With the rise of the digital age and our ever-increasing reliance on technology, what influence does ‘snail mail’ still have on our purchase behaviour? Has the increase of digital marketing, meant a decrease in success rates for this more traditional channel?

Direct mail has been around since the late 1870’s when Aaron Montgomery Ward created the very first mail order catalogue in America. He believed that by selling products directly to the customer at appealing prices, you could create an innovative marketing model and generate customer loyalty.

Direct mail was also used after World War II in America, when national charities such as the National Easter Seal Society were seeking methods of expanding their fundraising avenues. Even today, the channel is still most commonly used in the not for profit sector.

The validity of direct mail has definitely been under scrutiny in recent years. The technological advancements of digital channels and the increasing importance of limiting the impact on the environment, has created a perception that marketing efforts should concentrate on digital and mobile.

There is no doubt that the way consumers transact with companies is changing. In June 2013, Roy Morgan research released a study which revealed that, in any 3 month period, at least 50% of Australians had shopped online.

The cultural perception is that technology will assist with time poor pleas and this has created a strong trend, an almost obsessive reliance, on smart phones, email and online shopping.

It is little wonder that 70% of companies in Australia plan on increasing their digital marketing spend over the next 12-18 months. The key areas of focus for these budgets is Search Engine Optimisation and email marketing (Responsys, December/January 2013).

What an interesting and exciting opportunity for e-marketing, but what does it mean for direct mail in 2014 (and beyond)?

With challenge comes opportunity, and despite the incredible growth of the digital platform and the influence it has on consumers, there is definitely still a place for direct mail in the marketing mix.

Ironically, the volume of e-communication sent in the current climate has meant that consumers are being bombarded with messages and the effectiveness is being more and more diluted.

The fact still remains, no matter what your age, receiving tangible mail in the post is a novelty. A study conducted by Australia Post confirms that 70% of promotional material received by households is still read, filed, or passed on (MarketSmartly, 2013).

So, the scene has been set for a well-executed direct mail campaign to really make an impact. The challenge is to adopt an integrated approach, package the message in an innovative way (to cut through the clutter) and to ensure increased accuracy of targeting.

The way that technology is influencing the marketing mix means that is as important as ever to keep up with immerging trends and new marketing channels for example, what’s next for mobile marketing or social media? However, the greatest strength to incorporate into a campaign is integration.

If the rise of digital has taught us anything it should be that success of a marketing campaign can no longer be defined through one channel. Know your audience and adopt a multichannel approach to all campaigns.  Utilising more segmentation, variations in artwork depending on the segment and personalisation techniques should see increases in response rates.

Direct mail is definitely still alive and well and with a quality strategy and an integrated approach, it might just become your secret to success.


1. Responsys and Econsultancy 4th annual report on Marketing Budgets. (December/January 2013). How marketers are spending their budgets in 2013. Retrieved in January 2014 from www.responsys.com

2. MarketSmartly. (2013). Six Benefits of Direct Mail. Retrieved in January 2014 from www.marketsmartly.com

3. Amy Bainbridge. (2013). More than 50 per cent of Australians shopping online: Roy Morgan research. Retrieved in January 2014 from www.abc.net.au