Aug 02, 2010
The USPS 2009 Household Diary Study: Direct Mail Still Works
There's no denying that the volume of mail sent by households and businesses has declined - in part because of the recession and in part because of the rising popularity of e-mail and online bill payment. Yet the U.S. Postal Service's annual survey of households reveals good news for direct mail, too. And, more importantly, the survey highlights the reasons why direct mail is (and should be) a valuable part of any business's communications toolbox.
The 2009 Household Diary Study makes clear that households and businesses are increasingly relying on e-mail and the Internet for transactional communications (bills, statements, confirmations, rebates, requests for donation). The total transactional mail volume sent and received by households decreased 9.4% between 2007 and 2009. Yet 87% of households still pay at least one bill per month by mail.
The largest single category of transactional mail is bills (45% of the total). And while many large companies have found it cost-effective to offer customers the option of receiving, and paying, bills electronically, smaller businesses and non-profit organizations may not be able to support such services. In those cases, direct mail remains the clear choice for sending and receiving bills, bill payments, account statements, donation requests, and other types of transactional mail.
The best news in the Household Diary Study came from the advertising market: "Despite many changes to the U.S. economy over the past few years, and particularly in 2009, direct mail continues to be one of the most popular advertising choices." In fact, direct mail's share of businesses' advertising spending has been increasing steadily over the past two decades, to 12% in 2009.
At 59% of the total, advertising represented the largest single type of mail households received in 2009. Businesses continue to send such huge volumes of advertising mail because it works. Consider:
In addition to being so effective, direct mail is also a versatile way to communicate advertising messages. Some of the benefits noted in the Household Diary Study:
While the USPS Household Diary Study reinforced some of what we read in the headlines - that direct mail volumes have declined - it also revealed that mail remains the most common way for households to send and receive transaction mail as well as one of the largest and most effective forms of advertising.