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21 . 01 . 21

Increased disposable time boosts DM effectiveness

Words by: Print Power
The coronavirus pandemic presents major challenges for businesses across the world, and mailing houses felt the full force of the impact right at the start, back in March.
Advertisers started to pull or scale down campaigns in their droves, either hitting pause until they could more clearly gauge how events might play out or, in some cases, because their industries had shut down altogether.

And while the numbers of campaigns and run lengths may have gone down, many mailers found that their clients were increasingly looking for better targeting, to avoid their ROI falling off a cliff on any campaigns they did put out.

In a recent poll of Printweek readers asking ‘Has the direct mail you receive changed since the start of the pandemic?’ nearly a quarter (24%) said the mail they now receive is more targeted, while 34% reported no change and 42% felt it was less targeted. Feedback on volumes of mail received was also mixed.

But more specific targeting is increasingly happening, at least according to many direct mailers across the country, and it is “data, data, data” that is helping to achieve this, according to Ben Snutch, group sales and commercial director at Go Inspire Group.

“By using the data insights, we can offer personalisation and targeting that is more effective than ever before. Going forward it is highly likely that the goalposts will continue to move within the trading environment. Therefore, agility will be key for many of our customers.

Go Inspire saw mail volumes dip back in April to around 50% of normal levels, but as of November Snutch says the business was seeing volumes at around 80% of pre-Covid levels.Many brands and businesses that continued to advertise during the pandemic are likely to have experienced better than expected results, with direct mail proving its resilience more than ever as a captive audience, often with more time on their hands, were waiting at home.

The Q2 findings from the Joint Industry Committee for Mail (JICMail), which covered the first national lockdown, reported record-breaking double digit increases in the effectiveness of direct mail and door drops.

In the JICMail stats for Q3 the average piece of direct mail was interacted with 4.43 times, with an 8.4 day lifespan in the home, door drops were interacted with 3.03 times on average, with a 6.4 day lifespan, and business mail was interacted with 4.93 times, with a lifespan of 9.5 days.

Those advertisers who stayed active during lockdown got a really nice efficiency of spend because more ad impressions were delivered for the same number of mail items that were being sent out.
Ian Gibbs
Director of data leadership and learning/ JICMail

Even more impressive, perhaps, were the results that could be attributed to these mail pieces.

JICMail found that 8.7% of all advertising mail, including direct mail, door drops and business mail, drove traffic to advertiser websites in Q3, up from 6.5% a year ago and representing a 33% increase year-on-year.

Furthermore, 5.8% of advertising mail has driven people online generally to find out more information about advertising content, up from 4.1% a year ago and representing a 41% increase year-on-year.

Says Ian Gibbs, Director of data leadership and learning at JICMail: “They didn’t necessarily have to spend any more money but there were just people looking at their mail more. And that kind of efficiency in an above-the-line channel is quite compelling.”

Finance and retail advertisers have played a big part in sustaining direct mail interaction rates, recording healthy mail volumes and year on year increases in frequency of interaction with their mail.

For door drops it is retail, supermarkets and restaurant / takeaway advertisers which have driven growth in consumer mail engagement.

The largest advertisers have tended to benefit from improvements in their share of the door mat in Q3 2020 (essentially share of mail activity / mail share of voice). Eight of the top 10 direct mail advertisers and seven of the top 10 door drop advertisers have seen their mail share of voice improve this quarter, resulting in greater visibility on consumer door mats.

Gibbs says the effects now seen for mail seem to be changing, and that “mail does exist in a multichannel world now”.

One of the most notable users of direct mail this year has been the government, which has used the channel to deliver coronavirus-related messaging to homes.

In the early weeks of the pandemic it launched a huge print campaign that saw a letter and leaflet delivered to all 30 million households in the UK, urging them to stay at home.

“The government needed to target people in homes and what better channel for targeting people in their household than targeting at a household level,” says Gibbs.

Although print’s unique attributes will have also been an important consideration in using the medium, he adds.

“A physical, tactile medium just carries that much more kind of weight and trust than quite a sort of transitory virtual or digital piece of comms. Older people definitely interact with mail and younger people do as well, they just don’t receive so much of it, so it cuts through to them and they might be avoiding other ads elsewhere.”


Long-term impact
It is impossible to predict if any of the trends seen by JICMail this year will remain in the long term, particularly as vaccine rollouts begin and many workers inevitably begin to return to offices and other workplaces next year. But Romax managing director Robin Sumner believes direct mail will continue to prosper.

“Increased time in the home as mail is delivered, as homeworkers have more disposable time. This plus the ‘noise’ of online marketing means that niche and quality products have increased opportunity to sell.”

The latest coronavirus research from Royal Mail MarketReach backs up Sumner’s points, finding that two out of five people have reported suffering digital burnout, while 44% of respondents said they looked forward to receiving mail during lockdown. Two in five also expressed that the lockdown period reaffirmed the importance of mail.

Sumner adds “Homeworking is not going away. B2C direct mail volumes will benefit greatly from this shift in location, as lockdown allows more ‘home shopping’. There will also be an upturn in B2B mail as offices open up more. There has been a very significant drop in B2B mail – understandably – as many key buyers are simply not in the office.”

Based upon article first published in Print Week, December 18 2020, written by Richard Stuart-Turner