US direct mail volumes recovered last year, and 44% of US B2C and combination B2B/B2C marketing strategy leaders report having increased their budget allocations to direct mail over the past year, according to a survey [download page] commissioned by SeQuel Response and conducted by NAPCO Research.

While that trails the share of respondents who have increased their spending on email marketing (61%) and social media (59%), among others, it exceeds other traditional media such as linear TV (32% having increased) and radio (28%).

Previous research from Nielsen also finds that, globally, direct mail is towards the bottom of list of channels that have experienced budget increases, but that more have been growing than cutting their direct mail budgets.

This latest survey indicates that there are a variety of reasons for investing in direct mail. Most commonly, respondents are doing so as it is a legacy channel (67%), but almost as many are doing so for scale/growth (66%) and to diversify their marketing mix (64%). Many are doing so because their competitors are (60%), while a slim majority (53%) also say they choose direct mail due to rising customer acquisition costs of digital channels.

Direct mail performance also continues to be strong, according to the report, with virtually all respondents reporting that it has improved (65%) or remained steady (32%) over the past 12 months. In fact, direct mail has the highest ROI of any direct response medium, according to recent benchmarks, and consumers ascribe high purchase influence to mail.

Marketers responding to the SeQuel Response survey indicate that Self-Mailers are the most effective, with 43% saying they have been “very successful” and an additional 41% reporting that they have been “moderately successful.” Almost 8 in 10 report that postcards, letters, and oversized flats/catalogs are each very or moderately successful, though the latter are cited as “very successful” by fewer (30%) respondents. The results are interesting in light of other research finding that catalogs and magazines are consumers’ favorite type of direct mail, and postcards their least favorite.

Using An Agency for Direct Mail Programs

About 7 in 10 (71% of) marketers said they partner with an agency in some way to manage their direct mail programs, though the vast majority of those (68% of respondents overall) use a combination of in-house and agency program management. About 3 in 10 (29%) manage their direct mail efforts exclusively in-house, while just 3% exclusively turn to agency help.

The top challenge experienced by in-house teams is implementing a sustainable testing strategy, with other challenges cited including tracking mail performance/attribution, developing engaging creative, and customization/personalization limitations.

With regards to measurement, the most common are multi-touch attribution models, business reply envelopes, and toll-free number and vanity URLs. Easily the most frequently-used direct mail performance KPIs are cost per acquisition (82%) and ROI (81%).

When turning to agency partners, factors that marketers deem important when selecting partners include a dedicated and responsive team for overall project management, ability to integrate direct mail and digital strategies, and list building and data modeling strategy.

Other Findings:

  • The top mailing list data sources are demographic selections and first-party data.
  • Direct mail is currently most integrated with email and SMS, and less so with paid social and programmatic.
  • Top future direct mail concerns are reaching audiences due to increased data security regulations for offline data/modeling data, and overall paper industry challenges due to cost inflation and/or shortages of labor and materials.

For more, download the report here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 158 B2C (41%) and combination B2B/B2C marketing strategy leaders (59%). The Retail/Consumer Services (44%) industry was the most heavily represented.

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