47 Reasons Why Direct Mail is Far from Dead

Richie Pusateri

For the past two decades, go-to-market teams have regarded digital channels as the easiest way to engage with others at scale. From email campaigns to the strategic use of chatbots, digital marketing channels have historically been positioned at the bleeding edge of industry advancement. A seasoned B2B professional, however, will tell you that an effective and proper campaign utilizes a multichannel approach. The more avenues of attack, the higher the probability of building a sizable customer base and driving more revenue.

The current B2B industry is tech-centered. Many modern B2B sales and marketers view traditional communication channels, such as direct mail (postcards, handwritten letters, brochures, etc.) as outdated and irrelevant. We've compiled the most comprehensive article including 47 direct mail statistics that prove to B2B professionals that direct mail is far from dead—it's thriving.

10 Key Statistics

  1. 73% of Americans say they prefer receiving direct mail due to its versatility, meaning they can read it at their own leisure. (epsilon)
  2. 58% of all mail received by the average American household is marketing-based. (USPS)
  3. 90% of direct mail gets opened by the recipient. (ANA)
  4. Clocking in at $38.5 billion dollars, direct mail represents the largest portion of the USA's total ad spend. (BIA/Kelsey, "U.S. Local Advertising Forecast 2018")¹
  5. 39% of consumers will try a brand based on the strength of direct mail marketing alone. (DMR)
  6. 83% of all purchases are attributable to relevant direct mail efforts. (Pebble Post in conjunction with Alter Agents)
  7. 18% of all marketing budget worldwide is dedicated to direct mail. (Sagefrog Marketing via Hubspot)
  8. Direct mail is 20% more persuasive than digital mail. (Canada Post Corporation)
  9. Customers who received direct mail bought 28% more than those who did not receive the same piece of marketing. (USPS)
  10. On average, direct mail generates a 37% higher response rate than email. (ANA)

Mail Volume

The advent of technologies such as email, chatbots, and SaaS-based CRMs promised a future free from paper clutter. That was a major selling point when the technology first emerged, and savvy marketers were quick to capitalize, building robust and effective marketing channels through digital solutions. However, we're still chasing that paperless world—a handful of direct mail marketing statistics, which center on mail volume, prove it.

According to the USPS, Americans receive an average of 16.8 pieces of physical mail every week. With a little extrapolation, that figure comes out to be approximately 874 pieces of mail per year. The USPS also reports that American households receive, on average, 454 pieces of direct mail marketing per year. That means that nearly 58%² of the mail that American households receive is marketing-based. Direct mail statistics like these demonstrate the volume of direct mail flowing on any given day. They are a testament to the health of physical mail as a marketing channel.Understanding the strength of direct mail is a matter of understanding the effect receiving physical mail has on the average person. According to a recent Gallup poll³, 41% of people, regardless of age group, enjoy checking their mail on a daily basis. Of those people, 77% of recipients address their mail immediately. That means at least opening the flyer or letter, regardless of whether they absorb the marketing message contained therein. A ballantine study corroborates that effect; 42% of consumers at least scan the direct mail that they receive.

One particularly powerful marketing tool is mail that is directly addressed to the recipient. Rather than "current resident," or some other blanket derivation, 57% of consumers⁴ open direct mail when it's specifically addressed to them.

Even more surprising is the effect that traditional mail has on the younger demographic. According to the USPS, 77% of millennials view direct mail favorably. Despite growing up firmly entrenched in a digital world, the direct mail advertising statistics tell a story in which direct mail has had a profound effect on millennials in particular.Marketing professionals aren't blind to the power of direct mail either. According to ANA⁵, a majority of marketers (81%) plan to increase their direct mail utilization over the next year. Their secret weapon? Understanding the deeper effects that direct mail has on its audience.

Customer Preference

Effective marketing is a matter of tapping into a deeper sense of what customers prefer, both in terms of the products and services they consume, as well as the type of message that helps persuade them. To that effect, marketing professionals have found a lightning rod in the form of direct mail. The following direct mail statistics speak to customer perception in the face of physical advertisements.

According to Epsilon, 59% of Americans enjoy receiving mail for new brands and products. For the majority, visually-driven physical media is a way of discovering new brands and exploring a wider range of product offerings.

Part of the reason that customers respond so favorably to direct mail marketing is due to the fact that  70% of consumers⁶ believe that direct mail is more personal than the alternative marketing channels. A specifically addressed direct mailer feels intentional and familiar as if the marketing message were crafted for that particular consumer alone.

Another important factor is the flexibility that direct mail provides to marketers. According to a recent Epsilon study, a staggering 73% of Americans say they prefer receiving direct mail due to its versatility, meaning they can read the advertisements at their own leisure. In fact, the Rochester Institute of Technology, via DMR, found that 48% of customers will retain direct mail advertisements on a long-term basis for product reference. Think of hanging a product flyer on the refrigerator as a form of brand awareness for example.

Direct mail marketing statistics indicate that any type of direct mail is effective as long as it is addressed to a specific recipient. One type of mailer is especially effective according to the Data and Marketing Association. A sizable 51% of consumers find the postcard format to be the most beneficial type of direct mail. Compare that to a marketer's point of view. 66% of Marketers in the US find postcards and newsletters to be the most effective form of direct mail, according to the USPS.

Consumer preference is an important part of the equation, but in order to gauge the true effectiveness of direct mail marketing, it's necessary to look at response rate as well.

Response Rate

The goal of an effective marketing campaign is to generate interest in your brand, followed by consumer purchasing intent. Response rate serves as a measurement of your campaign's effectiveness. The following collection of direct mail statistics is geared towards the question, "What gets a customer to take action?"

When it comes to response rate, direct mail has a leg up on the competition. According to the ANA, direct mail response rates range anywhere between 5 and 9 times any other advertising method. That means that utilizing a direct mailer has the potential to attract nine times that amount of customers that an email campaign produces.

Direct mail is effective across the board in terms of age groups. For the 18-21 year old demographic, direct mail produces a response rate of 12.4% according to the ANA. Recipients in the age group of 45-54 are most likely to respond to direct mail marketing, however.

Employing a set of simple techniques can help you radically increase those response rates. According to Canon, adding the customer's name to the address on the direct mail increased the likelihood of response by 135%. The ANA found that letter-sized direct mail garnered the best response rate at 15.1% when sent to a residential address. Metrics published by Spectrum Marketing show that the likelihood of a recipient responding to direct mail increases by 15% if the mail is oversized, and they've never done business with your company.

The type of delivery method matters too, but the difference in response rate is ultimately nominal. According to the USPS, marketers that use direct mail average a response rate of 13% via first class mail and 11% via standard mailing. Direct mail advertisement statistics like this speak to the power of personalization in regard to the customer experience.

If you follow the direct mail statistics closely, it's clear that physical advertising far outstrips the effectiveness of email. On average, direct mail generates a 37% higher response rate than email according to ANA findings. Your marketing efforts are especially effective if your team works off a curated list. Direct mail resulting from prospected lists garnered a 4.9% response rate¹. In fact, direct mail based on house lists has a 9% response rate as opposed to 1% via email, according to the ANA.

The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, so to speak. What is the overall effect of direct mail marketing on the average consumer? 62% of direct mail respondents² purchased a product within 3 months of receiving the direct mail advertisement. A conversion rate like that sounds amazing on paper, but in order to fully appreciate its significance, we also have to discuss marketing spend and return on investment (ROI).

Marketing Spend

Marketing spend represents the portion of the advertising budget that a company will earmark for direct mail purposes. In other words, the amount of effort you have to put in to get an adequate response and conversion rate from your customers.

According to a Sagefrog Marketing study, 18% of all marketing budgets are dedicated to direct mail. In fact, direct mail itself represents 52.7%³ of the United States' total marketing budget. That's no small amount to consider. Yet direct-to-consumer brands are aware of the clout that direct mail marketing brings to the table.

According to IAB, 63% of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are willing to invest marketing dollars into direct mail strategies. So what's does that share of marketing dollars net for your company? According to Alter Agents, 83% of all purchases are attributable to relevant direct mail efforts, making direct mail a lucrative piece of the overall marketing pie.While marketing spend tracks the percentage of advertising budget that is apportioned for direct mail purposes, it's only one piece of a much more complex puzzle. Let's take a look at the dollar values associated with the world of direct mail statistics.

Associated Dollar Values

Direct mail is the largest portion of the USA's total ad spend, clocking in at a hefty $38.5 billion dollars per year according to metrics from BIA/Kelsey⁴. This trend is strong, and we've seen steady growth over the past few years. Every key performance indicator points to that dollar value increasing exponentially as the decade progresses.

The reason for the strength of that number is the ubiquity of direct mail as a marketing avenue. According to the DMA Stat Book, direct mail is the most common type of advertising method for 89% of financial firms, 75% of nonprofits, 73% of publishers, and 65% of healthcare institutions. Marketing professionals across every major US job sector rely on direct mail to carry their company values to the consumers.

When executed correctly, a mail-based marketing campaign is the lifeblood of your sales team. According to the B2B Marketing Mix Report, direct mail accounts for 6% of the top lead-generating sources. That 6% may seem diminutive, but speaking in terms of the big picture, it is a valuable source of lead generation regardless of the industry involved. Bear in mind that it is not 6% of leads, by 6% of the top lead generating sources. The additional leads it provides, in turn, fuel direct mail's incredible ROI. But what are the hard dollar values actually associated with marketing spend, per customer?

On average, advertisers spend $167⁵ per person on their direct mail efforts. The same advertisers see a return of $2095 per person from their direct mail efforts. In effect, that means advertisers are enjoying up to a 1300% return on investment in some cases via direct mail.

According to USPS, customers who received a direct mail flyer bought 28% more than those who did not receive that same piece of marketing. Direct mail statistics like these serve as a testament. They prove the power and effectiveness of "snail mail" as a marketing technique. The bottom line? Direct mail on average produces a 29% ROI across all contexts.With that in mind, let's dive into the end results.

The True Effectiveness of Direct Mail Marketing

Determining the true effectiveness of a direct mail marketing campaign is a matter of taking a bird's eye view of all the metrics involved, even those that other sources may overlook.

A physical advertisement is a powerful tool. You can hold it in your hand. It has tangibility, therefore it's more likely to make an impression. According to Marketing Profs, 75% of people who see a piece of direct mail marketing are able to recall that brand immediately.

The concept of tangibility is an important factor in understanding why direct mail is so powerful. A study by the Canada Post Corporation found direct mail to be 20% more persuasive than digital mail. There is something inherently memorable about holding a catalog, flyer, or brochure. It's a feeling far removed from the constant drip of digital information.

The direct mail marketing statistics referenced in this article bear witness to the power of the direct mail channel. According to a DMR study, 39% of consumers will try a brand based on the strength of direct mail alone. Exceptional results like that further drive the channel's effectiveness.

A pair of stand-out metrics from USPS tells a similar story. 60% of consumers that receive a catalog end up shopping via the business's online storefront. In addition, 23% of those who receive a piece of direct mail marketing will visit the company's physical location. In fact, 31% of baby boomers purchased a product or service based on catalogs, flyers, postcards, and other types of direct mail. Direct mail is able to drive such high conversion rates due to the effect it has on the consumer. This is due in great part to the channel's prolific reach.

A study performed by the U.K.-based Go Inspire Group shows that direct mail's lifespan far outstrips email, lasting an average of 17 days. That means that customers hold on to physical mail far longer than they do digital advertisements. In essence, direct mail occupies a very tangible place in their environment. It is also important to note that according to the ANA 90% of direct mail gets opened by the recipient. With such a large pool of potential customers, it's plain to see why response and conversion rates are sky-high.

One final direct mail static of particular note which speaks to effect that physical advertisements have on the average consumer's psyche: 21% less cognitive power is necessary to understand and absorb direct mail marketing than digital efforts. The bottom line? Physical mail has a pronounced effect on people, driving their buying habits in a way no other marketing channel can match.

In Conclusion: The Power of Direct Mail

Direct mail marketing is one of the oldest advertising channels in existence. Its roots date back to the days of the Sears and Roebuck catalog. During these tumultuous times in which business is built on a foundation of digital technologies and SaaS platforms, one would expect more traditional marketing methods such as direct mail to have long since fallen by the wayside. Some professionals have even gone so far as to declare the medium dead.

Yet here in 2021, direct mail is not only alive and well, it's surging. The collection of above referenced direct mail advertisement statistics speak to the power and effectiveness of physical advertisement, a notion that stands in stark contrast to our digitally-driven world. Savvy marketing professionals would be wise to include a direct mail strategy in their future marketing campaigns.

We've given you the evidence-based stats to back it up. Now it's your turn to act. Postal takes the physical leg work out of direct mail—combining the best of both online and offline worlds. Get started today with a free trial.

Sources Cited

1. https://www.biakelsey.com/biakelsey-forecasts-u-s-local-advertising-revenues-increase-5-2-percent-2018-151-2b-largest-annual-increase-five-years/
2. https://usps
3. https://gallup4. https://dma5. https://ana6. https://smallbiztrends

Account-Based Marketing
Richie Pusateri

Rich graduated from Cal Poly in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Concentrating in Marketing. He is a B2B marketing enthusiast with a passion for storytelling through relatable content and memorable experiences. Rich was one of the first founding team members of Postal.io when he started as an intern in 2019 and now holds the Content Marketing Manager role. When he isn’t creating content to tell the story of Offline Marketing Automation, you can probably find him on the ocean. Rich holds a U.S. Coast Guard-issued captains license and owns a small local business—Central Coast Fishing Charters out of Morro Bay, CA. He currently lives in Shell Beach, CA with his brother Dominic.