Consumers Value Physical Mail, Even In This Digital Era

Submitted by: Joan MacKenzie 05/04/2012

Multichannel marketing agency RAPP Germany commissioned global measurement firm Nielsen to conduct a study of the effects of different offline and online direct mailing techniques as part of the consumer purchase decision process

April 27, 2012

Multichannel marketing agency RAPP Germany commissioned global measurement firm Nielsen to conduct a study of the effects of different offline and online direct mailing techniques as part of the consumer purchase decision process.

Approximately 1,800 consumers in Germany and the United States participated in the study, which employed marketing mailings form a fictitious travel agency. The direct mailings tested: standard envelope, printed envelope, self-mailer, wrapper, and email. Using these various marketing vehicles, the effectiveness of a personalized vacation offer was tested amongst two groups of recipients—interested and not interested.

The results confirm the unique advertising effects of the envelope -- that an envelope reinforces marketing efforts and messaging, that personalization is an effective technique to get the envelope opened, and that consumers value physical mail, even in this digital era. 

Select findings:

  • Printed envelopes -- manufactured custom to marketers' specifications -- were opened and their contents read by 84.5% of recipients, making them the most opened advertising tested. Standard envelopes were opened and read by 75.6% of respondents, self-mailers 71.4%, and wrappers read and opened by 71.2%. Email had an 80% open rate, making it second to the physical envelope in open rate.
  • The Nielsen study demonstrates that “a high-value direct mailing in a creatively designed and printed envelope alone is still not enough to guarantee the success of a direct marketing campaign.” Personalization of the envelope proved key: 
  • Recipients who received non-personalized marketing mailings were three times more likely to throw the mail in the trash or delete it, compared to recipients who received an individualized mailing. In addition, individually tailored messages played a key role in the consumer purchase decision funnel -- 44% of interested recipients of an individualized direct mailing said they would investigate the travel offer further online, compared to the 36.6% of recipients of non-individualized mailings.
  • Recommendations have proven to be the most important factors of influence when making a purchase decision. According to        the survey,in general, marketing messages mailed via a personalized printed envelope are more apt to be passed along to friends and family -- in fact, twice as often as emails (14.2% v. 7.8%). The testing of the fictitious travel offer proved this true: 13.1% of the interested recipients said that they would pass on content they read in the individualized offers to friends and family —while just 9.1% who received generic offerings said they would do the same. 

  • Interestingly, older respondents (55–65 years) valued an email advertisement more than the younger target group (16–34 years). Nielsen states that 63.2% of 16–34 year olds see emails “disappearing in the flood of advertisements they receive,” and thus the individually addressed printed envelope is valued very highly by the younger target group.  Younger target groups want the best of both worlds: a real envelope and the flexibility of individualized emails.