The Rise and Fall of Direct Mail vs Email

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In a world that’s constantly developing digitally, marketers are having to continually adapt and work on their strategies to make sure they’re with, if not ahead of, the curve.

With digital marketing’s ever-rising presence, traditional forms of marketing such as direct mail and door drops are becoming less popular – or certainly less frequently used. But which is better received by its audience? We’re happy to be able to share some interesting data on the subject here:

The Overview

Post definitely is on the decline

In 2005, the Royal Mail reported that there were 19.7 billion letters sent – 6.17bn were ‘direct mail’. This reduced to 13.8bn seven years later – 4.4bn were direct mail. This equates to 37,808,219 a day, 12,098,630 of which are direct mail.

The forecasts predict an even sharper downturn: 8.3bn letters sent in 2023 – 3.1bn being direct mail.

This equates to an average of two pieces of direct mail per person, each day.

Email has officially taken over

In contrast, the quantity of direct mail is vastly outweighed by marketing emails.

There are around 74 trillion emails sent per year. On average, we receive 121 marketing emails per day; that’s 6,050% more than the two letters.

As of March 2016, there are currently 205 billion emails sent a day, 56.52% of which are marketing emails. That means there are over 115,866,000,000 pieces of email marketing sent per day.

Open rates

Although the volume of emails sent towers over the number of letters, what do the response and open rates look like? The facts from CMO Council are as follows:

Direct mail

• 44% of people do not open direct mail
• 56% of people do open direct mail


• 22.87% of people open emails

As we can see from the above, in terms of the open rate, direct mail is doubly as effective as email marketing.

Response rates

The direct mail response rate is 3.4%, from figures available in 2012, in contrast to email response rates, which is about 0.12%.

As an added insight, the most brand recollection is achieved through door drops – 88% compared to 60% for direct mail and 36% for internet adverts.

What does this mean for marketers?

This research shows that direct mail gets a higher response and open rate than email marketing. This could be for a number of reasons, but it’s reasonable to assume that this could well be due to oversaturation of emails, in contrast to the novelty of direct mail. Remember, the number of letters we receive is just 0.01% of the amount of email marketing pieces that are sent each and every day around the globe!

Mainly for marketers – especially those enchanted by email marketing’s cost-effectiveness and instant effects — the advice would be to not underestimate the power of direct mail.

By all means, make digital your focus. However, when you really want to make an impact, and have your audience listen to your message, try a door drop or direct mail drop to enhance the creative campaign.


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