With tens of millions of mailings still being sent to deceased people, a new study claims businesses which persist in the practice miss out on £328.4m in unrealised potential revenue, on top of the £154.5m wasted on postage and production costs, totalling nearly £500m.
The research, carried out by data specialists Wilmington Millennium Mortascreen, follows the introduction of a new code of practice for banks and building societies for dealing with bereaved relatives of customers.
The nationally representative survey exposes the strength of feeling against such firms; two-thirds (66%) of consumers would boycott an organisation that sent direct mail to a loved one that was deceased.
It also reveals the true scale of the issue, with 20% of UK adults receiving direct mail intended for a family member who has passed away in the past year.
On average they received 15 pieces of direct mail addressed to deceased (three pieces of mail a month for five months following the intended recipient’s death).
However, 1.6 million people (2.5%) received five or six pieces a month and 5% continued receiving the mail for more than a year. This equates to almost 200 million pieces (193.2 million) of mistargeted direct mail or 5% of all direct mail sent (approximately 3.6 billion pieces per year).
The cost of this brand damage is only calculated for the period of time that the direct mail is sent to the deceased, so could be significantly higher if the person continued to boycott the brand in the future.
Furthermore, it does not take into consideration the wasted cost of producing and sending the direct mail which equates to around £154.5m.
Karen Pritchard, product director of Mortascreen, a Wilmington Millennium product, said: “2016 has seen the highest rate of deaths in memory and as a result customer databases are decaying more quickly than usual. With an expected 33,000 extra deaths this year organisations can ill afford to ignore this research.
“The fact that two-thirds of consumers would blacklist them if they mailed someone who had passed away is significant. Consumers are becoming increasingly empowered and will vote with their feet by closing their wallets.
“As an industry we have always understood that mailing the deceased causes brand damage, however this research, for the first time, serves to emphasize the scale of the problem for UK companies. Whilst the headline figure is unrealised potential revenue, in absolute terms the £154m wasted on producing these mailpacks should serve as momentum to keep customer data as up-to-date as possible.”
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