All Industries direct mail marketing

2023 Direct Mail Marketing Year in Review

6 Min Read
by Amanda Boughey

Digital marketing has become an oversaturated realm, but in a move that may surprise some digital die-hards, direct mail has emerged as the steady ship in a stormy sea. In 2023, more businesses started rethinking their digital-first approach, turning their eyes back to the tried-and-true method of direct mail. 

The trend toward direct mail is not just about nostalgia or going “old school.” Direct mail now offers a less invasive, compliance-friendly avenue for distributing your message. Yes, digital marketing has its place, but 2023 marked a notable shift toward revaluing what direct mail brings to the table—trust, reliability, and a break from the digital clutter.

What happened in direct mail in 2023

The year 2023 was pivotal for direct mail. The marketing channel  has made a comeback, as marketers recognize that it can reach consumers in a more personal and engaging way.  While companies are still spending far more on digital channels, their investment in direct mail is on the rise.

#1: Budget spend on direct mail increased in 2023

Direct mail has made a comeback, as marketers recognize that it can reach consumers in a more personal and engaging way. Even though companies are still spending far more on digital channels, their investment in direct mail is on the rise.

Direct mail is often more expensive than other marketing channels. Despite this, marketers are increasingly allocating their budgets towards this more reliable and less invasive way to reach their audience. Newly released direct mail research conducted by ISG Research indicates that 89% of marketers have increased or maintained their direct mail investments in the past year, a 3% increase from 2022. This trend is likely to continue in the coming years, as marketers seek to reach consumers in a way that is more trusted and less likely to be blocked.

A November 2022 survey by the Direct Marketing Association of over 1,000 marketing professionals in the United States found that companies allocated an average of 17% of their marketing budgets to direct mail in 2023, up from 15% in 2022.

The increase in spending on direct mail is attributed to a number of factors, including:

  • Direct mail effectiveness: Direct mail has consistently been shown to be one of the most effective marketing channels, with high response rates and conversion rates. The Direct Marketing Association’s 2023 Response Rate Report found that direct mail has an average response rate of 2.7% – 4.4%, compared to 0.12% for email and 0.08% for social media. The DMA also found that direct mail has an average conversion rate of 14%, compared to 1.9% for email and 1.3% for social media.
  • Rise of personalization: Direct mail serves as a powerful tool for crafting personalized marketing messages, a feature that’s gaining importance among consumers. Picture this: you’re a large pet retailer. You send out a direct mail campaign offering exclusive discounts on top-selling dog food based on their sales history. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, we understand your needs and the needs of your pet!’
  • Integration of digital and direct mail channels: Marketers are increasingly integrating direct mail with their digital marketing campaigns, which can create a more seamless and effective customer experience.

#2: Direct mail is more trusted than digital marketing channels

A recent study by the Direct Marketing Association found that 91% of consumers trust direct mail. Indeed,  direct mail’s popularity is notably higher than the trust levels for other marketing channels, such as email (72%) and social media (58%).  

Conversely, digital marketing is navigating through a maze of trust issues and ad fatigue. A study by Integral Ad Science found that 61% of consumers are blocking ads online, highlighting the challenges facing digital marketers and the opportunities for direct mail.  

Why have consumers lost trust in other marketing channels like email and social media? This could be due to many factors, including:

  • The rise of spam and phishing attacks
  • The proliferation of fake news and misinformation
  • The increasing personalization of advertising, which makes consumers feel like they are being tracked and targeted

Advertisers consider direct mail a more personal and physical form of communication. Consumers are more likely to open direct mail than they are to open emails or social media posts. The November 2022 survey by the Direct Marketing Association of over 1,000 US consumers showed that 81% of respondents said they are more likely to open direct mail than they are to open email.

The high level of trust in direct mail is attributed to a number of factors, including that direct mail is:

  • A physical piece of communication that consumers hold in their hands
  • Often more personalized than other marketing channels
  • Less likely to be associated with spam and phishing attacks

As consumers continue to lose trust in other marketing channels, direct mail is likely to become an even more important channel for marketers.

#3: Modern direct mail incorporates digital elements

Traditional direct mail involved sending out mass mailings to large lists of people. Today’s direct mail, on the other hand, is much more targeted and personalized. The ability to personalize is due in part to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

AI and ML can analyze large data sets to identify patterns and trends. They can use this information to create targeted direct mail campaigns that are more likely to be relevant and engaging to individual consumers.

In the context of targeted Direct Mail campaigns, companies often use predictive analytics models or customer segmentation algorithms. These models analyze past purchase history, engagement rates, and even geographic data to segment the customer base.

For example, a retail company might use a machine learning model to analyze transaction data and identify customers who frequently buy outdoor gear. These customers then receive Direct Mail with personalized offers for camping equipment, just in time for the hiking season.

Today’s direct mail campaigns are also more likely to incorporate digital elements. Many direct mail postcards include QR codes that consumers scan to learn more about a product or service. Marketers also integrate direct mail campaigns with social media and other digital channels.

Integrating digital elements into direct mail makes it more interactive and engaging. It also allows marketers to track the results of their direct mail campaigns more effectively.

The direct mail renaissance

In a recent survey, 70% of marketers report that direct mail performance has improved, a 5% increase from 2022. Against a backdrop of skepticism in digital channels, direct mail pulled ahead as a go-to method for companies wanting something better. The reason is most likely a mix of oversaturation and lack of trust.

More companies are investing in direct mail, signaling a clear endorsement of its value. Its growing trustworthiness and adaptability show that direct mail is no plan B—it’s a strategic force all its own. As you reevaluate your marketing mix, consider giving direct mail the attention it’s clearly earning. You’ll come to believe it’s time to reconsider your benchmarks.

Want to take your 2024 Direct Mail Marketing to new heights? Book a demo today!

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