In today’s digital age, email is the channel of choice for many marketers because it is more cost- and time-efficient than direct mail. However, when pitting direct mail against email, it is clear each channel has its own benefits and drawbacks, a combination strategy may be the key to marketers success.
Often when looking to choose one medium over the other, commentators tend to report click-through rates, which, according to the DMA Email Benchmarketing Report are 1.56% for email, compared with average response rates for direct mail of 4.4%.
Moreover, many marketers fail to align frequencies of email communication with the likely patterns of their customers’ behaviour. Over-communication via email is a major deterrence for many customers, with 70% of consumers feeling they ‘receive too much mail’. Other arguments are that direct mail has a lifespan of 17 days, compared with email’s 2 seconds and that direct mail costs more than email.
In order to achieve clarity on the comparison between the postal and email channels, Go Inspire Group conducted a study, which offers an objective and media-neutral angle on this debate. The data from the study was drawn from a large-scale randomised control trial (RCT) and offers meaningful evidence on the relative performance of direct mail and email. The outcome offers marketers objective data with which to plan their channel strategy.
Comparing postal to email channels for marketing required that equal effort was applied to both channels in terms of creative variants, segmentation, and timings. In order to achieve realistic results, a single campaign was mounted for a retail client whose product has a broad market appeal. UK customers from all levels of income, location, demographic scale and gender were targeted.
From the 240,00 customers selected at random to participate in the RCT, the first segment received offers exclusively by post, the second via email and the third via both channels. The measurement of success was dependent on the incremental revenue generated rather than response rates.
While response rates were on an even level, conversion and incremental revenue rates deviated markedly. The results demonstrate that commercial outcomes between the different channel strategies vary widely and that the response rate is not a reliable measure of success on its own.
The RCT showed that direct mail outperformed email in terms of incremental revenue after campaign costs, but a combination of email and direct mail then outperformed either medium in isolation.
Above all, the study showed that direct mail and email work better together as part of a combined omnichannel strategy. Both mediums have immense value in the market place and can be leveraged for successful outcomes, but a clever marketer does not need to choose between the two; rather marketers should develop multifaceted, tailored campaigns.
Andy Wood is chairman of Go Inspire Insight