May 09, 2017

Direct Marketing Chart: Why customers ignore direct mail


Direct mail is the third most trusted advertising channel when customers are making a purchase decision.

But that doesn’t mean the channel isn’t without its challenges. So, in this week’s chart, we look at our latest discoveries about why customers might ignore your direct mail campaigns.

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

By Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

We asked 2,400 consumers, sampled to reflect a close match to the U.S. population's demographics: Why do you ignore the print advertising you receive from companies? Select all that apply. 

To see 35 charts from the study, download the free report.

Consumers say they get too much direct mail in general

The most frequent response from customers was, “They clutter my mailbox because I receive too much direct mail in general,” chosen by 24% of consumers.

This was not uncommon. From email to print advertising, customers’ top reason for disengaging with a channel often had to do with the overall volume of advertising messages received (digital advertising was a notable outlier where the disruptive nature of the ads was the top reason for blocking them.)

However, the trend of “too much” was especially pronounced for direct mail where “I don’t have time to read them” (20% of American consumers) and “the print mail ads/catalogs are not relevant to me” (19% of American consumers) were the second and third most frequent responses.

To hear it in consumers’ own words, they told us “I do not ignore all print advertising, only ones that send constant barrage of mail” and “the amount of advertising that I receive is overwhelming. I tune it out, mostly.”     

Some of the responses were more colorful: “It's like a fungus, intrusive” and “I hate print mail. It serves no purpose except to clutter up my tiny mailbox with useless stuff.”

However, direct mail is one of the more trusted channels

But the news isn’t all bad for direct mail.

While direct mail wasn’t quite at the level of the reining “king of consumer trust” — print advertising in newspapers and magazines — we have discovered that direct mail is the third-most trusted advertising channel when consumers are making a purchase decision.

And even in this chart you’ll see that the least frequently chosen response was “I don’t trust their print mail/catalogs to provide me the information I need to make purchase decisions” (11%).

So how can you stick out from that mailbox clutter and tap into a trusted channel for consumer information?

As with other marketing channels, a key differentiator we discovered between satisfied and unsatisfied customers’ view of marketing was engaging in customer-first marketing. Ask this key question when working on your next mailer: How can you not just sell, but best serve your customers with your direct mail?

A specific direct mail tactic that some customers called out favorably was coupons — we saw responses like “send more catalogs and coupons in the mail” and “I love mailer(s) that offer coupons.” But there are many other ways to provide value — from dimensional mailers that provide an actual physical element that helps or entertains a customer to flat mailers that provide valuable content or timely, useful information.

How direct mail is perceived differently than email and digital marketing

While digital marketers might look at direct mail and consider the main differences to be cost, lead time, and more difficulty tracking customer interaction, how do customers perceive direct mail differently than digital marketing?

On the plus side, direct mail is less disruptive (as mentioned previously, the top reason consumers blocked online ads was the disruptive nature of the advertisements.) As one consumer responded, “Don't mind receiving advertising in the mail because I can read it at my leisure. Don't like to be interrupted with ads online when I am doing something else.”

On the downside, consumers called out the negative environmental consequences of direct mail in the “other reasons” field. Comments like “waste of paper and trees!,” “not good for the environment,” “not green” and “not eco friendly.”            

Related Resources

How to Use a Multichannel Campaign Strategy to Reach Key Decision-Makers

Direct Mail Marketing: Multi-channel approach achieves 700% ROI

B2C Marketing: Lawn care company saves more than $800,000 in direct mail postage by integrating email

Tell us your inspirational story of customer-first marketing for a chance to win a MarketingSherpa Award and share your story onstage at MarketingSherpa Summit 2018 in Las Vegas

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions