Direct Mail: Cutting Through the Clutter

An addressed letter

Email marketing is here to stay. Good ROI and automation make it an attractive tool for marketers. However, adding a direct mail channel to an integrated marketing campaign has been proven to increase overall campaign effectiveness. Here’s why.

Open Rates

On average, we each receive 121 emails every day, of these, less than 20% of are actually opened. Email fatigue (especially in the Covid era,) happens to everyone. We start to ignore messages, delete them, unsubscribe or even worse, send them to our spam folders.

In stark contrast, on an average day, we’ll only find 2 pieces of direct mail on our doormat. The staggering 90% open rate of direct mail is a perhaps a reflection of the fact that we’re not inundated with it every day.


It probably won’t surprise you to know that emails have very short lifespan. A study of email analytics in 2017 revealed that 51% of emails are deleted within 2 seconds. People tend to hold on to mail a lot longer. On average, we’ll keep advertising mail for 17 days, door drops for 38 days and bills and statements for 45 days.

Meaningful Engagement

Compared to digital marketing, direct mail is an uncluttered market. Direct mail reaches people directly in their homes or at their place of work and gains their full attention. JICMAIL (The Joint Industry Committee for Mail) data shows 94% of mail is engaged with in some way.

Direct mail generates an average response rate of 4.4% compared to email’s average response rate of 0.12%. It generates 10% more customers than email (34% vs 24%) and (surprisingly,) there’s an immediacy to it as well; 79% of consumers will act on direct mail as soon as they receive it, compared to just 45% on email.

A recent study found that only 44% of people could recall a brand directly after seeing a digital ad. Whereas 75% could directly after receiving direct mail. The physical nature of direct mail drives long term memory encoding.

The Cost of a Postage Stamp

Great open and response rates can’t disguise the fact that email marketing can be a lot cheaper. When we look at the return on investment (ROI), email marketing fares very well due to its low costs, recording an average ROI of 122%. Direct Mail achieves a much lower ROI of 27% but that still beats paid search (25%) and online display (18%). Or in other words direct mail generates £3.22 for every £1 spent.

With a much higher return that direct mail email marketing may seem like a no brainer. However, both have their strengths and weaknesses and they speak differently to customers who understand Direct mail to be more believable, reliable and personal and email to be quick and spontaneous. Knowing this can inform a marketer on when to use which. For example, brochures, catalogues and welcome packs are much better in their physical form whereas as news, updates and offers often require the immediacy of email.

Mix it Up

Mail is a great amplifier of other medias. BrandScience research tells us the online component of campaigns pays back 62% more and the TV component pays back 37% more when there is mail element involved.

A Royal Mail study showed that consumers want to chose their media and digest communication differently. Just over half of those surveyed preferred companies to use a combination of mail and email.

The memorable quality and high engagement rate of mail creates a lasting first impression that can be reinforced with email marketing. Research shows that customers spend 25% more when businesses use a combination of the two. Used in tandem, email and direct mail can help campaigns achieve better brand awareness, increased ROI and an enhanced customer experience.

Still Want More?

Find out how we support The Harley Medical Group with mail and email or discover how we can help you with mailing and fulfilment here