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The Role of Direct Mail in Marketing to Digital Natives

Posted by Wendy Gish on 12/14/16 8:52 AM
Topics: Marketing to Students, direct mail, direct marketing

I have a 13-year-old child. I know I’m biased, but she’s brilliant, funny, articulate and extremely self-aware for her age. It’s hard to believe, honestly, considering she spends hours a day staring blankly at her electronic devices. Like every other parent with a digitally native child, I worry about how she’s growing up differently than we did—spending more time on screens than outside with nature, communicating with her friends online instead of in “real” life and generally not interacting with the physical world as much. How will this affect her emotionally? Will she have less tangible experiences and memories? As a retailer whose customers are digital natives, you are asking yourself similar questions to keep their business in an increasingly competitive digital marketplace. 
The Role of Direct Mail in Marketing to Digital Natives

Making a connection with digital natives

How does your physical store remain relevant in their digital lives? How do you connect to these customers emotionally to garner their loyalty? How do you bridge your online presence to your physical footprint and vice versa to ultimately drive sales?

I’m here to tell you — mail may be the answer. Old-school direct mail. Stick with me, I’ll explain.

This summer I attended the 2016 St. Louis Printers and Mailers Conference hosted by the US Postal Service and Postal Customer Council. The USPS spent a great deal of time talking about millennials’ perception of mail. The Postal Service has conducted a lot of research on this topic since this group is soon to be the largest US consumer group and, as you know, is used to doing everything digitally—this will have an economic effect on the USPS. Their findings are surprising. Perhaps because so much has moved online, millennials really value mail, enjoy receiving it, have more of an emotional tie to hard-copy messages than online messages and feel this communication is more personal and would miss mail if it were no longer available. The Postal Service has commissioned studies around the "Mail Moment" (the moment mail is received and sorted) and has found that:

  • 56% say receiving mail is a "real pleasure"
  • 55% look forward to discovering the mail they receive
  • 67% feel mail is more personal than the internet

This rings true for all age groups.

Also, neurological research by Millard Brown commissioned by Royal Mail shows that "tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain." Because mail has a profound, lasting impression on digital natives, why wouldn’t you include it in your marketing strategy?

Relevant messages with a digital component are key

But you can’t expect results just by sending mail. Successful direct mail campaigns for digital natives:

  • Are relevant
  • Provide value
  • Are attractive
  • Engage up to all senses (digital can only appeal to two)
  • Are integrated with their digital experiences
  • Make it easy to purchase online

As the spring term is around the corner, now is the time to determine how direct mail fits into your upcoming marketing goals. Ultimately, you want mail to help you accomplish omnichannel marketing, a seamless experience for the consumer regardless of how or where they’re engaging. It can be a useful tool to urge students to interact with or purchase from you digitally or to give them a reason to visit your physical store.

The US Postal Service has provided a lot of examples of how you can make mail irresistible by bridging digital and physical communication and this year they’re offering promotions and incentives for adding some of these features into your mail pieces. For example, add QR codes to your catalogs so that students can purchase directly from the mail piece at your online store or social media sites. Or, to get customers into your store, send them a printed coupon to redeem in the store. For added value, make sure they can store the coupon on their mobile phone. According to Valassis, 85% of millennials use coupons delivered in the mail and 34% of millennials report an increase in mail coupon usage, significantly higher than gen X and baby boomers. Mailed pieces can also include Augmented Reality (AR), Near Field Communication (NFC) and iBeacon/Beacon technology to appeal to digital natives.

As marketers in 2016, we tend to get caught up in staying on top of all the ways to reach our consumers digitally. But to make longstanding impressions and connect emotionally we may need to step backward and include communication channels that have worked for hundreds of years. Although digital natives have grown up much differently than a lot of us have, they’re just like the rest of us in they appreciate the elements of a great shopping experience: relevance, personalization, ease and brand experience—all of which that can be enhanced with a good direct mail campaign.

Originally posted on 6/29/2016

About Wendy Gish

Director of Marketing Services Wendy Gish has over 16 years of experience in serving schools with course material needs.

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