Household Diary Study Results Show Direct Mail Works!

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About the Author

Michelle Fuchs

Michelle Fuchs

I must confess—I am one of those “Mail Geeks” you see on LinkedIn, proclaiming the glories of advertising with direct mail every chance I get! So, when my colleague shared the USPS Household Diary Study (HDS) 2021 Annual Report with me, I began to read it with the same enthusiasm most have for the latest New York Times best-selling novel.

The HDS surveys more than 8,000 households and measures the mail sent and received. It tracks household mail trends, compares mail use between types of households, and takes into consideration:

  • Volumes and types of mail sent and received;
  • Demographics;
  • Attitudes toward mail and advertising;
  • Bill payment behavior;
  • Use of the internet and other information technologies.

Since direct mail is what I do, my attention was naturally drawn to the chapter on Advertising Mail. Advertising mail consists of any advertising, promotional, or sales material sent via the Postal Service, mailed at First-Class Mail or Marketing Mail rates. One of the benefits of direct mail over other media forms is that the response rate is readily measurable. According to the HDS, in 2021 direct mail advertising totaled 65.8 billion pieces, accounting for 60% of all household mail. The total volume increased 7.6% from 2020. Marketing Mail accounted for 59.1 billion pieces, representing 90% of total advertising mail.

Who Receives Advertising Mail, and Why

To better understand this powerful marketing tool and how to use it to reach your best prospects, let’s look at some characteristics of who receives advertising mail:

1. Income: Since the purpose of advertising mail is to sell goods and services, it is not surprising to find that the higher the household income, the more mail received. In 2021, households with incomes of $100,000 or more received almost twice as many pieces as those earning less than $35,000 (12.4 and 6.3 pieces per week, respectively).

2. Education: As you might expect, the level of education also has some impact on the amount of mail a household receives. This is partly because direct mail is a form of written communication which might appeal to people who have more formal education. Secondly, a higher level of education is usually connected to higher income levels, and a person who might currently have a lower income while in school has the potential to earn a higher income once they have graduated, and are therefore likely to receive more advertising mail.

3. Age: Households headed by an older person receive more advertising mail than their younger counterparts. Additionally, households with two or more adults present receive more mail than adults living alone. The assumption is that age correlates to consumption factors such as home ownership and the presence of children.

When you combine income with education and age, you find that older individuals with higher education levels and income levels receive the most advertising mail per week. According to the HDS, heads of households over 55 with incomes greater than $100,000 received an average of 15.2 ad pieces per week, more than any other demographic combination. This makes sense because older individuals have a longer buying history and have more contact with various vendors who are apt to send them advertising mail that they are inclined to read.

The study indicates that household residents intended to respond to about 10 of either First-Class Mail or Marketing Mail ads. While intended response rates are usually higher than actual response rates, the data demonstrates that direct mail can have a significant impact on household purchasing behavior.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Keep on Mailing

The HDS provides more detail on demographics and response rates based on formats and frequency of mailings, but you get the point. Marketers choose to spend their dollars on advertising mail because direct mail works. Direct mail campaigns give a high return on investment (ROI). They can work effectively in a campaign by themselves or as part of an omnichannel media mix. Marketers can use direct mail to target the right customers at the right time and in the right place. 

Needless to say, the HDS proves direct mail is a tried-and-true tool that people trust. So, my New Year’s Resolution is to keep doing what I’m doing and sing the praises of direct mail. Do you need help planning and executing your 2023 direct mail program? There are many ways you can achieve postage savings by taking advantage of USPS promotions, mailing in a commingle pool, and working with a knowledgeable mail service provider who can maximize your postal optimization savings. IWCO Direct offers all this to our clients. Contact us. We’re here to help.

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