Even Younger Demographics Prefer Direct Mail

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

My real estate friends casually condense their keys to prosperity in three elementary tips — location, location and oh, location. Success as a marketer, I counter, is just as simple — know your consumer, know your consumer and oh, know your consumer.

The key to knowing your consumer, of course, is figuring out the best way to engage him or her.

A decade ago, industry soothsayers broadcast grim predictions for the future of direct mail. The Web was booming and e-mail accounts were fast becoming the cultural norm, no longer a fad for the tech savvy.

Marketers immediately noticed the cost-effective potential of the new media and the younger generations in particular flocked to adopt everything digital.

Direct mail, however, proved resilient. A 2005 Forrester study reported a lofty volume of direct mail planned for that year—10.6 billion pieces to be exact, a 15% growth from 2004.

Still it’s hard to ignore hard charging new types of media that are destined to capture some market share in the coming years. Naturally, leading marketers divvied up their budgets, placing emphasis on channels that have the best chance of reaching and engaging target audiences.

Knowing your valuable consumer segments and how they prefer to be approached can take much of the guesswork out of this task. Respondents to a recent ICOM Information and Communications survey of 1529 households provided some interesting information on U.S. demographic segments and the channels that should be used to reach them:

·Contrary to traditional thought, young professionals ages 18-34 communicated a strong preference for receiving information in the mail over electronic options. Privacy was pegged as one of the main reasons for this surprising partiality.

Younger consumers should not be painted with a broad brush. A penchant for Pentiums doesn’t necessarily translate when it comes to the communication preferences of Generations X, Y and Millennials. In the survey, conducted in February, those respondents in the 18-34 year old demographic proclaimed nearly a two-to-one preference for receiving product information by direct mail over e-mail or online, across all categories.

For food product information, 57.7% of 18-34 year olds preferred information by direct mail, as opposed to only 27.3% preferring e-mail and online combined. In another key category, over the counter medication, 55.8% preferred mail to 29.3% opting for online methods.

Perhaps most interesting is that the 18-34 year olds harbored nearly the strongest preference for communication by direct mail of all the groups surveyed. Respondents were segmented into the following age breakdowns: 18-34, 35-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69 and 70+ years old. As expected, those 65 and older also overwhelmingly chose mail as their preferred information source.

The large number of 18-34 year old U.S. consumers account for a sizable chunk of the spending economy. The group’s mass exposure to the Internet has fostered a discriminating view towards online solicitations. Receiving an e-mail offer is a nuisance, impersonal and most likely deleted before read; a targeted and creative mailing can be highly personalized and relational.

While some of the mid-aged demographics exhibited softer feelings about electronic communication for product information, marketers should take note of the future implications of a youth movement toward direct mail. As new mediums proliferate, knowing your customer’s communication preferences will become vital to successful campaigns.

Peter Meyers is vice president of ICOM Information and Communications, part of LoyaltyOne.

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