There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a great impact on many businesses in the United States and is affecting direct mail marketing. In general, we’ve seen a huge decline in mail sent out, especially from industries greatly affected by the crisis like travel and recreation. But not all.
How Direct Mail Adapted to the Crisis
Everyone was taken by surprise during the initial outbreak in March and April. Marketers were at a loss on how they would address the issue, so most of them simply stopped advertising, including direct mail. But given some time to reflect on how the crisis affected consumers, they were able to adapt to the new normal and are now able to make strategic approaches on their mail creatives.
People are currently more receptive to brands that come across as empathetic and helpful. Direct mail provides an intimate and more personalized approach compared to its digital counterparts, which made it a powerful marketing and communication tool during this period.
The retail industry has used this channel quite effectively. In fact according to Who’s Mailing What, retail related mail delivered increased from 24 to 33 percent. This clearly indicates how marketers are now able to adapt their direct mail strategies to the effects of the crisis.
With many showrooms being closed, the automotive industry found a good way to reconnect with their customers through direct mail. From 17 percent, the total volume of mail sent out skyrocketed to roughly 20 percent. Although, the majority of these are for car maintenance, not car sales since these services are considered ‘essential’.
Housewares and appliances related mail have also increased from 11 percent to 17 percent. Marketers clearly saw an opportunity as millions of Americans are encouraged to stay home due to quarantine protocols.
For other broad interest retailers like Walmart, Lowe’s, and Target who stayed open during the lock down, there was no significant increase in the volume of mail delivered. Except for pet supplies which have increased from 1.8 percent to 3.7 percent. There was also an increase in pet adoption especially during the initial lock down phase according to news sources.
Now is the right time to take a fresh look at direct mail marketing as a channel to reach customers on an intimate and physical level. Lean on your data and use it for better segmentation, personalization and finding the right products to promote.
While it is tempting to focus on active buyers, do remember though that active buyer results are also the least incremental. Instead, use digital customer management for your active buyers and use print for prospecting and reactivation.
Last but not least, create models based on recent activity. Previously, seasonal buying behavior was the biggest factor considered in segmentation. Now and in the coming months, it is important to also consider recent activity and online browsing behavior as a more significant driver for house and reactivation models.
Direct mail provides a powerful tool for building connections. As our world moves to isolation, people are longing for connection and comfort as we all adapt to the new normal. It is essential to consider this new reality when planning your marketing and how it is affecting your direct mail marketing strategy.