DMA: Data and Marketing Association
Consumer Help

Direct Mail Statistics

Direct mail is not “dead.” But, it sure has declined in volume over the past 10 years. However, more marketers are adding mail to their array of integrated marketing tactics, because the engagement is growing as the clutter declines. Personalization and relevance is key. Costs are high but scale and ROI remain strong when direct mail is delivered to a well targeted audience. See the newest stats here

Don't Call it a Comeback: Print Never Died.

Here’s how the direct mail/catalog story played out in 2016

The numbers are in, and the message is clear: print is impactful, interesting and POWERFUL.

Customer response rates increased year-over-year by an impressive 43%, but prospect response rates more than doubled – reporting an astounding 190% increase! So it’s no wonder that for brands that have never mailed before are finding it a viable medium for both their retention and acquisition efforts.

In a digitally-dominated world, how could this happen?

The big change is an increase in mailings paired with digital intelligence – browsing behavior and sophisticated modeling based on preferences make mailings extra timely and relevant.

Neuroscience in Marketing
Neuro-marketing and haptic research…

  • The power of direct mail as a physical and tangible medium
  • Having touch as part of the marketing experience helps shift the brain into a deeper level of engagement while building knowledge, SAPPI
  • Consumers understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on a screen (Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf)

Why? Three reasons:

  1. Content is more intuitively navigable
  2. It facilitates better mental “mapping” of information
  3. Reading on paper drains fewer of our cognitive resources, making retention easier

Be effective with your Direct Mail marketing…
It is higher cost, so you must find ways to create higher impact

Testing neuro-marketing research in direct mail we’ve found that three things ring true:

  • Be bold. Humans have an attention span of 8 seconds. Marketing that cuts through the clutter with attention-getting graphics and copy are paramount to success.
  • Visuals rule. In fact, the brain processes visuals 60,0000 times faster than the time it takes the brain to decode text. Selling your story with pictures and graphics is a must.
  • Keep it simple. Due to cognitive fluency, the brain craves ease and order. Direct mail that creates a simple decision path with limited copy and explanation always tests better.

What does this tell us?

    Combining Offline and Online Marketing

  • Powerful creative amped up and laser focused with data is the sweet spot.
  • Data insights combined with the physicality of print: a match made in heaven.

Direct Mail

  • While overall response continues to increase, there was a slight (2%) decrease in overall mail delivered according to the USPS. This is most likely due to better targeting and larger budgets directed to online efforts.
  • People read postcards in greater numbers with a 3.9% year-over-year increase (USPS Household Diary Study.)

A Marketing Sherpa report found that the top reasons that people ignore direct mail is simply too much of it, and lack of time.

    With this in mind…

    • Test new ways to stand out in the mail
    • Innovative marketers are testing sensory devices by integrating smell, touch, taste, sound and even video into their mailers.
    • “Embodied cognition” — the more senses we appeal to the stronger the message is encoded; thus, increased response rates.

A clear pattern is emerging: customers do not want to be bogged down with detail

  • They are seeking convenient solutions that will enhance their life.
  • This has led to a surge in subscription-based campaigns who effectively use both online and offline methods to create an incredibly easy decision path

The improvements we’ve seen in response and read rates mean…

  • Brands have discovered the power of using online browsing behavior to prompt personalized mail using variable printing.

Don’t buy into the misconception that print only works for an older market.

  • According to the research, all age groups are interested in receiving and responding to mail.
  • For ages 18-21, response rates doubled in 2016! (USPS Household Diary Study)
  • Direct marketers face interesting challenges in communicating with unique age segments requiring specific content that meets their generational need


  • Catalogs had a stellar year, standing out both for engagement and their ability to drive sales.
  • 30% of people polled reported that a catalog recently drove them online to shop (Quad Graphics Customer Focus), with millennials and Gen-Xers reporting in at 38%, which was likely a factor for the:
    • 75% of marketers reported that they plan to prospect using a catalog in the coming 12-months,
    • 85% of marketers plan to maintain or increase circulation,
    • 88% of marketers plan to maintain or increase page counts (Multichannel Merchant).

On the engagement front…

  • People found catalogs the most interesting type of standard mail – even surpassing newspapers and magazines by 31%! (USPS Household Diary Study).
  • There has been a 23% increase in overall response(USPS Household Diary Study), despite the 4.5% decrease in catalogs mailed (DMA).

So, fewer catalogs mailed and an increase in response?

  • This is due to better targeting, less prospecting and a tendency towards a combination of both branding and selling within the pages of a catalog.

The negative: competition from companies like Amazon

  • It is imperative to create exclusive products that can only be found in your merchandise assortment.

The positive: mailers will soon be able to mail more for less

  • The Postal Regulatory Commission has approved an increase in the break point for Standard Mail flats from 3.3 ounces to 4.0 ounces as urged by the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA).

It’s clear that marketers are quickly learning where catalogs fit in the omnichannel puzzle: it’s a standout engagement tool, a brand-enhancer and a mighty push online. As we continue to bring customer intelligence in the mix, catalogs are only going to get more relevant.

2017 DMA Statistical Fact Book Byline Excerpt by Lois Brayfield, CEO, and Lauren Ackerman, VP Content Specialist, of J. Schmid & Assoc., Inc.

Featured Direct Mail Statistics from 2016 DMA Statistical Fact Book

Were your coupons part of the 2.5 billion redeemed?


Are you taking advantage of catalog as a marketing channel?


The amount of catalogs mailed per year has declined dramatically by 9 million since 2007


Direct mail volume is declining, but spend is still up


Direct mail spend is expected to go down to 8.9 billion in 2016


57% of mail volume is attributed to direct mail pieces


“Print is not dead!”

2016 Statistical Fact Book Byline for Direct Mail by Lois Brayfield CEO, J.Schmid & Assoc, Inc.

This sentiment was heard repeatedly in different iterations throughout the halls at the recent DMA &THEN conference. In fact, one session on this topic was in such high demand, the room was at capacity. Marketers want to know how print fits into today’s multichannel marketing.

Direct mail continues to serve as a key driver in most omnichannel marketing plans. It’s complemented well by online efforts, and fills a much-needed niche. Where online is generally low-cost, low impact, print is higher-cost, higher impact. Where online marketing is passive, direct mail is active. Direct mailings are proactive and tactile – demanding that the recipient DO something with it. The better response rates make the return on the investment worthwhile for both retention and acquisition.

However, the 2015 statistics are in and they’re telling us what we direct marketers predicted: 2015 direct mail volume was down while spend was up, most likely driven by postage increasesTwitterLogo_#55acee. On the bright side, the USPS has taken notice and is offering at least 3 discounts in 2016, for:

  1. interactive mail
  2. online video content
  3. driving to a mobile-responsive website

But there’s no denying that print, and thus direct mail are undergoing an evolution. And that leaves the questions: What has it become? And what is the next step in its evolution?

As it’s been for the last several years, efficiency remains king for all print marketing. Yes, the economy is in recovery, but direct marketers haven’t forgotten the lessons the recession taught us about efficiency. Additionally, extremely fine, targeted segmentation is now a given, as evidenced by the 4.3% increased data spend in 2015TwitterLogo_#55acee.

Direct mail is one of the most measurable of all media, boosting the quality of analytics for any campaign. An omnichannel marketer knows when mail is arriving and can use this knowledge to activate other touch points like email and telemarketing. It’s direct mail that anchors the campaign and drives the support tactics that can boost the overall effectiveness of an omnichannel effortTwitterLogo_#55acee.

The addition of web browsing data to the modeling process is furthering the connection between online behavior and offline marketing tactics. Scoring consumer behavior on websites is becoming an additional performance indicator for building responder files in the database arena.

Variable printing is another tool that’s being leveraged to capitalize on that data, and the lag time between the site visit and mail drop has decreased dramatically. In other words, a shopper browsing handbags on the web could receive a second touch in the mail within 24-48 hours. That’s a powerful way to motivate customers to take action.

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