Direct mail is not dead

Direct mail effectiveness used to be easy to measure. Deliver a mass mailer, the customer calls the tracking phone number or visits the website listed on the mailer and then buys the product/service. It used to be a linear process. But with the customer now influenced by so many different touchpoints online and offline, their journey to purchase is nowhere near that simple. So why are so many companies still using the same outdated ways to execute and measure direct mail performance?

Let’s suppose a potential customer was sent a piece of direct mail. The old way of thinking assumes if customer calls the number or visits the URL on the piece, the campaign was a success. If they don’t, it was a failure. What this thinking fails to address is what if the customer looks at the piece but takes the desired action later through or influenced by a different medium?

Success in today’s complex marketing environment must include a multi-touchpoint attribution model to get a clear view of a campaign’s performance. A customer acting immediately on the direct call to action is a success, but the campaign is also a success if the direct mail generated customer awareness and interest, leading the customer to convert later, possibly in an entirely different media channel.

The customer journey rarely begins and ends in only one channel.

Today’s customer is increasingly more prone to choose their own path of decision making. From social media sites, to product reviews, to bloggers, the customer has access to a multitude of resources that empowers them to make an informed, intelligent decision, all at their own pace and through their preferred media channels. While the “last touch” purchasing action may have taken place on an online web form or via an online phone number, the start of their journey very likely could have begun with a direct mail piece.

Purchasing decisions today are not made in a vacuum, and they are probably not driven by one piece of communication. Each media touchpoint, be it direct or mass, could serve as an integral part in the prospect’s journey to taking a desired action.

So how can marketers account for an increasingly complex set of customer touchpoints, and understand the effect of direct mail on overall campaign performance, either directly or indirectly?

Enter AdScience®.

AdScience®, Imaginuity’s proprietary customer data platform, can help. AdScience collects second and third-party marketing data and combines it with first-party customer data to effectively connect the dots of multiple touchpoints across the customer journey. AdScience collects, analyzes, and activates billions of rows of data and visualizes marketing campaign performance across media types, providing insight into what is driving conversions.

So now we can give credit where credit is due.

For one of our clients in the home services category, the majority of leads were coming from online web forms, prompting the client to seriously consider allocating more budget to online initiatives and less to direct mail. Using traditional last-touch attribution methods, this might appear to have been a good idea. However, with AdScience we were able to visualize what was really happening. After we analyzed the relationship between number of mailers sent and online form conversions over a two-year span, we proved there is a direct, positive correlation between the two data points. When we increase the number of mail pieces dropped in a given month, the number of online conversions increases as well. Direct mail allows us to pinpoint consumers within our target audience better than targeting only through online channels. While the final conversion did not come from the mailer, the mailer was designed to reach the right person at the right time. In metropolitan areas, we can prove that 67% of online conversions received at least one direct mail piece, proving that mail does increase awareness for the final online conversion. In a nutshell, the more direct mail we send, the more online leads we receive.

While traditional notions of direct mail may be dead, direct mail is alive and well.

Taking a data-driven approach to direct mail focused both on customer understanding and integrated, cross-channel thinking about conversions can drive superior campaign performance. By delivering the right message in the home to the right people at the right time supported by robust paid and organic search efforts, direct mail can still play a pivotal role in the media mix.

And with the “cookieless” future looming, advertisers are increasingly focused on how to shift strategy to ensure they’re reaching the right customer and continuing to track attribution. Direct mail will become an even more critical part of the media mix for clients who are collecting customer addresses. This deterministic, 1st party data not only allows us to match sales/conversions back to the addresses mailed, but allows us to prospect new audiences based on fully compliant household characteristics that we identify their customers share.

Click here to learn more about how AdScience® provides the insight required to optimize your media mix.

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About the author:

Charlie Calise