Direct Mail vs Email in 2013 – What do Consumers Want?

Direct Mail ChannelThe ongoing debate of which marketing method is most effective, email or direct mail, can be solved by listening to what consumers have to say.  Here we offer insight on best practices to reach your target audience.

A recent survey about customer preference in how they received marketing information bucks the current trends in marketing. As it turns out, customers still, even in this digital age, prefer to receive marketing via direct mail rather than email in 15 out of 18 different categories ranging from healthcare to food products to retail information, according to the 2012 Channel Preference Study conducted by Epsilon.

Even though email marketing has become very popular over the last few years, direct mail carries more weight with customers. A report from Return Path discovered that 70 percent of all email spam complaints are against email marketers. Furthermore, many customers have spam blockers to filter unwanted emails. However, if a direct mail piece is sent it is at the very least skimmed before it hits the trash. After analyzing all orders from 2012, we have found that direct mail campaigns outperformed email marketing 10 to 1.  As a company supplying leads, the purpose is to provide the most effective data for the best response.

The Trust Factor

One major reason cited for the survey respondents’ preference for direct mail boiled down to trust. Respondents simply trust direct mail more than email. Overall, 16 percent of survey respondents gave direct mail the highest mark for trust, whereas just 12 percent of respondents gave email the same ranking. Interestingly, male respondents ranked email even lower on the trust factor, with just 10 percent ranking email highly. The growing threat of identity theft and viruses has made people wary of responding to email offers.

Stuffed Inbox

One trend the surveys suggest is that customers sign up for email marketing not to receive emails, but to gain access to some other information, a coupon, or special deal. The Epsilon survey revealed that 73 percent of respondents feel they receive a high volume of email they simply do not open. A similar study by Blue Kangaroo found more than 43 percent of Americans say more than half of all their new email consisted of marketing information. With all this email, respondents reported not having time to read all the material they received or the ability to read it at their convenience.

Direct Mail Prevails

Where email seems to fail, according to these surveys, direct mail marketing seems to succeed. The survey respondents cited having materials to refer back to and the ability to read it at their convenience as the top reasons for preferring direct mail over email, 61 percent and 73 percent respectively.

Direct mail can also solve the problem of spam complaints against marketers. Spam complaints against marketers can damage a brand’s reputation, even if customers simply use the “this is spam” button in email rather than go through the process to unsubscribe from emails. The customer might actually prefer the brand, but not the emails.

Going forward in 2013, marketers would do well to look at these studies and weigh the disadvantage these studies reveal about email marketing to the advantages of direct mail marketing.


  1. Steve Klinghoffer says

    People can receive upwards of hundreds of emails a day. It can be very difficult to get your email newsletter noticed. On the other hand, people receive much less physical mail. If the direct mail piece is relevant to the recipient’s needs they will notice it and pay attention.

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