Know How Your Customers Engage To Get More From Your Mailings

Chief Customer and Marketing Officer
Executive Vice President
U.S. Postal Service

In a world that evolves from generation to generation, there is a simple form of communication that has endured for centuries: physical direct mail. Even as we move swiftly through the digital age, we continue to open our mailboxes alongside our electronic inboxes. Therefore, direct mail can serve as an effective communication channel that individuals and businesses alike may continue to benefit from.

Research from our recent USPS Mail Moments 2016 Review, a survey of more than 1,500 consumers, reveals Americans continue to be active and engaged with their mail (1). Since 2012, mail engagement has increased and, surprising to some, Millennials are at least as engaged with mail as non-Millennials (2). Keeping this in mind, it’s important to understand consumer preferences and the role of mail communications in evaluating your marketing strategy. Using key findings from our survey, here are a few strategies to consider in direct mail campaigns.

1. Emotions Play a Role

Regardless of age, most consumers get their mail at the first opportunity and then sort at first opportunity – usually same day – indicating a high value of mail. This may be attributed to the emotional connection people often develop with and through their mail. Birthdays, holidays and momentous life events like weddings are often celebrated with sentiments delivered through the mail.

I personally feel joy and excitement in opening a sealed letter containing a handwritten message; for many it’s a feeling that can be hard to replicate by opening an email. In fact, 81% of participants in our survey acknowledged that receiving a handwritten letter, note or greeting card holds a great deal of value to them (3).

As such, many consumers have a positive association with mail, which is supported by the fact that 86% of people take the time to look through their mail (4). Our survey also found 70% of participants enjoy getting mail and don’t view sorting it as a chore (5).

This suggests opening mail may provide a break in the day and a chance to look away from a digital screen to connect with people and the world in a different and possibly more meaningful way. While planning your next marketing campaign, I encourage you to consider the emotional appeal mail can evoke and how you might incorporate that sentiment into your creative design and messaging.

2. Consider Mail with Other Marketing Tactics

While developing your omni-channel marketing and outreach strategy, take care not to underestimate the value direct mail offers in potentially expanding and reaching new customer segments. As email inboxes become increasingly cluttered, consider direct mail marketing instead of, or in addition to, email or telemarketing. We saw many survey respondents (84%) sharing that receiving something in the mail is preferable to a telemarketing call, with 62% agreeing they would rather scan for useful information by going through mail than email (6).

Direct mail can be effective in engaging customers because it places your message in front of the recipient – quite literally – likely encouraging digestion of what’s being presented. Millennials, for example, spend more time sorting mail than others and appear more engaged with mail than the average consumers (7).

In order to stand out from the hundreds of emails your customers are likely receiving on a weekly basis, look to send them physical mail that has a clear benefit – whether a discount, an important announcement or any informative piece they can connect and respond to. Going back to the Millennial respondents, our survey suggested that advertising mail, coupons and promotional flyers are likely to be viewed by this group and are still important ways to reach them (8).

3. Understand Your Customers’ Habits

In any marketing or advertising campaign, it’s important to understand the audience you’re trying to reach, particularly with regard to how they’re consuming information. I often see businesses placing great care in understanding which digital ads are successful and why. This is important, and similarly, I suggest staying mindful of your direct mail campaigns and how your audience is consuming mail to determine the greatest impact and yield the highest return on investment.

From a behavioral perspective, we found the majority (53%) of USPS Mail Moments survey respondents are “scanners”. Scanners have less attachment to mail than “sorters”, but still see value in some mail. Additionally, 70% of scanners say receiving bills in the mail acts as a reminder that they hold onto until they pay.

The second largest group (39%) is made of “sorters”. Sorters have a strong attachment to mail and will categorize all incoming mail and file important pieces for later use.

Millennials account for 44% of the sorter group, which is a stark contrast to Baby Boomers who only account for 21% of sorters (9). Understanding how your target audience consumes mail can allow you to shape your outreach accordingly. A few ways to track and test your mailer success is by including a call to action with a scannable QR code or directing to a unique landing page on your website.

We will no doubt continue to communicate through a variety of channels. A long-established form of communication, physical mail has survived despite many advances in technology to remain part of our daily routines. There is an exciting opportunity to learn what’s valuable to your customers, both digitally and non-digitally, and use those findings to guide your marketing efforts.

To learn more about maximizing your mail marketing by better understanding your audience, I invite you to visit

(1), (2) USPS Mail Moments 2016 Review conducted by Summit Research, p.3
(3), (4), (5), (6) Ibid., p.6; (7) Ibid., p.7; (8) Ibid., p.13; (9) Ibid., p.8

Click to download a PDF of this article

Related Articles By Jim Cochrane:

How Technology Can Make Mail Irresistible

Best Of USPS Omni-Channel Campaign