With the term “digital natives” attached to millennials, it’s easy to understand how the marketing industry has come to believe that we are only interested in content that appears on an LCD screen. What they don’t understand is that with millennials, it is less about technology and more about ease.
According to the InfoTrends study, “Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services: U.S. Report,” millennials are the most likely of any generation to read direct mail. In fact, 25% of millennials consider reading direct mail a leisure activity.
Maybe we like printed materials because we spend a majority of the day staring at a backlit screen and our poor retinas need a break. Maybe it’s because there’s something luxurious about being able to stare at a page for as long as you want without the fear of your device going to sleep mode. Either way, this preference spells out success for advertisers.
The Science Behind the Power of Direct Mail
The Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University recently conducted an experiment using an MRI while presenting participants with digital and physical advertisements. The results showed that printed materials not only make a deeper impression, but are also perceived as more genuine.
According to the study, “The ‘real’ experience that the physical media provides means it’s better at becoming part of memory. It generates more emotion, which should help to develop more positive brand associations. The real experience is also internalized, which means the materials have a more personal effect, and therefore should aid motivation.”
That motivation spurred 65% of millennials to make a purchase that was influenced by a catalog, and 63% who responded to a direct mail piece within the past three months to make a purchase.
Direct Mail Drives Both Online and In-Store Purchases
Some critics claim that printed advertisements such as direct mail aren’t as effective because they don’t provide the instant gratification desired by millennials. For some reason, these critics seem to think that acting online is the best way to appease a generation that has grown up not having to wait for anything, despite the fact that it’s nearly an even split between whether millennials buy online or in-store.
It’s true that in the digital age, millennials have grown up getting instant results. And while I understand the argument that online shopping gets the job done quickly, it doesn’t exactly provide instant gratification. If our generation hates to wait, why would we be okay with 3-5 day shipping?
The amount of debt that surrounds my generation, coupled with our hesitation to spend money after growing up in a great recession, has led us to feel much more comfortable buying in person rather than online. Being able to see the product we are getting rather than trusting the anonymous senders on the internet to deliver it makes us feel like we are getting a quality product that we want. Being able to get it right then and there is also a huge factor.
However, for those who prefer online shopping, technology such as QR codes and scannable coupons have made it easy to transition from holding a printed piece to making a purchase online. The combined preference of mail with the ease of technology has made direct mail effective at driving both online and retail sales.
In the end, it’s important to remember that direct mail is a powerful tool marketers have in their pursuit of millennials. It’s preferred, it combines seamlessly with digital channels and—most importantly—it works.
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