Customer mail ‘beats digital in building relationships’

direct mail n2Businesses which urge their customers to go paperless could well be not only alienating huge swathes of consumers but also missing out on developing strong relationships with them.

That is one of the key findings of a new study by Royal Mail Marketreach and Accenture that shows 83% of consumers want choice about whether to receive communications by mail or email.

The research found that while 42% of respondents were encouraged to go paperless last year and nearly half were offered incentives to do so, only about 24% did, with only half of respondents happy to go paperless.

Evidence suggests that companies would be wise to heed customers wishes as 88% of people read all or most of their customer mail, compared to 76% for emails, 58% for texts and 44% for app notifications.

Marketreach commissioned Trinity McQueen to conduct a six-part research programme of over 6,000 consumers and partnered with Accenture to leverage its wide-ranging experience and insights across all aspects of business.

In contrast to advertising mail, where the focus is to ‘sell,’ customer mail’s primary objective is to share information, offer support and develop relationships between an organisation and a named addressee.

Delving further into the research, it found that people are twice as likely to say that they understand complex information when it is presented to them in physical mail compared to digital formats and 57% of respondents report that they are less likely to miss something if it comes to them in a physical format.

The research found that all age groups engage with mail, including Gen Z and millennials, who appreciate the personal touch that customer mail brings. They engage with it more than email: 85% of them open it; 65% store it for future reference; 49% put it somewhere to action later; and 40% show it to others in their household.

However, a combination of both physical and digital mail tends to be the best approach across a customer relationship.

Marketreach claims the research, particularly the qualitative customer workshops, provides key insights into how brands can best optimise their customer mail to deliver both a positive customer experience as well as help to build brand equity.

It found key times when physical mail is particularly effective is when: the communication needs to be read thoroughly; the recipient needs to act on the information received; the information is important or complex; it needs to be kept for reference or when security or privacy are possible concerns.

The strong sentiment of value associated with customer mail from consumers suggests a vital role for mail as part of the wider customer engagement approach. Its tangibility, its trustworthiness, the way customers appreciate and interact with mail makes it a channel that offers unique CX benefits.

As the research reveals, customers preferences are not for a purely digital experience so great customer experience should take this into account and business leaders and decision makers need to look at their transformation plans in the whole, beyond merely digital channels, Marketreach maintains.

Marketreach commercial director Phil Ricketts said: “Our research reaffirms customer mail’s importance in the customer relationship and demonstrates how it can benefit businesses looking to bolster their CX strategy.

“It’s an incredibly powerful brand touch point, which is invested with huge amounts of trust by consumers, but one where there is massive opportunity to further leverage its impact as part of the customer experience. When executed well, customer mail can add both personal value to customers and commercial value to organisations.”

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