A new role for mail in the digital marketing era

Mail is the original one-to-one channel. At a time when digital media has brought huge focus onto personalised, targeted executions it can have a new relevance. But that requires some new thinking around the medium and a good programme of CPD in agencies.

Statistics collected over the last few years demonstrate a continued relevance for Direct Mail.

Both IPA Touchpoints 6 and 7, in 2015 and 2016, showed an across the board rise in engagement with mail, ranging from engagements like sales to information requests, renewed subscriptions, store visits and personal data collection.


How people respond to mail (Source IPA Touchpoints 6 and 7)

Peter Field’s work with the IPA Databank found that campaigns that include mail were 27% more likely to deliver top-ranking sales performance and 40% more likely to deliver top-ranking acquisition levels than campaigns that didn’t. It’s possible that with so much personal communication going digital, mail has something of an advantage. The thud of letter landing on your doormat has become more of a novelty in this era of chimes from your phone as your inbox fills up.

These are not inconsiderable numbers, but taking advantage of them requires an understanding of how mail works in the modern world. Things have changed dramatically both in terms of printing technology, and the marriage of digital and analogue technologies. The latest development on this front is ‘programmatic mail’, which allows advertisers to send individually targeted direct mail to non-converting web visitors within 48 hours, often sooner.

Training in an agency can boost the effective use of mail in campaigns. EffWeek collaborators Royal Mail MarketReach, deliver regularly updated online marketing qualifications that focus on Direct Mail. Run in partnership with the IDM, the Award in Direct Mail was created in response to demand from brands for better levels of specialisation and provides practitioners with a thorough grounding in the medium. Also available is an Award in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), specifically focused on Direct Mail.

Royal Mail MarketReach have a special offer for IPA members for both awards. Use code RM18awdm when booking onto the Award in Direct Mail or the Award in General Data Protection Regulation for Direct Mail, and receive a 15% discount.

Absorbing the findings of the JICMAIL (Joint Industry Committee for Mail) is also a step in the right direction. Comprising a number of industry bodies collaborating with Royal Mail and Whistl, the committee has produced a unified measurement framework for mail. The results are perhaps most usefully summarised in the the JICMail Insight Engine, which helps agencies to plan mail as a part of their campaigns and measure its effectiveness. Research partners on the project, Kantar TNS, carried out some more in-depth research into the reach of mail. They found that  90% of all mail pieces were engaged with, a stark comparison to the often tiny open rates on emails. In addition, mail sticks around. A whopping 31% of all mail items were still at home - a month after they were delivered. A third of mail pieces led to some kind of commercial action and a third of them were shared with other people (source: JICMAIL Kantar TNS Q2 2017 - Q1 2018)

Last updated 21 January 2022