The Postal Service recently released its annual Household Diary Survey (HDS), a market research study of the mail sent and received by American households. At nearly 400 pages the study covers mail trends during the Postal Service’s 2013 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2012 – Sept. 30, 2013). Let’s take a look at what it tells us about direct mail advertising.
76% Engage with Direct Mail
First and foremost, it shows that Americans actively engage with direct mail. Seventy-six percent of households either read or scan advertising mail, with 55% of households saying they usually read their advertising mail, and an additional 21% say they at least scan their mail. The survey also showed that household behavior toward advertising mail is largely independent of how much advertising mail the household receives. Households that receive more advertising mail than others do not appear to be “turned off” by the high volume. The percentage of households saying they “usually read” or “read some” of their advertising mail remains consistent regardless of the number of pieces of Standard Mail they receive each week.
Share of Advertising Spend Stays Constant
Marketers understand this trend, and continue to invest in direct mail. The HDS cites a study by Pivotal Research Group that found that in 2013 American businesses spent $179 billion advertising their products and services, of which 11% was spent on direct mail postage. The HDS also notes, “direct mail continues to be one of the most popular advertising choices,” calling it “highly efficient … versatile … targeted … [and] readily measurable.” Direct mail’s share of total advertising spending has remained relatively constant, fluctuating between 11% and 12% for more than 20 years.
Advertising has become a very important part of the mailstream. In 2013, it represented 61% of all household mail. On average each household receives 12.5 pieces of advertising mail each week.
About 88% of all advertising mail was sent via Standard Mail, which is why we often use the more readily available statistics about Standard Mail as a proxy for direct mail advertising.
Volume Influenced by Income and Education
The survey made several observations about household metrics related to the amount of mail received:
- The amount of ad mail received by a household is closely tied to income and education.
- Households with incomes of $100,000 or more receive more than double the mail pieces received by households with income of less than $35,000.
- Households headed by someone without a high school diploma receive 9.7 pieces per week, while households headed by a college graduate receive 15.1 pieces per week.
- Households headed by older people receive more advertising mail than those headed by younger people. [This may be a mistake by advertisers. My colleague, Ashley Leone, noted in an earlier post, millennials like using coupons, and 61% want to receive those coupons in their mailbox!]
- More advertising mail is received as household size and number of adults in the household increase, with households with three or more adults receiving 51 % more advertising mail than a household with only one adult.
The survey also states that despite the attention paid to online and e-mail advertising, households with Internet access receive more advertising mail than those without access, which is likely related to the fact that Internet access is closely tied to income and education. It goes on to observe that “direct mail is often used as a complement to the Internet by directing potential customers to specific company websites.”
The Household Diary Survey demonstrates that direct mail advertising continues to be one of the most viable marketing channels available, and consumers truly value it. Savvy marketers will continue to count on direct mail to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
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