We’ve been analyzing how various verticals have adjusted their marketing approaches to COVID-19 and the impact on direct mail volumes. When the Winterberry Group released “The Outlook for Data Driven Advertising and Marketing 2020” in January, they projected direct mail to increase 0.6% and digital channels to increase an average of 14.5%. Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. As businesses closed or operated at a decreased capacity due to the pandemic, most marketing efforts decreased as well. According to Comperemedia, average monthly mail volumes decreased 30% in April, May, June, and July compared to the average monthly mail volumes in the first three months of this year. All but one vertical experienced a decline in mail volumes; Travel and Leisure (-78%), Credit Cards (-59%), and Banking (-52%) mail volumes were most impacted by the pandemic.
Investment and Insurance verticals continued their direct marketing programs with steady mail volumes April through August. In fact, Investment increased their mail volumes by 5% while Insurance only decreased their mail volumes by 5%.
August mail volumes rebounded by 17% overall compared to the average monthly mail volumes in April through July. Travel and Leisure (+142%), Telecoms (+38%), and Retail (+31%) were the verticals with the largest mail volume increases.
Not surprisingly, the pandemic changed the mix of marketers in the mailbox. Credit card direct mail offers, which were in excess of 400 million pieces in Q1 2020, reached a low of 100 million pieces in June, and rebounded in August to nearly 200 million pieces. Telecom direct mail offers rebounded in August to Q1 levels hovering around 220 million pieces. Their low point was 140 million pieces mailed in May and June.
Digital marketing efforts also felt the impact of shifting marketing approaches to COVID-19 as email marketing volumes mimicked direct mail. The average monthly email volumes decreased 48% in April through July compared to the average monthly email volumes in January through March.
We are seeing an accelerated use of multichannel strategies as marketers continue to direct customers to their website to respond to offers.
Marketing Messaging During COVID-19
Changes to marketing messaging was observed in the past several months, with most verticals focusing on COVID-19 communications. Key themes related to COVID-centric communications included:
- Being more human and empathetic: This was an opportunity for brands to provide a feeling of community by adding a human element to communications. Messages like “We are all in this together” were used.
- Being flexible and prepared: Customers are more sensitive to where brands stand regarding certain issues and even how far brands will go to support them in times of stress. Brands need to be prepared with crisis management teams/playbooks to respond quickly and appropriately as we move to the new normal.
- Being unique with purpose: This was an opportunity to lead with fresh messaging across channels; bold and early differentiators will stand out in the current sea of repurposed communication materials.
Great Examples of Brands Adapting Their Marketing Approaches to COVID-19
Marketers adjusted their messaging and marketing strategies to resonate with customers during the pandemic—here are a few of my favorite examples:
- American Express incentivized credit card customers to support their local small businesses, calling them the “backbone” of our communities.
- Spectrum Business’ recent communications prompted confidence as businesses start their uphill battle to reopen with “We’re here for you” messaging.
- Marriott promoted destinations that are suitable to altered customer preferences such as a private home instead of popular hotel properties.
- Retailer Bebe provided branded cloth masks to their in-store customers. Other retail brands engaged customers with product promotions and some were quick to prioritize essential items and community contributions.
- Aetna avidly supported its customers’ mental well-being by offering digital resources and simple steps to face the mental challenges endured during these times.
At IWCO Direct, we continue to keep our fingers on the pulse of direct marketing, and we are here to help you with your direct marketing needs. As businesses and schools reopen or begin to operate at an increased capacity, continue to use precautions to stay safe and stay healthy!
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