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Market Trends

Direct Mail

Direct Mail plays a fundamental role in a communications campaign, and even more so with the filling up of inboxes. Genevieve Lewis finds out how physical mail can still play a part

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Delivering the goods

It appeared to be a trend: “We are no longer doing paper-based advertising,” some said. But then, inboxes became too full, spam filters appeared, and people are so obsessed with their phones that they just wanted the notification to go away.

Now, companies from a number of markets are returning to something physical, something to hold. And that is direct mail.

Digital is not the only thing to have progressed, but direct mail has also changed, with the addition of partially addressed mail and perhaps even transactional mail. Personalisation can also play a key role in direct mail – having something that is specific to its recipient can make a big difference.

Judith Donovan, CBE of the Strategic Mailing Partnership

One woman who is super confidant in the viability of direct mail and mail services is Judith Donovan, CBE from the Strategic Mailing Partnership. On the prospect of an upward trend, she says enthusiastically: “Why wouldn’t there be? We know mail volumes track GDP and whether it’s the ‘Boris bounce’ or post-Brexit uncertainty, all marketing budgets will be unlocked.”

Donovan also mentions a trick up the sleeve for communications and that is partially addressed mail, which uses the address but not the name of the person that lives in the household. “We have a magic bullet in partially addressed mail, where instead of being addressed to an individual, mail items are addressed to the household. It uses demographics at postcode level, so brands can target small groups of around 15 households. Mail can be targeted using demographics rather than personal data.”

We have a magic bullet in partially addressed mail, where instead of being addressed to an individual, mail items are addressed to the household

Glyn King, who is the group managing director for Datagraphic, also notes how communications can transform from direct mail to transactional mail. The difference here is that transactional mail is sent after the customer has made the purchase or has signed up to a service. “While direct mail plays an important role in the marketing strategies of many organisations by generating sales, transactional mail enables them to communicate with customers once secured.”

King continues: “Invoices, contract agreements, account updates and reminder letters are all necessary parts of the customer service experience, and, unlike direct mail, they are customer-specific documents, containing personalised content for individual recipients.

[L to R] Datagraphic’s Glyn King, group managing director with general manager Sarah Butler and Andy Wain, UK sales director at Bowe Systec

“An organisation’s knowledge of the preferences of individual customers can allow it to deliver highly targeted information, generating opportunities for it to cross- or sell-up, enhancing the marketing role performed by direct mail. Transactional mail can be tremendously powerful tool if the organisation has the capability and capacity to work with the data produced.”

Please and thank you

King adds that the pace of transactional mail is quick, and Datagraphic works on this by having its own print operation in-house, as well as developing software solutions. “Uniquely in the UK, Datagraphic both develops document automation software and has a secure print facility in-house, streamlining workloads and minimising costs,” says King, before continuing: “The production and delivery of transactional mail is still often undertaken by organisations in-house. But a growing number are recognising the business benefits of partnering with a provider of secure end-to-end document automation solutions to handle both document production and delivery.

Glyn King, managing director of Datagraphic, says that while direct mail is important, transactional mail plays a part when the customer has been secured

“The pace of transactional mail is fast, with customers expecting the rapid delivery of documents. Customer services teams face frequently fluctuating workflows, and during peak periods, distribution can be impeded, compromising customer experience and consequently trust.”

Bucking the trend

There are also other trends to look out for when it comes to direct mail – trends that print companies can really take advantage of, such as augmented reality and personalisation. Dornans is over 170 years old and is based in Oldham. The firm offers all services from large-format display services through to helping marketeers out with their direct mail campaigns.

Ian Bryan is the managing director of Dornans and explains: “The rise in interactive options such as augmented reality, targeting and personalisation are the key trends to keep an eye on. Direct mail is still a highly effective way of marketing – of course this depends on your goals and your organisation.

Members of staff at Datagraphic working with the recently installed Xerox Trivor 2400 HD inkjet press

“But in a very digital world, we see stats all the time that suggest customers trust direct mail more than digital ads.”

However, Bryan notes that a direct mail campaign very much depends on what you want to achieve as a business. He also says that when working on a marketing campaign, it shouldn’t necessarily come down to being one or the other in terms of physical mail or digital spend but should be looked at as an integrated opportunity.

While direct mail plays an important role in the marketing strategies of many organisations by generating sales, transactional mail enables them to communicate with customers once secured

On whether or not businesses should turn to direct mail, Bryan explains: “I think this will depend entirely on the organisation, the type of campaign they are running and what their goals are. It’s common now that most businesses will favour digital spend rather the print, [but] I would encourage organisations to think more around how they can run integrated campaigns rather than one or the other.”

He continues: “If you’re trying to reach a specific target group of people, you have the data, you can personalise. And if you want to cut through the digital noise, direct mail can be a very good channel to use.”

Reaping the rewards

To get the most out of a direct mail campaign, Bryan says “it is all in the planning” and making sure that a business has the most accurate data. Bryan also reiterates the power of personalisation and making sure that you have the right message that will resonate with your audience. “You’ll be well on your way to a successful direct mail campaign,” Bryan adds.

O Factoid: Over ten million addressed letters were sent in the UK in 2019, and just under three million unaddressed letters were also sent in this period. (Statista) O

And if businesses feel a direct mail campaign is right for them, Dornans are in place to help you succeed with physical mail. “We have taken the time over the years to perfect our specialised direct mail service,” says Bryan.

“We know that the devil is in the detail and getting the finer points right makes a real impact on customer response.

Companies like Dornans can help with a direct mail campaign

“Our expert teamwork across all forms of direct mail solutions, from data preparation, personalised printing right through to enclosing and postage. From smaller, bespoke runs to large scale projects, no matter what the project is we take the same dedicated approach – fine tuning and delivering a first-rate service to ensure that each campaign hits the spot.”

So, if your business is thinking of running a direct mail campaign, there are a number of trends to look out for: personalisation, integration and augmented reality to name but a few. There are also other ways in which to make sure it is successful – making sure you have the right message that will resonate with customers.
Remember, mail can also be used for other marketing purposes such as transactional mail and staying in touch with customers after they have purchased your item.

Either way, the print industry will be right there to help you get the most out of your marketing.

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