Direct mail has found its place as volumes decline

Direct mail, in terms of volume, is in decline. This would usually be cause for people to steer well clear, which brand wants to be associated with a dying channel? 

Russell Parsons

However, it might well be that the savvy brand that goes where everyone else is steering well clear of, might well find they yield the best returns. 

It is a proposition that was brought into sharp focus this week.  Next, one of the high street’s success stories with sales of late that rivals only dream of, said it had made a return to direct mail after pretty much side lining it for years. 

Speaking to Marketing Week at an event to announce its first half results, Next boss Lord Wolfson said the retailer had switched off advertising mail over the past seven years because the huge quantity that consumers received made it ineffective. However, with the volumes sent out by brands much lower now Wolfson said Next has “turned it back on” and found that it helped to increase sales in the UK.

A case of less is more for Next. 

Despite continued anger over junk mail and perception that it is on the increase, the fact is that addressed mail from major brands is not being sent at the same volume as it was. This is partly because it is perceived as expensive when compared with email and other digital delivery methods and partly because campaigns are better targeted.

All of this has left a vacuum and an opportunity for brands sending mail to the right people at the right time. 

Canvassing opinion on this, it was stressed that Next’s decision does not signal a revival or a return to the bad old days of high volume carpet bombing but it does highlight mail can work.

According to Lida’s chief executive Victoria Fox, for young people in particular, receiving a piece of physical mail is a novelty that makes it stand out and get read.  Julie Atherton, chief strategy officer at Indicia told me that for fashion brands mail can offer an immersive experience online cannot match.

Their comments and Next’s move serve to prove that mail, far from being in irrevocable decline still has a place. It might not be a prominent one but it has found its niche. 

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