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Direct Mail: Dying or Thriving?

What is the future of direct mail?

Trends & Insights from Thysse's Direct Mail Experts

In a recent interview, Margaret Pepe, USPS Executive Director of Product Management, shared that overall direct mail volumes dropped in 2023, but predicted growth in 2024.

two mailboxes, one full of mail and one empty

Surprisingly, overall mail volumes dipped, but performance is up. In a recent survey of 250 businesses that use direct mail (report by Lob and CompereMedia), 84% identified it as their highest ROI channel in 2024 – a 17% jump from 2022.

  • 82% of respondents plan to increase their direct mail budgets in 2024.
  • 85% indicated mail delivers their best conversion rate. 
  • 84% agreed it produced the best response rate out of all channels they use.


bar graph showing 84% of surveyed businesses say direct mail is their highest ROI channel

Thysse can confirm these findings. Our direct mail clients are increasing their usage. As we analyze trends and engage new customers, several insights stand out and may prove useful to you:

1)Trade Secrets

Companies with direct mail experience and success often keep quiet about it. (We sign a lot of lengthy NDAs.) Competing for attention in a mailbox is typically a 1:6 matchup, which drops to 1:1 or 1:0 within an industry. In the digital environment, competition starts at about 1:4k ads– each day. Organizations that have developed successful mail programs are difficult for competitors to detect.

graphic showing low ad competition for mail and very high competition for digital ads

2)  New Use Cases

Thysse is seeing growth in all mail outreach, with a new trend in frequent, "triggered" and relatively small, personalized mailings. A common goal is lead nurturing within digital campaigns. For example, when an email is opened several times without a conversion event, that interaction could trigger a postcard mailing.

Here’s what that might look like:

Graphic showing examples of mailing performance

This example illustrates:

  • Success depends on the average lifetime value of your customers (CLV) and current customer acquisition cost (CAC). 
  • Data is valuable. What would you do with DM_3A and DM_4B?
  • Optimization takes a sustained effort over time and offers significantly better value than one-off blitzes. Use budgets to break mailing volumes down to levels that can be sustained for at least three iterative mailings within a campaign. 
  • Print and digital outreach have a lot in common and can be managed using the same techniques. 

The big driver over the past few years is speed. It’s fast and easy to get personalized print messages delivered. It used to be prohibitively slow for effective time-sensitive touches, but with new digital press technology and Direct Mail Automation solutions (DMA), mail files can go from your screen to on-press in just hours, not days. Many of our new mail customers are surprised by how sophisticated the process is.

3)  Opportunity Cost

An ongoing trend (and challenge) is bridging the print opportunity awareness gap with many digital-only marketers. While all marketing channels are subject to ROI analysis, there's often a reluctance to test in the print assets space despite the significant cost of experimentation in the digital landscape. Not testing is not knowing, which equates to a hidden opportunity cost for businesses lacking direct mail experience.

Line graph comparing customer acquisition cost between digital and omni (print + digital) marketing campaigns

4)  Targeting

While digital targeting options are undeniably incredible, many marketers are unfamiliar with the unique options available to mailers. Targeting Specialists listen to campaign goals and apply their experience and vast data modeling resources to provide custom-tailored and highly targeted lists of prospects. Familiar demographic attributes can be refined with thousands of other powerful filters to generate incredibly dialed-in lists. Overlaying drive-time-distance, category-specific purchase history, dwelling type (condo vs. house)– even intent data like pre-car buyers, pre-home buyers and expecting mothers are available. If you haven't worked with a Targeting Specialist before, you may be surprised by the options.

Image showing an example of how combining four different mail targeting options can produce highly targeted mailing lists

We Sometimes Hear

"I can't track it"

Mail tracking solutions have come a long way, but lack the performance insights into every campaign interaction that are available in the digital landscape. That’s true, in aggregate- but that granular detail is available for a subset of your overall mailing. With volume, statistically significant and incredibly reliable data comes out of mailings, making it a leading way to test messaging and validate targets.

Additionally, overall performance is easy to measure for new mailers with benchmarking, simple split tests and versioned offers. Attribution can actually get tricky the longer you mail. 

We’ve seen highly sophisticated marketing teams inaccurately measure the impact of their long-established mailing programs and cut them. The ensuing revenue declines undergo troubleshooting, which often result in “The Three Ups”: Mailings are back up, revenue’s up and hands are up. 

"Direct Mail Costs Too Much"

The cost of direct mail is higher, per impression, than digital. A fact that chills interest in adding mail to marketing mixes. But customer acquisition cost and ROI are relative. Like all digital campaigns, if an iterative and sustained effort is applied within a converting marketing funnel, your chances of success and driving down CAC are statistically good with mail. Referring back to the survey results, direct mail may actually be your highest ROI channel.

Final Thoughts:

So, is direct mail thriving or dying? The fact that it can deliver better ROI is a difficult opportunity to ignore. As experience with modern omni-channel direct mail widens and confidence in the channel grows, Margaret Pete’s prediction about the future of direct mail is easy to agree with.

If you’d like more information about Thysse’s direct mail solutions, reach out. Our friendly experts are here to help you. 

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