There’s no denying that we live in a digital world. A world where more and more people consume news online, social media channels have revolutionalised how we stay connected and smart phones mean that we have the digital world at our fingertips 24/7. But when it comes to marketing, the story is somewhat different. Digital isn’t necessarily stealing the show in the same way it is in our everyday lives.

A study completed by the Direct Marketing Association found that the response rate for direct mail (to an existing customer base) averages at 3.4 per cent, compared to email at just 0.12 per cent. This isn’t helped by the decline in eDM open rates as consumers have become savvier at blocking out marketing messages either by using advanced filters or simply by deleting according to sender or subject line.

Further impacting the issue, is the problem of consumers abandoning and creating new email addresses on average of about once a year. Data management for digital campaigns is more resource intensive than for mail campaigns as direct mail addresses are updated far less frequently.

In short, the digital marketing landscape is ever-changing while direct mail still proves to be a reliable channel that delivers results. Marketers have decades of learnings to draw upon when writing direct mail strategy and this is difficult for eDM to compete with. Direct mail has stood the test of time and continues to do so.

That’s not to say that email marketing doesn’t have its place. Marketers just need to be smart about how they use eDM and not use it as the ‘default channel’ when budgets and/or timeframes are tight. There are real opportunities for marketers to use email marketing in the right way, as part of their channel strategy.

In a survey commissioned by Australia Post in July 2012, 44% of consumers aged 18-39 cited email as their preferred communication method. If 44% of your consumers prefer to receive communication via email, then that’s 44% of your audience that you can target with messaging in such a way as to increase engagement levels and response rates.

That said, in the same study, only 31% of consumers aged 40-59 cited email as their preferred communication method. It also revealed that lower income earners are more receptive to direct mail than email and 48% of consumers felt that information provided by direct mail is easier to understand compared to 20% via email.

If learnings such as these are reflected in a marketer’s channel strategy and customer bases are segmented and targeted accordingly, then we will start to see response rates lift.

The trick is to know how your consumer wants your message delivered and play to this. The variables that dictate this include the industry you’re in, the age and social demographic of the consumer and the type of communication (e-billing vs loyalty offer for example). If marketers can master this then the result is smart marketing that resonates with the consumer and delivers results.

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