Comprehensive marketing strategy

Does direct mail or email deliver greater results for retailers?


Photo: @chibelek via Twenty20


Mar 25, 2019

by Tom Ryan

Direct mail, often seen as antiquated by the now extensive online access to information, still has broad value to shoppers because of the large number of purchasing decisions made at home, according to a new study.

The study from Murphy Research was commissioned by PebblePost, a firm that applies programmatic buying to direct mail marketing.

The survey of 3,250 U.S. consumers found 88 percent of “key purchase decisions” across retail, financial and auto categories are made or discussed at home. Eighty-nine percent of purchase decisions are pre-planned and discussed with others. Spouses are consulted most often and wield the greatest influence on purchase decisions.

Among key retail purchase decisions, 82 percent involved the home.

At a recent event presenting the findings, Devora Rogers, VP at Murphy Research, loosely defined key or “meaningful” retail purchasing decisions as anything above $100. But she noted that many purchases — citing choosing throw pillows or switching toothpastes as examples — likely “involve a conversation” with family members.

Relevancy remains critical to direct mail and household conversations. Of those surveyed, 68 percent immediately toss mail received from a brand/retailer they haven’t heard of. Seventy-six percent, however, discuss mail from a brand/retailer they have purchased from in the past. Sixty-six percent discuss mail from a brand/retailer they have not heard of if the category is of interest. Fifty-four percent will discuss mail from a brand/retailer they have heard of, but not purchased from in the past.

A final key finding brought out in the research is that direct mail complements information gained online, with three-quarters of direct mail users also consulting online sources. Online sources were found to be used earlier in the path to purchase with direct mail turned to just before an in-store visit.

A study last year from U.K.-based Go Inspire Group identified several benefits direct mail has over email marketing, including a long shelf-life (17 days versus two-second email views), improved branding and message-retention, as well as being less likely to be viewed as spam. Direct mail was found to outperform email in terms of incremental revenue after campaign costs, but a combination of email and direct mail out performed either medium in isolation.