Why the lines between digital advertising and direct mail are blurring

Tom Fleming, senior vice president of acquisition, Adstra

Digital media has forever altered the ad industry by creating new ways of reaching and engaging consumers. 

For a long time, digital advertising has stood separate from older offline tactics in terms of execution, organization, funding and expectations. However, these lines are blurring. Leaps in technology and data capabilities have enabled advertisers to execute genuinely omnichannel campaigns. The ability to reach a consumer wherever and whenever means marketing is increasingly about building an effective media plan that matches messages to audiences across all channels.

This has led to a union of two channels that may seem distant if at all aligned: direct mail and digital. While they may seem odd bedfellows, the combined tactics of these two channels are creating an authentic and increasingly effective omnichannel approach to performance marketing.

Brands are balancing digital and direct mail to reach omnichannel customers 

There’s a reason digital never killed direct mail: posted mail still works. While the proliferation of new channels means that direct mail isn’t the only direct marketing option, it still frequently outperforms the alternatives. 

For example, Digiday recently reported that as marketers look to diversify their media mix beyond digital into traditional channels, direct mail will grow by 1.5% to make up $38.2 billion of U.S. offline marketing spend this year (according to an annual U.S. spending report from Winterberry Group, a strategic consultancy). In one case example, DTC bedding and lifestyle brand Parachute has invested in direct mail alongside spending on digital channels, including social and streaming platforms — a strategy they’ve pursued since at least 2018. 

As these channels intertwine, an increasingly successful marketing approach is to foster collaboration between digital and direct mail teams, as well as budgets and tactics, ensuring the greatest return. 

This is especially true with catalogs and the nonprofit world. The targets of these direct mail actions are no longer channel-specific. For nonprofits, many of these consumers take omnichannel journeys to arrive at donating rather than being confined to single channels. While some customers are predominantly online or offline consumers, their journeys are increasingly intertwined — and marketers must pay attention to how the two factors work together. 

Digital tactics are unlocking opportunities for direct mail

Evaluating direct mail’s performance hasn’t always been straightforward. However, the rise of digital marketing has made a direct attribution model possible, combining direct mail’s targeted one-to-one approach with performance-based measurement.

Thanks to audience tracking and recognition advances, digital marketing can deliver and be accountable for far more attributable financial results at an individual level. These tactics apply directly to omnichannel advertising, provided the marketing department plans properly. By adding options to engage people, marketers can match the audience to the right place at the right time. 

This is a significant change for direct marketers. What might not have worked five years ago is now entirely possible. The surge of attribution techniques such as mailer-specific discount codes or QR codes, a tactic that saw significant revitalization during quarantines in the early 2020s, has proven that direct mail marketing influences online response.

As consumer behavior has shifted to audiences far more blended in their engagement across channels, balancing direct mail and digital is integral for omnichannel experiences.

Direct mail and digital convergence lead to multichannel growth

Digital and direct mail collaboration is no longer a pipe dream but a must. Digital engagement is now common across generations, and marketers can engage people at different places and times, allowing them to match the audience to engage in the right place at the right time. Brands that fail to combine their direct mail and digital dollars will never achieve true multichannel convergence across their marketing plans. 

In particular, leaders in digital advertising should be thinking about how their direct team

is looking at their audience and reaching out to them. With the overlap in audience across channels now, digital media is leading to conversions when customers receive a mailer, and vice versa. 

Sponsored by Adstra


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