service edging out companies like Google, Walmart, UPS, and even Amazon for the top spot.
After a sharp downturn in the second quarter of 2020, direct mail has bounced back steadily as a powerful way for businesses to keep customers informed about operations, safety precautions, and new products and services. In particular, it’s remained a critical element of a successful multichannel marketing campaign. A survey conducted last summer — in the height of the pandemic — shows that businesses using direct mail as part of their marketing campaigns are 11% more likely to report a “good” response rate and 1.6 times more likely to report a “very good” response rate than their counterparts who do not use direct mail.
Even as we start to emerge from the pandemic, it’s becoming apparent that many of the disruptions we saw in 2020 — such as the shifts to online shopping and virtual events — are going to remain a significant part of our “new normal.” So how can brands leverage the direct mail trends that developed in 2020 to continue building awareness and attracting customers in 2021 and beyond?
Make Personal Connections in a Virtual World
Despite all its convenience, the shift to digital has led to a lack of personal interactions for many consumers. Familiar faces in a store and quick chats at the register with the salesperson who helped pick out the perfect product have been replaced by impersonal online shopping experiences with algorithm-driven recommendations.
Direct mail, however, is a powerful way to maintain that feeling of personal interaction between brands and their customers — especially for brands that tailor their direct mail to individual recipients rather than simply sending out one-size-fits-all postcards or flyers. This includes adding each recipient’s name, customizing the mailings based on recipients’ previous interactions with the brand to ensure you’re giving each customer (or potential customer) relevant offers, visuals, and messages to create that feeling of one-on-one attention and connection.
Will all this personalization make a difference? Research says yes, with McKinsey reporting that personalization can reduce acquisition costs by up to 50 percent and increase marketing spend efficiency by up to 30 percent. And Canon Solutions America shows that adding names to mailers can increase response rates by 44 percent — when you combine that name with full color and other database information, the response rate skyrockets up to 500 percent!
Build Trust Through Proactive Communication
A study from Ketchum found that nearly half of Americans have changed their brand preferences as a result of the pandemic. What’s driving these changing preferences? 90 percent say it is more important than ever that brands are prioritizing customer and employee safety, and 88 percent consider effective communication to be a deciding factor in their brand preferences. And even as the pandemic ebbs, 62 percent of respondents anticipate these new preferences and priorities will stick.
Direct mail is a great way to communicate proactively with customers. Even as vaccine distribution increases and in-person shopping and gathering become safer, it’s likely there will still be plenty of uncertainty around retail operations, safety precautions, and general guidelines. As such, customers are likely to show preference to brands whose policies and procedures they know and trust. Rather than make them hunt down that information, communicate it proactively through postcards and other direct mailings that keep critical information top of mind.
Introduce New Products and Services
For successful businesses, the name of the game in 2020 and 2021 has been agility. From moving in-person events online to manufacturing and selling PPE to shifting offerings to better reflect customers’ evolving needs, the number-one constant has been change.
Whether you’re expanding into new markets, trying to increase sales in a low performing geography, or you’re boxing up your most-loved products into a monthly subscription offering, direct mail is an important part of the marketing campaign that introduces customers to the new ways they can interact with your brand.
Make Your Brand a Household Name
Can’t all these things be accomplished with digital marketing? Well, yes, but remember, research has shown that a direct mail component boosts digital marketing efforts significantly — even in the best of times:
- 73 percent of American consumers say they prefer direct mail from brands because they can read the information at their convenience, according to Epsilon.
- In a 2020 study published in Harvard Business Review, the test group sending out physical catalogs along with email marketing saw a 49% lift in sales and 125% lift in inquiries, compared to the email-only control group’s 28 percent increase in sales and 77 percent lift in inquiries.
- Direct mail has an average lifespan of 17 days, compared to just a few seconds for marketing emails, according to RetailWire.
- RetailWire also reports that 88 percent of key purchase decisions are made, or at least discussed, at home, meaning there’s an obvious benefit to having your brand’s materials around customers’ houses.
And in the wake of the pandemic and the “Zoom fatigue,” it’s induced for so many, direct mail is likely even more welcomed as an alternative to yet more screen time.
The benefits of direct mail for connecting with customers — especially in the wake of COVID-19 — are undeniable. At OneTouchPoint, we pride ourselves on helping clients build effective multichannel marketing campaigns in which personalized direct mail plays an integral role. When your business is ready to enhance its direct mail strategies, we invite you to contact us to learn more