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Learn how Direct Mail is used to connect with clients at every stage of the customer journey, whether you're building awareness or encouraging long-term loyalty.

Comparing Direct Mail Marketing to Email and SMS in 2023


As you plan your marketing campaigns, don’t count direct mail out! You may be surprised at how direct mail stacks up against other direct marketing channels. Ultimately, a multichannel approach can help you maximize your reach and impact, but direct mail deserves a place in that strategy. To see why, let’s look at how direct mail performs when it comes to open rates, response rates, consumer preferences, and return on investment (ROI).

Open Rates

Which are you more likely to overlook: a marketing email in your ever-growing inbox, or a physical postcard in your mailbox? For most people, marketing emails are a bit like white noise. Getting someone to open your email can be a real challenge, although it’s not impossible.  

Direct mail, on the other hand, is more likely to be seen by the recipient. When someone brings in a stack of mail from the letterbox, they’ll look through each item before deciding whether to file it away, hold onto it, or toss it in the trash. The average household in the U.S. received 361 pieces of direct mail marketing in 2021—that’s less than one mailer per day on average! With far less competing for their attention in the mailbox, a consumer is more likely to give your message the attention it deserves when it’s in print.

What are direct mail open rates? They vary between 57.5 and 85 percent. That’s a wide range, but the important thing to note is that recipients are more likely to receive your message than not. When it comes to open rates, SMS marketing is another great medium to consider because it boasts open rates of up to 98 percent!

Response Rates

Another metric to pay attention to with direct marketing is response rates. In other words, what percentage of people who receive your marketing message take the action you want them to take, whether that’s visiting your website, making a purchase, or calling for a quote?

Again, direct mail shines. Research shows that direct mail gets better response rates than email marketing. For example, according to the United States Postal Service (USPS), 42 percent of consumers went to a company’s website after receiving relevant mail in the past three months. Others went to the brand’s app, visited a storefront location, made a purchase, or otherwise advanced their relationship with the brand. Just 21 percent of consumers took no action at all.

Overall, average response rates for direct mail fall between 2.7-4.4 percent. Contrast that with email’s average response rate of 0.6 percent, and you’ll see why direct mail can be especially impactful. SMS is also known to have an exceptionally high response rate, making it another great addition to your marketing plan.

Consumer Preferences

People like getting physical mail! Seventy-one percent of baby boomers and Gen X-ers say that mail feels more personal than digital communications. The digital fatigue people are experiencing serves to exaggerate this sentiment further.

Keep in mind that not all demographics feel the same way about direct mail. Among millenials, more prefer email over direct mail (49 versus 32 percent, respectively).  

Ultimately, a multichannel approach is best because it can help you capitalize on the reach and advantages of direct mail and digital mediums. 

One thing is clear across marketing mediums: Consumers prefer personalized messages to generic ones. Whether you send a printed piece of mail, text message, or email, ensure your marketing materials feel tailored to each recipient with their name, preferences, and other details reflected in the message and visual design. 

Want to learn more about individualizing your direct mail? Check out our direct mail eBook

Download our personalized direct mail ebook now

Return on Investment 

Some brands may worry that printed marketing materials are too costly compared to digital marketing. After all, you have materials costs for postcards, brochures, and flyers that you don’t have with virtual messages. However, you have to move past upfront costs and look at the ROI to get the full picture.

In 2021, direct mail's ROI outperformed all other presented marketing channels with an average of 112 percent! In other words, it’s well worth spending the extra cash on printing services and materials because your direct mail campaigns will bring in more revenue than they cost. 

Want to make the most of your investment? You can maximize your ROI by making your direct mail as engaging as possible through personalization, digital integration, and clear calls to action.

Are You Making the Most of Direct Mail?

Direct mail isn’t just a quaint or retro marketing medium. It’s a powerful channel that modern marketers should prioritize. With high open and response rates, favor with consumers, and unmatched ROI, direct mail is a no-brainer.

To maximize your reach and your relationship with consumers, employ a multichannel approach that leverages direct mail alongside email and SMS. Each medium offers specific advantages.Want to take a moment to evaluate your use of direct mail? Take our direct mail assessment, and we’ll let you know how you’re doing and where you can improve!

Direct Mail assessment

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