Direct mail embraces the digital age

Direct mail embraces the digital ageBelieve everything you read in the marketing press and you’d be forgiven for thinking that digital media have it all sewn up – after all, we’re told they’re cheaper than traditional marketing, more trackable and, to crown it all, much more measurable, creating that all-elusive ROI figure.
However, while digital has undoubtedly taken marketing departments by storm – with spend surpassing the likes of TV, press and outdoor – I believe it’s in danger of overkill, simply because it is now hard to go anywhere without being bombarded by digital ads.
At a recent trade show, I even overheard one presentation in which the speaker enthused: “If consumers have got a smartphone then you can target them straightaway…they are all your customers.” But just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Even now, when you turn on your phone or tablet computer, they’re are ads waiting for you; go to your favourite website and suddenly they explode in your face. open your email and they’re in that, too. Recent research claimed that 84% of 25- to 34-year-olds have left a favourite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising.
Of course, not all brand owners are quite so myopic when it comes to their marketing, and multi-channel campaigns are alive and kicking. In fact, according to GroupM’s “This Year, Next Year UK” study, the classic DM disciplines of direct mail, door-drops and leaflets have continued to hold their own in UK marketing budgets – grabbing a spend of £4.5bn – and second only to online advertising.
With 80% of respondents to a OnePost study saying they like receiving direct mail, it is easy to see why it is still a major part of companies’ marketing plans. Time and time again research proves the medium achieves outstanding cut-through and impact.
And with Royal Mail’s recent £70m investment in the Mailmark scheme – barcode technology which will offer Google Analytics-style reports for business mail – the medium is entering the digital age.
Using the scheme, brand owners will be able to track their mail consignments from posting to delivery round through a web reporting interface. The company is also in the process of building what it calls a “world class” team of analysts to work on the programme.
Large firms will be able to improve their efficiency and customer service by staffing operations, such as call centres, based on the exact date customers receive statements or business mail. It will also enable them to improve the effectiveness of marketing mail campaigns and to more accurately link associated communications activities, for example, a text message, with delivery of their mail.
Our own Cygnus and SwiftSort products are already fully enabled for Mailmark. Meanwhile data processing software houses and mailing houses alike are embracing the new style of integration of mailing into other media formats.
In one fell swoop direct mail is embracing digital without all the baggage – such as data privacy fears, cookies and intrusiveness – that many online campaigns generate. And let’s face it, who doesn’t like receiving a letter in the post?

David Murray is sales director of The Software Bureau

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