Soaring direct mail open rates put online to shame

Direct mail may have its knockers – most notably a handful of MPs who love nothing more than to batter the industry – but new research claims that nearly 500 million more mailings are being opened and read compared to three years ago.

The study, carried out by Wilmington Millennium Mortascreen, insists that the bad old days of “let’s mail them to death” are over as the amount of irrelevant, poorly targeted, low quality mailings has declined sharply.

It shows that the number of pieces of direct mail that are thrown away and recycled unopened has reduced significantly over the last three years.

In 2013, a staggering 40% of direct mailshots (1.8 billion out of 4.4 billion) were thrown away unopened while today this has reduced to a slightly less staggering 28% (1.3 billion).

While even the “new, improved” figure will still make many people wince, it knocks online advertising into a cocked hat. The latest stats from Meetrics show that only 49% of online ads were actually deemed to have been “seen”, and even then that was in accordance to the IAB and Media Ratings Council’s somewhat discredited recommendation that 50% of the ad was in view for at least 1 second. And according to Google-Doubleclick figures, the average click-through rate for an online ad is 0.1%.

But with 500 million more pieces of direct mail being opened and read than previously, Wilmington claims that this potentially adds £1.6bn to the medium’s ROI.

Those aged between 16 and 24 are the least likely to bin their direct mail with only one in 12 throwing it away unopened, a finding which chimes with Royal Mail MarketReach’s recent study. Meanwhile over a third (38%) of 45- to 54-year-olds will ditch it straight from the mat. Furthermore, areas that are environmentally conscious, such as Brighton (14%), are the least likely to bin unopened direct mail.

Better targeting and the reduced practice of addressing items to the homeowner or occupier are revealed as the key reasons for improved open rates. Almost 60% of consumers believe that a correctly addressed piece of mail which uses their name suggests that the mailing will be relevant or of interest to them, while only 16% of people believe that ‘dear occupier/homeowner’ addressed mailings are worth reading.

Mortascreen product director Karen Pritchard said that direct mail is experiencing a revival among consumers and marketers alike. She added: “This is because the industry is cleaning up its act and reducing the amount of irrelevant, poorly targeted, low quality mailings that were the blight of the homeowner a decade ago.

“The number of ‘dear occupier’ mailings are at an all-time low while the number of suppressions are up, which demonstrates the desire of marketers to build profitable relationships with consumers rather than bombard them in the hopes they’ll buy. As a result the medium’s ROI is improving, making it one of the most cost efficient and effective ways for marketers to reach their target audiences.”

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